Fixed-Assets-RFIDYou have finally realized that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) inventory technology is better for your operations than basic barcodes. Perhaps you have a busy warehouse where workers need to be able to read the data on many items quickly and at the same time without directly lining up their scanners with barcodes. Whatever your business, RFID is an efficient and cost effective solution.

However, you do have another decision to make.  Are you going to use active or passive RFID tags? An IntelliTrack professional can help you select the right solution for you. To prepare for a discussion, consider these factors:

  • Data communication

The active RFID tag is on duty all the time and can initiate communication with the reader. For example, it can use sensors to monitor environmental condition such as temperature or humidity and send alerts to the reader. Data transmission in the passive RFID tag needs to be requested by the reader.

  • Data integrity

A full automated active RFID solution can ensure accurate, complete, real time data as it is working all the time. This is particularly useful if inventory loss or misplacement is an issue.

  • Power

Both active and passive RFID tags use radio frequency energy to speak with the readers but different strengths are required. Because the active tag has an internal battery power source that is working all the time, its reader can use a low level signal to access data. However, a passive RFID tag has no internal power so needs a strong high level signal from the reader to engage data transmission.

  • Cost

Active RFID tags cost anywhere from three to 100% more that passive tags. However, a handheld reader for the active RFID technology is half the price of a passive handheld and 1/10th the price of installing a fixed position portal reader for passive RFID tags. There is also a high labor cost for passive tags as workers have to actually be waving their readers near the items to activate data transmission. In a large operation, this means more work with its increased cost.

  • Movement of items

Active RFID technology works well for high volume in a designated area, especially in a dynamic operation. Passive RFID tags are adequate for high volume that has predictable areas of backlog.

The ROI of RFID technology really depends on the needs of your particular business. If accurate, real time data is essential and labor is expensive, you will want an active RFID tag system. It will pay for itself quickly. However, if you can afford more employees per square foot and have the time for them to initiate data transmission, a passive RFID tag solution will serve you well.

If you are not familiar with the most up to date RFID technology, it is time to contact IntelliTrack. An inventory management specialist can work with you to review your operations, identify your needs and discuss the pros and cons of both active RFID tags and passive RFID tags. Then you will be ready to make an informed decision that will support your operations for the long term.

Contact the IntelliTrack team to start the conversation.

amazon warehouseIn recent years, e-commerce has become more and more popular—so much so, that it’s changing the way we do logistics.

E-commerce retailers are starting to add smaller, urban warehouses to their supply chains as online shopping and delivery changes distribution demands.

According to a report from real-estate brokerage firm CBRE Inc., the demand for existing industrial structures under 200,000 square feet, located in urban zones is on the rise. This doesn’t mean that companies are completely moving away from sprawling distribution centers in rural areas, but rather, they are adding additional sites in urban areas for same-day delivery.

“You need to expand and make your supply chain much more complex if you want to be able to promise and deliver on that same-hour, same-day or overnight delivery everyone is coming to expect,” said David Egan, CBRE’s head of U.S. industrial research.

Amazon.com is leading the trend, with 19 small warehouses throughout the U.S., in addition to their larger warehouses.

These smaller warehouses are typically older buildings in urban industrial zones—they function as a place to send orders from the big, remote distribution centers and prepare them for “last mile” delivery with carriers like UPS, or simply on-foot delivery personnel. Square footage and high-tech equipment aren’t as important as location in these smaller warehouses.

As e-commerce continues to expand, we’ll see more and more companies look for smaller, urban warehouses in order to keep up with consumer delivery needs.

Find the right solution for your warehouse.

