Importance of Just-In-Time Inventory System

In today's competitive world shorter product life cycles, customers rapid demands and quickly changing business environment is putting lot of pressures on manufacturers for quicker response and shorter cycle times. Now the manufacturers put pressures on their suppliers. One way to ensure quick turnaround is by holding inventory, but inventory costs can easily become prohibitive. … Continue reading “Importance of Just-In-Time Inventory System”

In today's competitive world shorter product life cycles, customers rapid demands and quickly changing business environment is putting lot of pressures on manufacturers for quicker response and shorter cycle times. Now the manufacturers put pressures on their suppliers. One way to ensure quick turnaround is by holding inventory, but inventory costs can easily become prohibitive. A wiser approach is to make your production agile, able to adapt to changing customer demands. This can only be done by JUST IN TIME (JIT) philosophy.

Taiichi Ohno, a former shop manager and eventually vice president of Toyota Motor Company, is the individual credited most for the with the development of just-in-time. It is a term used to describe the Toyota production system, is widely recognized today as the one of the most efficient manufacturing system in the world. In simple words we can explain JIT only required necessary units be provided in necessary quantities at necessary times. Producing one unit extra is as bad is being one unit short. Completing one day early is as bad as finishing one day late. Items are supplied "just-in-time". Ohno describes the development of JIT as

* By actually trying, various problems become known. As much problems become gradually clear, they taught me the direction of the next move. I think that we can only understand how all of these pieces fit together in hindsight.

The concept is very simple, if you produce only what you need when you need it, then there is no room of error. JIT has truly changed the face of manufacturing and transformed the global economy. JIT is both a philosophy and collection of management methods and techniques used to eliminate waste (particularly inventory). In JIT workers are multifunctional and are required to perform different tasks. Machines are also multifunction and are arranged in small U-shaped work cells that enable parts to processed in a continuous flow through the cell. Workers produce pars one at a time within cells and transport those parts between cells in small lots. Environment is kept clean and free of waste so that any unusual occurrence are visible. Schedules are prepared only for the final assembly line, in which several different models are assembled at the same line. Requirements for the component parts and subassemblies are then pulled through the system. The "PULL" element of JIT will not work unless production is uniform and lot sizes are low. Pull system is also used to order material from suppliers (fewer in numbers usually). They make be requested to make multiple deliveries of the same item in the same day, so the manufacturing system must be flexible.

Just-in-time inventory is viewed as the waste of resources and considered as obstacle in improvement. As there is little buffer inventory between the workstations, so the quality must be high and efforts are made to prevent machine breakdowns. When all these things are taken into consideration, system produces high-quality goods, quickly and at low cost. This system is also being able to respond to changes in customer demands. These elements of JIT can also be applied to the almost any operation, including service operations. * K.Suzuki, The Manufacturing Challenge (New York: Free Press, 1985), p250

Emerging Technologies in Supply Chain Management

The Internet has an enormous impact on how people communicate, shop, and work. This technology has also created changes in how companies conduct business in the 21st century. One of the areas of business that is likely to see tremendous change in the coming years is supply-chain management. By harnessing the power of the Internet, supply-chain management will continue to evolve in ways that will enable enterprises to change the way they manage inventory, place orders with suppliers, and communicate critical information with each other.

While some of these technologies have existed for years, or decades in the case of radio frequency identification tags, the harnessing of the Internet to these technologies offers the potential for transforming supply-chain management. Improved supply-chain management also means improved inventory control and increased profits.

In 2001, Nike missed its revenue target by a significant dollar amount. The shortfall was explained in part by a failed supply-chain automation project. "Some estimate that new technologies could strip out more than $ 30 billion in excess inventories" (Fonstad). The term e-business – as distinct from e-commerce – can be used to describe the adoption of the Internet to accelerate the goal of supply-chain integration (Lee) Four emerging technologies and practices in e-business will have a dramatic impact on supply-chain management.

o Virtual marketplaces

o Radio frequency identification tags (RFID)

o Synchronized planning

o Supplier performance management

VIRTUAL MARKET PLACES

MetalJunction is the virtual marketplace owned by two of India's largest steel producers. Tata Steel and Sail Steel traded more than 5,000 tons of steel in March 2002. By March 2003, tonnage had increased to 43,000 tons per month (Mills).

What is a virtual marketplace and what are its applications to industry? Virtual marketplaces have many names such as e-markets, net market places, and electronic markets. These markets all have common characteristics.

o Reliance on the Internet

o Buyers and Sellers come together without an intermediary

o Neutrality (all buyers and sellers are treated the same)

o Information is provided about sellers and products

In its most fundamental form, a virtual market place brings together buyers and sellers through the internet. At its highest level, a virtual market place gives a purchaser and supplier the opportunity to re-engineer the sales administration process, improve forecasting and scheduling, renew its go-to-market approach, shorten its order-to-cash cycle, and enhance customer service (Steel24-7). Ideally, virtual market places are centered on a particular industry. Some prominent examples are steel, agricultural products, and automotive parts. In addition to providing information on vendors and general information about its products, a virtual market may also offer product specifications, side-by-side comparisons, technical papers, and market analysis.

Many challenges exist in setting up an e-marketplace. Primary among these are identifying the tools necessary to use the market, providing a secure environment, pricing, payment, and fulfillment. For an orderly marketplace, Internet protocols must be selected. The cost of the technology to access and engage in the market must not be prohibitive. Security and privacy must be adequate to ensure confidential transactions. Authentication and authorization of users from many organizations must be possible. Private communication must be assured.

Pricing policies may be set or bartered. A common example of bartering, or auctioning, is E-Bay for consumer products. Payment procedures can be predetermined or arranged between the buyer and the seller. Finally, fulfillment of orders must be insured. As in the case of traditional marketplaces, failure to deliver in a timely manner will result in firms losing market power and ultimately may lead to failure (McKnight).

A final issue of concern in virtual markets is jurisdiction and governing law. Virtual markets place its members in the global trading community. Since e-markets are a recent phenomenon, defining the legal system responsible for settling disputes is an evolving process. Current legal reasoning places jurisdiction in the locality of the market. In a virtual market, however, one must ask where the market actually exists. While the FTC has attempted to exert control over on-line transactions, a definitive ruling on the jurisdiction for international e-market places has not yet been made.

RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION TAGS

In November 2003, Wal-Mart gathered together its 120 top suppliers to announce it would require radio frequency identification tags (RFID) on shipping pallets and cases of merchandise. Wal-Mart set a deadline of January 2005 for its top 100 suppliers. The remaining suppliers will had until the start of 2006 to meet the requirement (Sliwa).

A basic RFID system has three components.

o Antenna

o Transceiver

o Transponder (tag)

The antenna activates the tag, reads, and writes data to it. When an RFID tag moves past a reader, its information is transmitted to a host computer for processing. Most common RFID systems are passive and contain their own power source, have a short transmitting range, operate at a low frequency, and have a low cost. While RFID has existed since the 1960's recent technological changes have reduced the cost and allowed the technology to be used in more applications.

A common everyday use of RFID is the automatic reading of prepaid passes on toll roads. The advantages of RFID are many fold. For example, RFID is extremely fast, non-contact, does not require line of site, and can operate in a variety of weather conditions. In the case mentioned above, the benefits of RFID will go to Wal-Mart, while the costs are the responsibility of the suppliers. Kara Romanov, an analyst with AMR Research, Inc., estimates the start-up costs for a supplier who ships 50 million containers per year will run between $ 13 million and $ 23 million. These costs include RFID tags and associated hardware and software (Sliwa).

