An accurate account of inventory is key to an efficient, profitable operation. Before inventory control software, manufacturing businesses used manual counts, some shutting down operations to count parts and finished products one by one. The time-consuming and labor-intensive process, however, often did not provide an accurate picture of inventory that was on hand. By the time the count was finished, products could have moved, parts may have been picked -- and discrepancies were discovered.
Businesses that wanted to maintain a competitive edge upgraded from manual methods to using inventory control software. This technology often uses data collection technologies such as barcoding or radio frequency identification (RFID) to automate the process of tracking how many items, parts or raw materials are on hand. It also makes ordering faster and easier and facilitates vendor management. The move from manual inventory tracking processes to using inventory control software resulted in sweeping changes across an operation – everything from cost savings by avoiding over-ordering to fewer production delays and dissatisfied customers due to stock-outs.
Although legacy inventory management solutions have provided operations with substantial value, technological advancements now make it possible to have even greater visibility, in real time, into inventory. Instead of a barcode or RFID chip only telling your system how many parts come in through the loading dock doors and how many products leave a warehouse for shipment, leading inventory control software can follow inventory through every step of production and throughout the supply chain.
Legacy inventory tracking methods often fail to take work in process (WIP) into account. These partially finished goods can represent a significant fraction of total inventory, which may result in deceptive data when a manager accesses it before placing an order. Furthermore, tracking WIP with advanced inventory control software enables an operation to more accurately determine when it can fulfill orders so that you can set reasonable expectations for customers.
Modern inventory control software also provides supply chain data. These systems don’t confine data only to activities inside your facility, but they also help you see where your parts are in shipment and where your finished products are after leaving your plant. This expanded perspective adds even more vital information that can be used to avoid ordering parts before they‘re needed and to keep tighter control of inventory costs.
Even though modern inventory control software offers a variety of benefits as a standalone solution, it delivers even more value when it’s integrated with your business’ management system and is accessible by different members of your team. Inventory data automatically shared with production planning enables smarter decisions when it comes to labor and asset utilization and, ultimately, higher rates of production and efficiency. If specific parts won’t be shipped until next week, managers can plan to assign jobs and schedule operators accordingly.
Additionally, tracking inventory throughout the product life cycle is a valuable capability in the event of a recall on a specific part. You can know almost instantly if that part has been used and which products are affected, minimizing the waste and cost a recall can create.
Integrating inventory data with business systems can also lead to more satisfied customers. Your sales team or website will have up-to-the-minute inventory data, so customers will have accurate information about availability when they place their orders. You can also provide customers with realistic shipping timeframes and meet those expectations.
Accurate, updated inventory data also enables a more organized warehouse. Warehouse optimization not only contributes to positive customer experiences through ensuring on-time deliveries and accurate orders, but it also enables your organization to optimize utilization of costly warehouse space.
Understanding not only how much inventory you have on hand but also where it is in the production process or supply chain is a common problem in search of a solution. According to Statista, 21 percent of supply chain professionals say visibility is their biggest challenge, followed by changing customer demands and inventory management.
Inventory control software solves all of those challenges, allowing managers and operators to see what’s available, where it is in the production process, and how soon orders can be fulfilled. If you’re still using a legacy inventory control solution, your competitors may have an edge with regard to speed, cost-control, WIP and product tracking, and accuracy. Level the playing field with a modern solution that provides each of your teams the inventory data they need to operate efficiently, productively, and competitively.