Inventory management is at the heart of business success, but as companies expand their product offerings and extend their reach on a global scale, it’s become more difficult to keep track of everything.
Luckily, as inventory management needs have grown, so have the options for tackling the challenge. From inventory management software to warehouse robots, these three innovations are helping business owners better understand inventory patterns, fulfill orders, and track products as they move through the distribution chain.
No matter what type of business you run, the most important inventory tool you can have at your disposal is reliable inventory management software. These programs range from basic to advanced, but the core function of any such program is to track products at every level, including monitoring inventory of incoming items, rotating goods based on expiration dates, and prioritizing products based on their value to your company.
In addition to their big picture tracking function, inventory management software also simplifies the cycle counting process. Cycle counting, which is typically done monthly, is a process for systematically assessing all inventory to better understand turnover.
Great inventory tracking software can essentially cycle count on its own, but it can also alert business owners to potential discrepancies, predict upcoming cycle changes based on past patterns, and help optimize the stocking and distribution process.
One of the most fundamental economic principles undergirding any business is the Pareto Principle, which says that 80% of profit comes from 20% of your business’s activitiesor products – and understanding this is absolutely vital to successful inventory management.
That’s why it’s important that businesses use their management software to identify what those products are and to ensure that those items are prioritized within the stocking process. These are the items that businesses should keep at safety stock levels, which is to say, at a volume above what cycle counting would predict.
In a show of technological strength, Walmart has tackled potential stocking problems using a method called just-in-time cross docking to minimise inventory volume.
With such a large business, Walmart can’t make room for too much safety stock, but by using this system, Walmart can actually skip the warehouse for some items. Instead of loading stock into the warehouse, suppliers load stock directly onto Walmart’s trucks. That’s only possible because of the advent of new collaborative inventory software that allows vendors to manage a store’s stock.
Inventory software is the silent hero of the warehouse management world, but it’s hardly the most exciting innovation to come to market in recent years. No, what’s really shaking up the inventory management world is the growth of robotic assistance.
A growing number of warehouses are now using drones to scan items, in a process that’s much quicker and more accurate than scanning done by workers.
Another way that warehouses are implementing robotics in their operations is in the picking process. Picking is one of the most arduous warehouse jobs, and as workers in Amazon warehouses have complained, they need to pick as many as 100 items an hour to keep up with production demands. This is an untenable pace, but by using robotic pickers on the floor, companies can protect workers, push the pace faster, and optimize the overall picking and packing process.
Inventory management may once have been a simple pen and paper process, to manage stock in today’s changing ecosystem requires up to the minute technology. From software to robotics, predictive analytics to just-in-time stocking, companies are meeting growing demand with creative solutions. Now the only question is, can your business keep up with these changes?