SamSys Technologies of Richmond Hills, ON and ThingMagic, LLC of Cambridge, MA are two leaders in the application of RFID to supply-chain management. Sam-Sys is dedicated to an open system environment that will not limit RFID to a single protocol or range of frequencies. This philosophy is based on the premise of many vendors and readers that will work seamlessly together (SamSys).

ThingMagic was founded in 2000 by five MIT graduates. It has developed low cost RFID systems. Presently, ThingMagic is developing and marketing protocol agile RFID tag readers (ThingMagic). In addition to Wal-Mart, the Department of Defense (DOD) is a key player in RFID development and deployment. The Department of Defense has issued a new policy, which requires all suppliers embed passive RFID chips in each individual product if possible, or otherwise at the level of cases or pallets by January 2005. In February 2004, the DOD hosted a summit for its suppliers to discuss its RFID plans (Broersma). To quote Colin Cobain the Chief Technology Officer of Tesco Stores: "The question is not will RFID change the way you do business. The question is will you be ready" (ThingMagic).

SYNCHRONIZED PLANNING ACROSS THE SUPPLY-CHAIN

"Synchronized planning, in the form of collaborative forecasting and replenishment, coordinated production, inventory and capacity plans, information integration, and direct linkages of ERP systems, is one of the most exciting developments in supply chain management in many industries" (Synchronous). Synchronized Planning involves key steps (Lee).

o Information integration

o Planning synchronization

o Workflow coordination

o New business models

First, information integration requires information sharing and transparency. It is the sharing of information among the members of the supply chain. Information exchanged may include inventory levels, production schedules, and shipment schedules. The benefits include better job scheduling and a reduction of the bullwhip effect. "The effect indicates a lack of synchronization among supply chain members. Even a slight change in consumer sales ripples backward in the form of magnified oscillations upstream, resembling the result of a flick of a bullwhip handle" (Chase 335).

Planning synchronization defines what is to be done with the information that is shared. This can include collaborative planning and joint design. The benefits are lower cost and improved service.

If planning synchronization is the "what" is to be done with shared information, workflow coordination is the "how" it is done. Operations that can be coordinated include procurement, engineering and design changes, and production planning. Benefits include early time to market, improved service, and gains in efficiency. Synchronized planning can lead to new business models. Not only can these new business models redefine workflow, they can lead to changes in responsibility for different parts of the supply-chain. A redefined supply-chain can jointly create new products and lead to expansion into new markets (Lee).

Synchronized planning, however, can not be accomplished without a tight linkage of all companies in the supply chain. Channels of communication must be well defined and the performance of each member in the chain must be monitored. The integrated supply-chain must hold members responsible for their part in the process. As product life cycles grow shorter and shorter, efficient synchronization of the supply-chain grows in importance. To ensure that the supply-chain is driven by consumer demand, and to decrease the bullwhip effect, synchronized planning is critical (Lee).

SUPPLIER PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

As the supply-chains of different organizations become tightly intertwined, it becomes necessary to measure the performance of each member of the chain. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified before Congress in February 2001 that businesses were unable to anticipate the economic slowdown of the last recession, overbuilding inventories despite significant supply-chain automation (Fonstad). Even the use of the latest technology, therefore, may not guarantee that a supply-chain is operating efficiently.

One way to answer the question of how well a supply-chain is functioning is to develop supplier scorecards. There are five steps in developing an effective scorecard (Golovin).

o Agree on what is important and how to measure it

o Use web based incident reports to communicate problems as they occur

o Engage in continuous supplier management

o Measure to prevent rather than react

o Use web based software that all suppliers can utilize without making expensive investments in software and training

It is important that the buyer and seller agree at the outset on what is important and how it is measured. This is critical because once decided upon, the supplier will optimize its work to the designated criteria. If just in time delivery is a priority, the supplier may concentrate on this aspect of the order to the detriment of other factors. In addition, benchmarks to measure supplier performance must be realistic and attainable.

Actual performance should then be consistently tracked against these benchmarks. The manufacturer and supplier should work together to develop benchmarks that are consistent with industry performance and product specifications. The use of web based incident reports is important in keeping track of problems as they occur. Incident reports should not be used only to track problems, but should be used to resolve the problem in real time. It is also important to measure the time it takes the supplier to correct the problem.

Continuous supplier management, sometimes referred to as supplier engineering, has become more important as manufacturers outsource more of their operations. A 90-day review cycle can be ruinous when you are manufacturing an innovative product. "Innovative products typically have a life cycle of just a few months" (Chase 337). A 90-day review cycle may come close to exceeding the competitive advantage of an innovative product. Effective continuous supplier management must be geared to specific periods and tolerances. This is then tied to web based incident reports that enable alarms to ring when products, or delivery, are out of agreed upon tolerances.

An effective supplier scorecard should be set up to prevent problems as opposed to reacting to them. The sooner you know there is a problem the lower the cost of resolving it and the greater the chance of preventing it altogether. The best scorecard not only measures events after they have happened, they continually monitor performance in real time. The use of automation is key to making this happen. For example, a system that matches invoices with purchase orders will catch pricing errors before a check is cut and a manufacturer's money is out the door. Utilizing web-based software not only decreases the cost of a supplier integrating with a manufacturer, it speeds up the integration process. Web-based software also enables suppliers both small and large to participate in the supply-chain.

The other four points listed above all rely on the ability of a manufacturer and a supplier to participate in the planning, sourcing, quality control, and delivery of a product. The Internet enables all members of the supply-chain to collaborate and work together as a team. Finally, by making supplier performance web-based, suppliers are able to participate in their own performance improvement (Golovin).

CONCLUSION

Supply-chain management is an interesting and complex subject. It goes to the core of new business methods in the 21st century. The near universal availability of the Internet is the enabling technology for changes in how the supply-chain of an enterprise is managed. The Internet also allows organizations to adopt new business practices and enter new markets. By harnessing the power of the Internet, supply-chain management will continue to evolve beyond the changes being implemented today.

E-business has been the logical outgrowth of e-commerce. E-business adopts the power of the Internet to accelerate the growth of supply-chain integration. While E-business has had a tremendous impact on supply-chain management, it also can be adapted to both front end and back end business operations (Lee). Improved inventory control and increased profits are two of the benefits of improved supply-chain management. As noted in the introduction, Nike missed its 2001 earnings targets due in part to the failed implementation of a supply-chain automation project. It has also been estimated that more than $ 30 billion dollars in excess inventories can be eliminated through improved supply-chain management. These real savings can be brought straight to the bottom line.

Four new technologies and business practices that harness the power of the Internet are virtual market places, radio frequency identification tags, synchronized planning (RFID), and supplier performance management. Virtual markets enable buyers and sellers to come together 24/7 in effect creating a store that never closes. The additional advantages of virtual marketplaces are the elimination of an intermediary, access to product and vendor information, and a neutral market where all buyers and sellers are treated equally. Virtual markets give both buyers and sellers the opportunity to re-engineer their sales administration process.

As noted above, RFID has existed since the 1960's, however, improvements in technology and paring RFID with the Internet has expanded this tracking method beyond its limited past in manufacturing plants. The three components of an RFID system are an antenna, transceiver, and a transponder (tag).

