Taking a closer look at Inventory Systems

Most warehouses operate with an inventory system or a warehouse management system:

When many business first start out they utilize an inventory template to map out what stock they have available. It is easy to find free templates to download and use to get off the ground with your business. This type of template is usually a step up from the old excel style of logbook. As there are so many different types of businesses across many different verticals. When it comes to inventory a one size fits all is not the case at all. Take for example one inventory template may be good for an online retailer selling shoes however may be restricted to a company that is selling multiple or variable product ranges. Time to scale but not ready for the overheads of an expensive inventory system? There is no need to fret as there are multiple solutions available now. You may be looking for a simple inventory control solution to manage your stock. Do not worry there are plenty of options and systems available listed below are some notes to check off in your search.

  • Inventory Reporting One key feature that is required is the ability to report concise information quickly. Having the ability to manipulate and generate reports across departments is key to helping businesses have a transparent snapshot of the what stock is available and where.
  • Make it easy to enter in Inventory and SKUs Everyone has heard the saying “rubbish in rubbish out” well this is also the case for inventory systems. If the inventory system that you select is difficult, complex of slow to load then it is likely the staff will take shortcuts and there will be poor data entered into the system.
  • Website Inventory  There are many businesses that were operating well before the online boom, other bricks and mortars may still be looking to join the boom ( would not be too many). We also come across wholesalers who are looking to strategically sell direct rather than selling to distributors in a white labelled fashion. There are many different factors that influence website inventory, we believe the most important factor is what shopping cart platform or software language the website is built upon. Big enterprise systems usually have order management inventory and crm all built into the entire system. Website carts like Shopify and Big commerce who traditionally focus on helping small to medium retailers have some great functionality built in including easy updating of stock levels, out of stock notifications, easy initial importing of csv and other neat functions.
  • What are variable products? Variable products are common terminology when dealing with website inventory. The best way to explain variable products is quiet easy imaging if you were selling Tshirts, however you sold the Tshirt in green, blue, and red. The variable product will be treated as a simple product with the dimensions pulled from the simple parent. It is not like Magento where each variation is treated separately. The issue comes down to the lack of data in the post at the moment with the variable product when requesting quotes; the width/height/length comes back as the parent product as it has the same product id.
  • Ensure your inventory system has a good backup plan Having a contingency plan for an outage important as you do not want to stop your daily operation. Will you have have an alternative way to record update and even find where your stock is located. Will you be able to continue to sell your products both online and in store without access to your inventory system? What will you do if your data is completely lost? Imagine loosing thousands of line items of stock. Having a regular back up system in place and quizzing your inventory provider will ease your nerves when it comes to up time and backup contingency. Many good inventory systems provide SLIs and redundancy figures to help businesses relax…Slightly!
  • Who is responsible for adding inventory? It all depends on the size of the business with small business owners doing everything from deciding on new products to ordering and updating the status. Some companies rely on data entry folks to enter in the product information. Other companies utilize scan technology to zap the products into the systems. Yearly, half yearly or even quarterly stock takes are often completed on warehouses where shopfront inventory is often checked more regularly.
  • What is some good technology, tools or scanners to help add inventory? There are some great companies out there that provide an all in one kit from scanners to invoice labels and inventory software like Wasp. They provide complete asset tracking systems, complete with bar code label and printing hardware.
  • How does a POS ( Point of sale system ) talk to the inventory system? There are many different sales channels available from eCommerce, shopfront or even the sales representatives taking stock directly to the buyer. With most retail point of sales systems they can be directly linked to the whm’s ( warehouse management system) inventory system, accounting system. Past technology made it tricky some times for different systems to talk smoothly to one another, especially when it came down to an true EDI interface. Often there would be conflicts with the transmission as data would be sent intermittently to each system, in todays technology most systems utilize APIs that leverage cloud technology
More to come on this interesting topic..
— July 1, 2015

One thought on “Taking a closer look at Inventory Systems

  1. Excellent site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about here? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!|

What Do You Think?