Synchronized planning when applied across a supply chain consists of collaborative forecasting and replenishment, coordinated production, inventory and capacity planning, information integration, and direct linkage of ERP systems. The four key steps in synchronized planning are information integration, planning synchronization, workflow coordination, and the opportunity to develop new business models. Key to synchronized planning is using the Internet for information sharing. The benefits of synchronized planning include better job scheduling and reduction of the bullwhip affect. The bullwhip affect magnifies oscillations upstream in the supply-chain caused by a change in consumer sales. Synchronized planning also defines what is to be done with shared information and how it will be done. As product life cycles grow shorter, efficient synchronization of the supply-chain rewards firms who seize its potential.

Supplier scorecards are a method of evaluating members of the supply-chain in increasingly intertwined organizations. As Alan Greenspan pointed out in 2001, many firms were unable to anticipate the last recession and continued overbuilding inventory despite having invested heavily in supply-chain automation. This statement underscores the need develop the tools to monitor the performance of firms up and down the supply-chain. The five steps to develop an effective scorecard are agreeing on what is important and how it will be measured, the use of web-based incident reports, engagement in continuous supplier management, measuring to prevent problems, and the use of web-based software. In rolling out these tools, it is imperative that both the buyer and the seller first agree on what is important and how it will be measured. The other steps flow from the first.

The Internet has had an enormous impact on the personal and professional lives of businesspersons. On the business side, the Internet has brought new life to existing technologies and offered businesses the opportunity to engage in the world marketplace. The harnessing of the Internet by business has enabled greater cooperation and information exchange up and down the supply-chain. The Internet has enabled businesses to improve the supply-chain by the way they manage inventory, place orders, and communicate critical information with each other.

Works Cited

Broersma, Matthew. "Defense Department Drafts RFID Policy." CNET News. 24 Oct 2003. 5 Dec. 2003.

Chase, Richard B., Nicholas J. Aquilano, and F. Robert Jacobs. Operations Management for Competitive Advantage. 9th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill / Irwin, 2001.

Fonstad, Jennifer. "From the Ground Floor: How to Manage Inventory on Demand." Red Herring. 31 May 2001. 5 Dec 2003.

Golovin, Jonathan. "Five Keys to a Successful Supplier Scorecard." Vigilance, Inc. 5 Dec 2003.

Lee, Hau L., and Seungjin Whang. "E-Business and Supply Chain Integration." Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum. Nov 2001. 22 Nov 2003.

McKnight, Lee W., Diana Anius, and Ozlem Uzuner. Virtual Markets in Wireless Grids: Peering Policy Obstacles. TPRC 30th Research Conference on Communication, Information, and Internet Policy., Oct 2002. Vienna, VA: Telecommunications Policy Research Conference.

"Mills Warm to Online." Steel Business Briefing. 1 Jul 03. 22 Nov 2003. SamSys. 4 Dec 2003.

Sliwa, Carol. "Wal-Mart Suppliers Shoulder Burden of Daunting RFID Effort." Computerworld. 10 Nov 2003: 1+. Steel24-7. 22 Nov 2003.

"Synchronous Planning Across the Supply Chain." Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum. 27 Jan 1999. 22 Nov 2003.

ThingMagic. 4 Dec 2003.

Understanding of Risk Analysis in Software Engineering

Importance of risk analysis in software projects can be judged from the fact that, no Software Development Life Cycle is viewed as complete unless it has passed through active consideration to areas having several types of risks associated with them.

The vulnerable areas covered under the process of risk analysis are

1) Assessment of Risk

2) Characterization of Risk

3) Communication of the Risk

4) Risk Management

5) Defining the Risk Related Policies

Following terms related to Risk Analysis need to be understood clearly

Let us try to understand as to what is Risk Analysis?
It is a technique employed to identify and assess various factors, which may jeopardize the success of a project or achieving a goal. These factors can pose some sort of threat to the project. Thus risk analysis covers the process of scientific assessment of such threats vulnerable to the attainment of the organizational goals.

Risk analysis technique is helpful in defining preventive measures to reduce the probability occurrence of such threatening factors. It includes identification of various countermeasures to successfully deal with such constraints with an objective to avoid devastating effects on the organization's competitiveness in the trade.

One of the risk analysis technique gaining popularity in IT sector is known as FRAP – (Facilitated Risk Analysis Process)

What is Risk Assessment?
Risk assessment involves finding out the quantity and quality of risk associated with a situation of known threat. It covers thorough evaluation of existing security & environment related aspects with a view to assess the probability of harmful effects of the threats to the organization. Risk assessment is the first and foremost step in a risk management process.

What is Business Impact Analysis or BIA?
Business impact analysis refers to the process of finding out the functions critical to the operations of the organization. The outcome of business impact analysis effort is having differentiation between critical and non-critical functions in the organization. A function is viewed as critical when its implications are unacceptable to the organization, or when it is dictated by the law or demanded by the customer or having constraint of internal operations or having unacceptable financial implications.

What is Risk Management?
Risk management is a structured methodology of handling uncertainty associated with a threat. Risk management includes development of strategies to handle the risk either by

– Transfer of the risk to some other party

– Taking actions so as to completely avoid the risk

– Taking measures aimed at reducing the damaging effects of the inevitable risk

– Taking decision to accept some or all of the consequences of a particular risk.

Few of the Risks associated with software product are described as under:

1) Risks related to the Size of the Product:
The size of the software product also can pose threat when it gets subjected to unexpectedly high deviation compared to the expectations. As a best practice, the expectations from the product are compared with similar situations encountered in the past & learning from the past happenings.

Some of the risks associated with the size of the software product can be:

– Judgement on the size of the product can be a threat

– Judgement on the number of users using the product can be a threat

– Judgement on the size of the associated database can be a threat

– Uncontrolled changes in the product requirements can be a threat to the product size

2) Risks having Impact on the Business:
There are certain types of threats or risks, which can have effect on the performance of the business. Such risks are like:

– Quality of the software product having an impact on revenue of the company.

– Product delivery dates having impact on the company business, including costs of delayed delivery.

– Inconsistent customer needs having impact on the company business.

– Drastic change in number of users expected to use the product having impact on the company business.

– Inadequacy of help / documentation as expected by the customer.

3) Risks related to Customers:
Every customer has a different personality, so are their needs. We can categorize customers in the following way according to their behavior & reaction to the product delivered to them.

– Type of customers who happily accept a product as it is when delivered

– Type of customers who are of complaining nature & usually tend to grumble on the quality of the product delivered to them. Such customers pose a reasonable amount of threat to the project manager handling the project

– Type of customers who happen to have past association with the product developing company

– Type of customers who have good technical knowledge of the product

– Type of customers who have fairly good understanding of the usage of the product

– Type of customers who have a good understanding of process of software engineering

– Type of customers who are ready to participate in the process of reviews during the SDLC

– Type of customers who are not much aware of the product & start using it as & when it comes

– Type of customers who are technically clear about their requirements / expectations from the product & are able to define the scope of the project clearly

4) Risks related to Software Engineering Process:
Clear cut definition of the entire process of software engineering is of paramount importance for the success of the product. A badly planned process will result into a software product posing great threats to itself as well as to the organization.

Following guidelines / checklist can be helpful in identifying the software engineering related threats & planning their counter measures.

– Ensure the availability of a documented process planned for the development of the software product.

– Ensure that all the participants of the product development team (whether in-house or third party peoples) is religiously following the documented process

– Ensure the availability of a mechanism for monitoring the activities & performance of third party developers & testers, if any.

– Ensure the active participation of someone who can regularly monitor the technical reviews conducted by the development teams as well as the testing teams.

– Ensure the proper documentation of outcome of the technical reviews detailing the resources deployed to unearth what type of software bugs.

– Ensure the availability of a configuration management mechanism for ensuring adequate consistency in design, development and testing of the product in line with the basic requirements already defined.

– Ensure the availability of a mechanism to handle the changes in product requirements raised by the customer from time to time. Such system should be able to analyze the impact of such changes on the software product

5) Risks related to the Technology of Development:
Many times technological factors also pose great threat to the success of the software product. Following guidelines / checklist can be helpful in identifying the technology related threats & planning their counter measures.

– An absolutely new technology being used for building the software application can be a threat to the organization.

– Unless proper interface is developed between the software & hardware of some new configurations, there can be a cause of threat.

– Unless function, performance and interface of the database system has been proven across the application area in question, there can be a cause of threat.

– Requirement of some absolutely new or highly specialized interface as expected by the product can also pose a threat

– Demand of some specialized requirements of particular type of design and testing tools and techniques can be a cause of concern or risk.

– Too much of structured requirements imposed by the customer can a lot of pressure on the performance of the product

– Inadequacy of productivity-related metrics and quality related metrics available to the product development teams can pose risk of emergence of poor quality product

6) Risks associated with development & Testing Tools:
Different types of development and testing tools can also be a cause of concern many a times during the SDLC.

– Use of some typical methods for analysis can be a cause of concern.

– Use of some typical methodologies for documentation can be a cause of concern.

– Use of some typical methods to design the test cases can be a cause of concern.

– Use of typical tools for managing the project activities can be a cause of concern.

– Use of particular tools for configuration management during the SDLC can be a cause of concern

– Use of particular tools for prototyping purposes can be a cause of concern

– Use of particular tools for providing support to the software testing process can be a cause of concern

– Use of particular tools for managing the documentation can be a cause of concern

7) Risks related to the developmental Environment:
Environment provided for development of the product also plays a key role in the success of the product. Some of the factors or situations described below can pose certain amount of risk.

– Availability of an adequate tool for the management of the software product & its development processes.

– Availability of an adequate tool for performing design and analysis activities.

– Adequacy of performance of tools deployed for design and analysis of the product being created

– Availability of a suitable code generators or compiler compatible with the product being created

– Availability of a suitable testing tools compatible with the product being created.

– Availability of a suitable configuration management tools compatible with the product being created.

– Compatibility of the databases with the environment under which they are deployed.

– Compatibility or proper integration of all software tools with each other

– Adequacy of skills / training to all concerned team members as regards application of the tools.

8) Risks related to the quality of development personnel:
A product coming out of the hands of personnel of lower skill levels shall be certainly a cause of risk to the organization. Following checklist shall be helpful in bridging the gaps in this area.

– Deployment of personnel having best possible skills appropriate to the project

– When in a team, proper combination of various personnel with different temperament & skill levels is important.

– Availability of the nominated personnel during the complete duration of the project is of key importance. The project will get seriously affected If the persons leave in between, due to any reason.

The Importance of Project Closeout and Review in Project Management.

Description

The well known English phrase "last but not least" could not better describe how important the project closeout phase is. Being the very last part of the project life-cycle it is often ignored even by large organizations, especially when they operate in multi-project environments. They tend to jump from one project to another and rush into finishing each project because time is pressing and resources are costly. Then projects keep failing and organizations take no corrective actions, simply because they do not have the time to think about what went wrong and what should be fixed next time. Lessons learned can be discussed at project reviews as part of the closeout phase. Closure also deals with the final details of the project and provides a normal ending for all procedures, including the delivery of the final product. This paper identifies the reasons that closeout is neglected, analyzes the best practices that could enhance its position within the business environment and suggest additional steps for a complete project closeout through continuous improvement.

Project managers often know when to finish a projects but they forget how to do it. They are so eager to complete a project that they hardly miss the completion indicators. "Ideally, the project ends when the project goal has been achieved and is ready to hand over to customer" (Wellace et. Al, 2004, p156). In times of big booms and bubbles, senior management could order the immediate termination of costly projects. A characteristic example of that is Bangkok's over investment in construction of sky-scrapers, where most of them left abandoned without finishing the last floors due to enormous costs (Tvede, 2001, p267). Projects heavily attached to time can be terminated before normal finishing point if they miss a critical deadline, such as an invitation to tender. Kerzner (2001, p594) adds some behavioural reasons for early termination such as "poor morale, human relations or labour productivity". The violent nature of early termination is also known as 'killing a project' because it "involves serious career and economic consequences" (Futrel, Shafer D & Shafer L, 2002, 1078). Killing a project can be a difficult decision since emotional issues create pride within an organization and a fear of being viewed as quitters blurs managerial decisions (Heerkens, 2002, p229).

Recognition

The most direct reason that Project Closeout phase is neglected is lack of resources, time and budget. Even though most of project-based organizations have a review process formally planned, most of the times "given the pressure of work, project team member found themselves being assigned to new projects as soon as a current project is completed" (Newell, 2004) . Moreover, the senior management often considers the cost of project closeout unnecessary. Sowards (2005) implies this added cost as an effort "in planning, holding and documenting effective post project reviews". He draws a parallel between reviews and investments because both require a start-up expenditure but they can also pay dividends in the future.

Human nature avoids accountability for serious defects. Therefore, members of project teams and especially the project manager who has the overall responsibility, will unsurprisingly avoid such a critique of their work if they can. As Kerzner (2001, p110) observe, "documenting successes is easy. Documenting mistakes is more troublesome because people do not want their names attached to mistakes for fear of retribution". Thomset (2002, p260) compares project reviews with the 'witch hunts' saying that they can be "one of the most political and cynical of all organizational practices where the victims (the project manager and the team) are blamed by senior management". While he identifies top management as the main responsible party for a failure, Murray (2001) suggest that the project manager "must accept ultimate responsibility, regardless of the factors involved". A fair-minded stance on these different viewpoints would evoke that the purpose of the project review is not to find a scapegoat but to learn from the mistakes. After all, "the only true project failures are those from which nothing is learned" (Kerzner, 2004, p303).

Analysis

When the project is finished, the closeout phase must be implemented as planned. "A general rule is that project closing should take no more than 2% of the total effort required for the project" (Crawford, 2002, p163). The project management literature has many different sets of actions for the last phase of the project life cycle. Maylor (2005, p345) groups the necessary activities into a six step procedure, which can differ depending on the size and the scope of the project:

1. Completion

First of all, the project manager must ensure the project is 100% complete. Young (2003, p256) noticed that in the closeout phase "it is quite common to find a number of outstanding minor tasks from early key stages still unfinished. They are not critical and have not impeded progress, yet they must be completed". Furthermore, some projects need continuing service and support even after they are finished, such as IT projects. While it is helpful when this demand is part of the original statement of requirements, it is often part of the contract closeout. Rosenau and Githens (2005, p300) suggest that "the contractor should view continuing service and support as an opportunity and not merely as an obligation" since they can both learn from each other by exchanging ideas.

2. Documentation
Mooz et. al (2003, p160) defines documentation as "any text or pictorial information that describe project deliverables". The importance of documentation is emphasized by Pinkerton (2003, p329) who notes that "it is imperative that everything learned during the project, from conception through initial operations, should be captured and become an asset". A detailed documentation will allow future changes to be made without extraordinary effort since all the aspects of the project are written down. Documentation is the key for well-organized change of the project owner, ie for a new investor that takes over the project after it is finished. Lecky-Thompson (2005, p26) makes a distinction between the documentation requirements of the internal and the external clients since the external party usually needs the documents for audit purposes only. Despite the uninteresting nature of documenting historical data, the person responsible for this task must engage actively with his assignment.

3. Project Systems Closure
All project systems must close down at the closeout phase. This includes the financial systems, ie all payments must be completed to external suppliers or providers and all work orders must terminate (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2004, p13). "In closing project files, the project manager should bring records up to date and make sure all original documents are in the project files and at one location" (Arora, 1995). Maylor (2005, 347) suggest that "a formal notice of closure should be issued to inform other staff and support systems that there are no further activities to be carried out or charges to be made". As a result, unnecessary charges can be avoided by unauthorized expenditure and clients will understand that they can not receive additional services at no cost.

4. Project Reviews
The project review comes usually comes after all the project systems are closed. It is a bridge that connects two projects that come one after another. Project reviews transfer not only tangible knowledge such as numerical data of cost and time but also the tacit knowledge which is hard to document. 'Know-how' and more important 'know-why' are passed on to future projects in order to eliminate the need for project managers to 'invent the wheel' from scratch every time they start a new project. The reuse of existing tools and experience can be expanded to different project teams of the same organization in order to enhance project results (Bucero, 2005). Reviews have a holistic nature which investigate the impact of the project on the environment as a whole. Audits can also be helpful but they are focused on the internal of the organization. Planning the reviews should include the appropriate time and place for the workshops and most important the people that will be invited. Choosing the right people for the review will enhance the value of the meeting and help the learning process while having an objective critique not only by the team members but also from a neutral external auditor. The outcome of this review should be a final report which will be presented to the senior management and the project sponsor. Whitten (2003) also notices that "often just preparing a review presentation forces a project team to think through and solve many of the problems publicly exposing the state of their work."

5. Disband the project team

Before reallocating the staff amongst other resources, closeout phase provides an excellent opportunity to assess the effort, the commitment and the results of each team member individually. Extra-ordinary performance should be complemented in public and symbolic rewards could be granted for innovation and creativity (Gannon, 1994). This process can be vital for team satisfaction and can improve commitment for future projects (Reed, 2001). Reviewing a project can be in the form of a reflective process, as illustrated in the next figure, where project managers "record and critically reflect upon their own work with the aim of improving their management skills and performance" (Loo, 2002). It can also be applied in problematic project teams in order to identify the roots of possible conflicts and bring them into an open discussion.

Ignoring the established point of view of disbanding the project team as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary overheads, Meredith and Mandel (2003, p660) imply that it's best to wait as much as you can for two main reasons. First it helps to minimize the frustration that might generate a team member's reassignment with unfavourable prospects. Second it keeps the interest and the professionalism of the team members high as it is common ground that during the closing stages, some slacking is likely to appear.

6. Stakeholder satisfaction

PMI's PMBoK (2004, p102) defines that "actions and activities are necessary to confirm that the project has met all the sponsor, customer and other stakeholders' requirements". Such actions can be a final presentation of the project review which includes all the important information that should be published to the stakeholders. This information can include a timeline showing the progress of the project from the beginning until the end, the milestones that were met or missed, the problems encountered and a brief financial presentation. A well prepared presentation which is focused on the strong aspects of the projects can cover some flaws from the stakeholders and make a failure look like an unexpected success.

Next Steps

Even when the client accepts the delivery of the final product or service with a formal sign-off (Dvir, 2005), the closeout phase should not be seen as an effort to get rid of a project. Instead, the key issue in this phase is "finding follow-up business development potential from the project deliverable" (Barkley & Saylor, 2001, p214). Thus, the project can produce valuable customer partnerships that will expand the business opportunities of the organization. Being the last phase, the project closeout plays a crucial role in sponsor satisfaction since it is a common ground that the last impression is the one that eventually stays in people's mind.

Continuous improvement is a notion that we often hear the last decade and review workshops should be involved in it. The idea behind this theory is that companies have to find new ways to sustain their competitive advantage in order to be amongst the market leaders. To do so, they must have a well-structured approach to organizational learning which in project-based corporations is materialized in the project review. Garratt (1987 in Kempster, 2005) highlighted the significance of organizational learning saying that "it is not a luxury, it is how organizations discover their future". Linking organizational learning with Kerzner's (2001, p111) five factors for continuous improvement we can a define a structured approach for understanding projects.

This approach can be implemented in the closeout phase, with systematic reviews for each of the above factors. Doing so, project closure could receive the attention it deserves and be a truly powerful method for continuous improvement within an organization. Finally, project closeout phase should be linked with PMI's Organizational Project Management Maturity (OPM3) model where the lessons learned from one project are extremely valuable to other projects of the same program in order to achieve the highest project management maturity height.

References

1. A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge, 2004, 3rd Edition, Project Management Institute, USA, p102

2. Arora M, 1995, Project management: One step beyond, Civil Engineering, 65, 10, [Electronic], pp 66-68

3. Barkley & Saylor, 2001, Customer-Driven Project Management, McGraw-Hill Professional, USA, p214

4. Bucero A, 2005, Project Know-How, PM Network, May 2005 issue, [Electronic], pp 20-22

5. Crawford K, 2002, The Strategic Project Office, Marcel Dekker, USA, p163

6. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2004, Project Management Guide, Office of Information and Technology – USA Government, p13

7. Dvir D, 2005, Transferring projects to their final users: The effect of planning and preparations for commissioning on project success, International Journal of Project Management vol. 23, [Electronic], pp 257-265

8. Futrel R, Shafer D & Shafer L, 2002, Quality Software Project Management, Prentice Hall PTR, USA, p1078

9. Gannon, 1994, Project Management: an approach to accomplishing things, Records Management Quarterly, Vol. 28, Issue 3, [Electronic], pp 3-12

10. Heerkens G, 2002, Project Management, McGraw-Hill, USA, p229

11. Kempster S, 2005, The Need for Change, MSc in Project Management: Change Management module, Lancaster University, [Electronic], slide 16

12. Kerzner H, 2004, Advanced Project Management: Best Practices on Implementation, 2nd Edition, Wiley and Sons, p303

13. Kerzner H, 2001, Project Management – A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 7th Edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York, p594

14. Kerzner H, 2001, Strategic Planning For Project Management Using A Project Management Maturity Model, Wiley and Sons, pp 110-111

15. Lecky-Thompson G, 2005, Corporate Software Project Management, Charles River Media, USA, p26

16. Loo R, 2002, Journaling: A learning tool for project management training and team-building, Project Management Journal; Dec 2002 issue, vol. 33, no. 4, [Electronic], pp 61-66

17. Maylor H, 2005, Project Management, Third Edition with Microsoft CD Project, Prentice Hall, UK, p345

18. Mooz H, Forsberg K & Cotterman H, 2003, Communicating Project Management: The Integrated Vocabulary of Project Management and Systems Engineering, John Wiley and Sons, USA, p160

19. Murray J, 2001, Recognizing the responsibility of a failed information technology project as a shared failure, Information Systems Management, Vol. 18, Issue 2, [Electronic], pp 25-29

20. Newell S, 2004, Enhancing Cross-Project Learning, Engineering Management Journal, Vol. 16, No.1, [Electronic], pp 12-20

21. Organizational Project Management Maturity (OPM3): Knowledge Foundation, 2003, 3rd Edition, Project Management Institute, USA

22. Pinkerton J, 2003, Project Management, McGraw-Hill, p329

23. Reed B, 2001, Making things happen (better) with project management, May / Jun 2001 issue, 21, 3, [Electronic], pp 42-46

24. Rosenau & Githens, 2005, Successful Project Management, 4th Edition, Wiley and Sons, USA, p300

25. Sowards D, 2005, The value of post project reviews, Contractor, 52, 8, [Electronic], p35

26. Thomset R, 2002, Radical Project Management, Prentice Hall PTR, USA, p260

27. Whitten N, 2003, From Good to Great, PM Network, October 2003 issue, [Electronic]

28. Young, 2003, The Handbook of Project Management: A Practical Guide to Effective Policies and Procedures, 2nd Edition, Kogan Page, UK, p256

Organizational Architecture and My Company

The behavior of employees can have a direct impact on the successful completion of the objectives and goals of the organization. One common way that the organization can control and influence this behavior is through its organizational architecture. Organizational architecture is defined as the structure and form by which any business operates. This structure or form consists of a three systems. These systems assign decision rights, measure performance, and reward and punish performance.

These three systems that make up the organizational architecture are commonly referred to as a "three-legged stool". These "legs" must remain balanced and individually, they must be coordinated with the two others. An employee should only have decision rights that can be measured and rewarded or punished. The system measuring performance must be able to measure the area with which the employee has decision rights. And the reward and punishment system must be equivalent to the employees measured performance.

The system that assigns decision rights must be designed specifically for the organization. It typically includes a hierarchical structure. This hierarchical structure is used to separate managers from employees and also the decision management from the decision control aspect of the decision process. Decision management includes the initiation and implementations while decision control includes the ratifications and monitor of the decision.

The system that measures performance should measure both objectively and subjectively. Objective measures are explicit and verifiable while subjective measures are implicit and hard to measure. Accounting systems are widely used by organizations for this system. Along with monitoring the accounting figures, the accounting system can provide internal reports and provide a form of control. Each of these can be used as a measure of performance.

The system that is used to reward or punish performance can be performed through monetary or nonmonetary methods. Monetary rewards typically come in the form of an annual bonus that is included in an employees compensation contract. Many times these bonuses are based on the achievement of goals or objectives and are set by a bound. Accounting based goals many times have a lower bound and may have an upper bound. The lower bound is the minimum requirement that must be met in order to receive a bonus. The bonus then increases as you get higher above the lower bound. It is then capped at the upper bound.

Organizational architecture has a major impact within my organization. Our decision rights system is broken into a three tier system. At the highest level of the system are the Presidents and Vice Presidents. They oversee the middle level which consists of Directors and Managers. The middle level manages and supervises the remaining lower level employees. Our decision control is mainly handled by the highest level employees. Decision management is then controlled by the middle level employees.

For most of our employees, their performance is based on meeting quarterly and yearly sales goals. Because of this, their performance is tracked and measured within our accounting program known as MAS90. It is used to track each and every financial transaction that occurs within our organization. From those transactions, MAS90 then generates reports that are used by all levels of employees. For non-sales employees, their performance is measured on strictly subjective measures.

For the final system, rewarding or punishing performance, MAS90 also plays a major role. The bulk of employee performances are based on the amount of sales a salesperson is able to generate. Sales commissions are then paid on a flat percentage rate against the gross revenue of each project. MAS90 generates all of these reports. Rewards are also given to the salesperson based on the total amount of yearly sales they generate. There formula or rate used to determine this bonus amount is different for each salesperson. Each of them has a different agreed upon formula calculation based on their employee contract.

These systems are currently working adequately within my organization. The only recent change that has been made was due to the downturn in the economy. Our company, like most, lost a significant amount of business and because of this, commission rates for everyone in sales were renegotiated. I believe that there is always room for improvement within any structure.

I believe that there are two items we should consider to improve our organizational architecture. The first is by upgrading our accounting system. MAS90 is an older version of software that does have significant upgrades available. MAS200 is a newer Sage accounting system product that includes great features we could take advantage of. Secondly, I think that we should consider implementing more subjective measures for the salespeople and more objective measures for all other staff.

Renewable Energy Summary

Several sustainable energy sources could reduce or eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Some of these sources have been used for centuries but have been neglected since fossil fuel cam into widespread use. Passive solar heat, fuel wood, windmills, and water wheels, for instance, once supplied a major part of the external energy for human activities. With increased concern about the dangers and costs associated with conventional commercial energy, these ancient energy sources are being reexamined as part of a more sustainable future for humankind.

Exciting new technologies have been invented to use renewable energy sources. Active solar air, and water heating, for instance, require less material and function more quickly than passive solar collection. Wind is now the cheapest form of new energy in many places. It has potential to supply one third or more of our energy requirement. Parabolic mirrors can produce temperatures high enough to be used as process heat in manufacturing.

Fuel cells use catalysts and semi permeable electrolytes to extract energy from fuels such as hydrogen or methanol at high efficiency and with very low emissions. Ocean thermal electric conversion, tidal and wave power stations, and geothermal steam sources can produce useful amounts of energy in some localities. One of the most promising technologies is direct electricity generation by photovoltaic cells. Since solar energy is available everywhere, photovoltaic collectors could provide clean, inexpensive, nonpolluting, renewable energy independent of central power grid or fuel supply system.

Biomass also may have some modern application. In addition to direct combustion, biomass can be converted into methane or ethanol, which are clean burning, easily storable, and transportable fuels. These alternative uses of biomass also allow nutrients to be returned to the soil and help reduce our reliance on expensive, energy consuming artificial fertilizer.

The Importance of a Vacuum Cleaner

One definite requirement to cleaning the house is and always has been the vacuum cleaner.

Believe it or not, there is a more effective cleaning system than the same vacuum which has been around for so many years. It is the central vacuum cleaner and they are becoming common in a lot of homes. It has a stronger suction that provides a greater cleaning ability.

With the central vacuum, dust and debris is sucked into the unit because it is located in the central position of the house. The bag is not being carried around with the unit like the portable vacuum so this means there is no chance that dust will be re-circulated around the house.

You can buy a central vacuum with a Hepa filter so that the tiniest dust particles can be picked up and trapped. With the central vacuum all dust can be removed from the house. It is a fact that dust can be attached to the exterior of the house as well, this can also be removed as part of the process.

There is another system available which with the rotation of air inside the machine separates the dust and dirt and propels it into the bag. This system is called the cyclonic system.

Although this method is not as efficient as the Hepa filter because there is a small percentage of dust will not be picked up. An additional filter on the central vacuum system can help to remove dust that was left over.

Here are a few big differences in the portal vacuum and the central unit: the central unit has the convenience of not needing to be pulled around the house as you clean and it also has the power in which the great suction operates.

For those who may be suffering from an allergic reaction to dust mites, this central vacuum system is the best investment for your household.

Introduction to Fixed Asset Management

There are obvious benefits from implementing and maintaining a record and control over assets. Savings can be obtained from being able to both see current asset deployment and thereby maximizing their use. Monitoring assets will reduce unauthorized use or misappropriation and insure employees leaving a firm return assets under their control. In some cases a system is mandated by government regulations, terms of lending, public grant terms, insurance terms etc. One person can maintain and manage all fixed assets of a business if they have software to assist them. Computer systems and software available reduce complexity, save time and prevent mistakes. Why use an asset management software program?

While paper and pencil methods can be used, software programs assist in the recording, maintenance and auditing of assets. This saves time and gives a clearer picture of assets since sorting and viewing in different ways is quick and easy.

The most basic 'solution' would be using a spreadsheet program such as excel. Even after migrating to software specifically designed for asset management there are times that a spreadsheet program may continue to be useful.

What is an Asset?

What you call an asset often depends upon your business activities. The first thing that comes to mind is fixed assets such as computers, production equipment, office furnishings etc. You might even wish to consider employees as assets or even service and maintenance contracts. A flexible asset management software program can provide a way to track many things most of us would not consider to be assets.

What are my first steps in setting up a system or 'solution'?

1: Decide what assets will be managed.

The more assets the more work in setting up your system. Limiting assets to only those over a certain dollar value is a good idea.

2: Deciding what characteristics of assets it is important to record within the software.

Your choices will not only have an effect upon the amount of work required but also the extent to which you can manipulate and view asset information by sorting on asset information field or combination of fields.

For example if you setup a field for 'location' then you can sort data to see what assets are in each location. If you also have a field for 'type' or 'class' then you could further sort and display to show only certain types of assets such as computers at one or more location.

As in every aspect of life one has to make tough choices between what is ideal and what is feasible. Your choices will have an effect upon data entry when new assets arrive as well as collecting information about existing assets. Choices you make will also have a bearing upon your choice of software since some may not handle everything you want. One such a limitation is found within the AssetTrakker Pro software program. TrackitSoftware does not provide a method of tracking depreciation because it was felt this added too much complexity requiring the collecting and maintaining of a lot more data. Additionally, they felt, handling depreciation requires superior knowledge of government rules and regulations beyond the expertise of the very people that stand to benefit most from asset management. Accounting departments already calculate and account for depreciation. * Some software does promote depreciation calculation but only offers limited functionality that in most cases is not the way regulations demand.

Some help!

Below is a listing of Asset Attributes 'fields' for your consideration. You will not want to use all of them for your own 'solution' and may well have additional ones you need.

Asset #: The key identification reference used to track assets. They can be straight numbers or a number with an alphabetical prefix. (0001 or A001). This number is used for audit purposes and perhaps for cross-reference.

Make: Manufacturer

Model: Useful when arranging service or buying parts. Useful as allows grouping by model type.

Serial #: Specific asset identification. Needed when making warranty or insurance claims.

Cost to Repl .: Estimate of the cost of replacing an asset. Useful for planning, risk assessment and insurance.

Cross Ref. #: Reference other asset number or tie together group of assets.

Type: Can be used for a general grouping such as furniture, computer, shipping, etc.

Condition: Helpful to see what is likely to require replacement or decide on service needs.

Description: Other detail in addition to make, model, and serial number.

Memo: Additional information about the asset. If a computer you might want to list details of the hardware configuration or even the programs installed on it.

Department: This is helpful for sorting assets by department to assist in auditing.

Location: Good field to have so that a search / sort can give you a clear view of where assets are located.

Used by: Necessary if you have assets in the personal possession of an employee and / or assets off business premises.

Date Assigned: Useful if assets are moved around or for telling how long an asset has been at its current location.

Expected EOL: The anticipated date when the asset will no longer be useful.

Funded by: Source of funds if provided by Bond Issue, or outside funds (loan) or a grant.

Cost: Total cost of acquiring an asset.

Date Acquired: Helps give some idea when replacement might be required.

Disposed: Indicates an asset has been disposed of.

Disposed Date: Date asset was disposed of.

Business Use%: Used if an asset is not used full time by the business to break down asset use. Not for everyone, but a field that imagination might find an indispensable use for.

OUT: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking,

Taken By / In From: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking to indicate who is taking or returning item.

Date Due: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking to show when an asset is due back.

Recovered Value: Net proceeds of the disposal of an asset.

Disposed Detail: Notes on how and where an asset was disposed of.

Warranty: Indicates if asset is covered by a warranty or could be used if covered by a service / maintenance contract.

Warranty Expiry: It is useful to see what expiries are approaching for tracking maintenance or service agreements. Helps prevent paying for service covered by warranty as well as prompting the repair of items before expiry.

Image: Can assist in asset identification or where 'look' is an important feature. Useful if insurance claim ever made.

Value: Could be amount the asset is insured for. Risk exposure control.

Leased: Helps keep track of Leased vs Owned assets.

Lease End: Used to warn when assets have to be replaced or the lease has to be renewed according to the terms of the lease.

Lease Start: Commencement date of lease on leased equipment.

Lease Co: The name of the company from which an asset is leased.

Audit Date: This column records the date the batch scans of assets were made for audit purposes.

Auditor: Record the name of the person who performed the audit.

What next?

By now you have a good idea of ​​what asset information you want to track. Before looking at the various software packages available you should consider how many people will be entering data and how many will be accessing the data. For a smaller organization it is likely that just one person will be involved but in larger firms perhaps a number will wish to participate. Your situation could require purchasing more than one software license and the software must support multiple users.

Use a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner can be used to speed data entry and auditing. This will add to the cost and most lower priced software packages offer limited support for barcode scanners. If properly incorporated into software a scanner can provide excellent value and save a lot of time, particularly for annual audit purposes.

Below are outlined the types of barcode scanners used with asset management software.

A 'dumb' tethered ccd scanner is cheapest and purchased for around $ 70. This can only be used when plugged into the computer and acts similarly to a keyboard in that you scan a barcode and it is put into whatever cell or space you are in.

A 'laser' tethered scanner is more money but will be able to scan smaller barcodes and perhaps have a deeper field of view (easier to scan a barcode quickly).

A ccd or laser scanner which has built in memory so scans can be made and then the scanner can be brought back and plugged into a computer, and those scans uploaded. This is extremely useful for audit purposes. For maximum utility your software should be optimized to take advantage of this 'batch' memory capability. A capable unit can be obtained for around $ 150.

A laser scanner with internal memory, as well as an input screen and keys, means that after scanning a barcode you can add additional information. These are more expensive and again their use has to be integrated into your management software. While prices are coming down you are looking at units in the pocket pc price range plus scanner cost. It is usual for software utilizing these units to also, for some reason, be priced higher.

Asset Management Software

The range of prices for asset management software is $ 200 to $ 10,000 and all require you to do the entry of existing asset data as well as some setting up for your requirements. Some offer telephone advice at additional cost but hands on assistance only comes with expensive packages (this level of software requires expensive sales force and marketing expense so perhaps their price, for the features provided, may seem high).

Purchasing Criteria a lot of people seem to use. You may have more.

1: Price 2: Ease of implementation of system 3: Ease of use 4: Ability to fit the business 5: Functionality 6: Potential to handle growth

What you can obtain for a reasonable price

A program with full relational database, such as MS SQL Server Express, or open source database. Today there is no reason to settle for less power or quality. Microsoft provides their SQL 2005 'Express' DB version at no cost.

A program that allows you to attach images of assets. While not necessary for everyone it is something that someday you might want to use.

A program that integrates the use of inexpensive 'batch' memory barcode scanners because, if not now, at some point in the future such an accessory will save time and money. Used in auditing it assures an asset was actually seen as barcode had to be scanned.

A program that will permit the management of 10,000+ assets. With decent memory in your computer and a fast full relational database engine there is not much of a limitation anymore and while certain functions might slow down a bit even a low cost program should handle over 10,000 assets.

A program that is flexible so you can take advantage of features later instead of having to implement everything at once.

* If more than one person is to be given access to the database then you should ensure that different levels of access can be set for different users to prevent unauthorized changes to data.

What you can get but not cheaply.

A program that integrates directly into your current accounting system.

A program that has full professional depreciation calculations.

A program that runs directly off your company server (lower cost software runs off workstations and while a central database can be located on your server and accessed by individual workstations this is not the same as complete software being server based with applets on workstations.

Hand holding and in house training to get your system up and running. There are firms that will sit down with you and ask you all the right questions, set up your software, audit and list all your assets and then train your staff how to operate and maintain your 'solution'. Most, to my knowledge, will recommend a mid to high priced software because it is easier to sell (commission higher as well) and easier for them to install due to their familiarity with it.

Nuts and Bolts

Gathering your Asset Information How you perform this step depends upon your situation. In our discussion below we assume you do not have existing asset information, in an existing excel spreadsheet or other format. If you do then you would save work by export / importing that data into your asset management software.

Starting your Asset Listing and Numbering from Scratch

This is an advantage because you are not limited by inherited constraints. Of course it is more work, as you can not just load in existing asset information but have to collect everything yourself.

Collecting asset information is time consuming. Getting this information accurately, with as little work as possible is important. Thinking about how to do the job and planning will help make this big job easier.

The following is how I suggest doing this but you may have your own, perhaps better plan.

Create data entry sheets that you will have people write in information about assets under their control. Your asset management software may create these or you could make up an excel spreadsheet to obtain them.

Try and obtain some 'buy in' from the department or location manager with control over assets. The closer to the asset you can allocate some responsibility the better that asset will be controlled. 'It's my department's asset' is more powerful an incentive than 'it's IT Dept's asset'.

Final steps

After entering data, that your co-operative managers helped you obtain, it is time to work with that data within your asset management software. It should not take long to become familiar with how it can present information to you on screen and in reports.

Now sit back and enjoy how easy it is to administer your assets.

Significance Of HVAC And Its Function

Heating Ventilation and Air-conditioning system or HVAC as it is popularly known as is an important aspect of a building. Most of the people may know the meaning of HVAC but very few realize the importance of consulting a HVAC Company for installation and maintenance of the unit. To hold and retain an optimum temperature within a building it is necessary to install a HVAC system by consulting a professional HVAC company. If the system is not properly installed then you will not be able to get the maximum utility out of your HVAC system.

The primary function of this system is to maintain a comfortable and ideal temperature where it is installed. This system controls indoor humidity, airflow and temperature thus making the space more comfortable. HVAC has over the years proved to be the most efficient and eco friendly solution for controlling temperature in homes and commercial spaces. HVAC system aims at improving the quality of air circulating within the building apart from its basic temperature control functions.

Now let us go through the three main functions of HVAC system

If it is freezing outside then you definitely will need a system to keep you warm inside. Heating helps to keep the room warm and is the most effective way to get relief from extreme cold climates. Heating is an important function of HVAC system. Heating can be done in two ways; you can either go for a local heater or a centralized heater. If you want a cost effective system for heating then it will be better for you to go for a central heating system. Central heating system functions using radiators, heat pumps and furnaces.

In HVAC the V stands for ventilation and is another important functionality of the system. Proper ventilation is necessary for circulation of fresh and pure air within the building. HVAC system cleanses the air circulating within the building by eliminating impurities. The system vents out carbon dioxide and lets in oxygen thus making the circulating air within the building pure and clean. Breathing clean and fresh air makes you more comfortable and healthier.

The AC in HVAC stands for Air conditioning which is another primary function of the system. When it comes to cooling your home or office during the summer the best way to do so is by installing HVAC Air conditioning system. This system not only cools the temperature within your building or home but also will block all impurities. The most prominent feature of this system is that it cools evenly by eliminating hot spots thus maintaining an even temperature through the space it is made to function.

HVAC units not only function efficiently but are also energy efficient, thus helping you to save a few bucks on energy bills. To get the best out of your HVAC system you need to service it form time to time. HVAC service companies can offer you professional services for maintaining your HVAC system whenever required. You can find a number of reputed HVAC companies in your area either though online or from a directory. Short list a few of them and contact them to provide you an estimate. Compare the cost and the service provided to decide which company to hire to get a HVAC system installed in your home or building.

With a traditional heating or cooling system you will be missing the benefits of HVAC system. The technology in HVAC controls the temperature and humidity to a comfortable level thus improving the quality of air along with its basic function of maintaining the right temperature within the building or home.

By using such a system you are saving energy and in a way contributing to a greener environment. For a cleaner air and a healthier life all you have to do is consult a HVAC company and get a HVAC unit installed in your home or office and if you already have it then go for regular maintenance for increasing the efficiency of the system. Check the filters and clean the drains for an improved indoor air quality. A technician specialized in the field can help you to improve the performance of your HVAC system with the essential maintenance and repair works.

Understanding Transistor Data and Replacement

If, for some reason, you can not get an exact replacement for the transistor that you want to replace, you can refer to one of the transistor substitution guides or book, and try to identify a "near replacement". Beware, however. A substitution guide will sometimes list a replacement for your part, even though the two parts are not very similar. The most commonly used transistor substitution guides is the Philips ECG semiconductors Master Replacement Guide. Selecting the right transistor parameters or specifications for the equipment you repair will avoid callbacks from customers. Callbacks or repeated repairs due to wrong transistor substitution will cost you extra money and a waste of time.

Some important transistor parameters are:

Maximum collector-to-base voltage (VCBO) – The replacement part should have a VCBO rating equal to or higher than the original.

Maximum collector-to-emitter voltage (VCEO) – The replacement part should have a VCEO rating equal to or higher than the original.

Maximum emitter-to-base voltage (VEBO) – The replacement part should have a VEBO rating equal to or greater than the original.

Maximum collector current (IC) – The replacement part should be able to handle as much (or more) collector current as the original.

Power dissipation (PD Watts) – The replacement part should be able to dissipate as much (or more) power as the original part.

Gain (hFE) – The replacement should have a gain equal to or better than the original and it should be as close to the original specification as possible.

Gain-bandwidth (fT) – the replacement should have a transition frequency equal to or faster than the original and it should be as close to the original specification as possible.

Below is a table of application requirement and important specification that you can use for guidelines when comes to transistor substitution.

Application Requirement and Important Specifications

1. General purpose low level amplifier and switching transistors. Spec- hFE, IC (max), fT, VCEO

2. Power switching applications. Spec- VCEO, VCBO, hFE, IC (max), PD (max)

3. Low level IF / RF amplification. Spec- IC (max), fT, VCEO

4. Audio amplification. Spec- IC (max), PD (max), hFE, VCEO

5. High voltage transistors. Spec- VCEO, VCBO, IC (max), fT

Remember, the replacement transistor should not run hot and if problem still persist, try another replacement number or get the original number if possible. Do not overlook that the surrounding components also may caused the transistor to run hot even if original number is used.