Inventory-Software-Reports-300If you want to take full advantage of your inventory software, you need to know how to set up and use the reports it can generate. From the beginning, identify what data you need to capture and plan how you are going to use it. You will probably want to be able to produce reports for one or all of these three reasons:

  • Ongoing supervision
    • Product quality control
    • Performance management
    • Financial accountability for purchasing, pricing and invoicing
  • Trouble shooting
    • Identify cause of operational breakdowns
    • Decide on solution
  • Management planning
    • Efficient workflow
    • Personnel complement and scheduling
    • Financial management

Designing the Inventory Software Reports

There are five key steps to designing reports that are useful for your particular business:

  1. Identify information you need about your inventory in order to run your business efficiently and productively, perhaps including:
    • Inventory turnover
    • Workflow patterns
    • Shipping patterns
    • Invoicing efficiencies
    • Employee use/processing
  2. Identify key elements of data collection that will translate into that essential information, including:
    • Detailed description of inventory items
    • Time between purchase order for product and receiving it
    • Current stock levels
    • Location of stock
    • Names and numbers of employees using/moving stock
    • Length of time from receiving product until using/shipping
    • Length of time from receiving orders until shipping
    • Time between invoicing and payment
  3. Determine level of detail for each data field such as:
    • Serial number, lot numbers, UoM, color, vendor, cost and expiry date of each item and any other pertinent descriptor
    • Specific location in stockroom or warehouse such as bin number
    • Each change in location of items
    • Employee ID number and time for each transaction/move of product
    • When and where shipped
  4. Set up regular reports by determining:
    • The parameters of the report; e.g. number of pallets of specific products received in 30 day period; turnover ratio; length of time employees take to pick and pack product
    • How often you need these reports and when; e.g. quarterly within two weeks of the end of each quarter
    • The format that is most useful for you; e.g. metrics for changes in turnover ratios; charts showing trends for number of orders with corresponding length of time for shipping
  5. Set up capacity for on-demand reports for trouble shooting, random product quality control or performance management by deciding:
    • Parameters of queries for trouble shooting, random quality control, vendor responsiveness, etc.
    • Format for organizing report data to ensure quick analysis and interpretation

Do not overcomplicate the inventory reports. Rather than being overwhelmed by too much detail at the beginning, start with organizing basic data which you can adjust and expand later. There is no need to be daunted by the task of developing a report system. IntelliTrack professionals are there to help, walking with you every step of the way.

winter Shippers are starting to bypass 3PL’s in favor of making deals with truck owners directly, in an effort to save some money in times of rising prices. But will this cause problems for them in the future?

It may be the height of summer, but truck shippers are already contemplating another winter like the one at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, and aligning their strategies accordingly.

The winter they are still troubled by saw snow and ice paralyzing the road network and keeping a large number of trucks from delivering their payloads. In their desperation, shippers went en masse to brokers and 3PL’s for precious space on their shipments. This, unsurprisingly, led to an over dependence on non-contract deals where the rates can be a lot higher than the contracting market. There has been estimates suggesting that as much as 40% of all truck shipping was conducted via non-contract deals during the harsh weather conditions, compared to a normal rate of 15 – 20%.

Intermediaries are able to demonstrate their capacity to operate carrier networks in such conditions, and bring shippers goods to market. This service comes at a high cost to shippers, however, with some van-based services costing over $2 per mile, and high rates continued into the summer.

This means that 2014 was the year many procurement and logistics executives busted their budgets, with some spending double their normal amount on brokerage services. This was tolerated at boardroom level, as the weather conditions were both extremely severe and unprecedented. However, CEO’s and other executives will not be happy if there is a repeat performance in the near future, and have put their staff on notice that they need to make better provisions this time around to ensure they get reasonable rates.

Hopefully, this winter will be a mild one, but either way, shippers will be prepared!

 

On July 12, we made some updates to our Stratus products. We’re happy to report that the updates went well and record keeping and updating are now much easier for our end users. Updates include:

1) Customer/Vendor Records: We added a Country field to the customer/vendor record. This allows the user to designate a country with the address, which will make it easier for Stratus users to deal with international customers and vendors. This update can be found in the Web and batch applications.

2) Optional lookup list fields in Item/Asset records: We added a clear option to the optional lookup list fields at the Item and Asset forms. This allows the user to easily clear an entry from this field, and leave it blank, if desired. (This update is found in the web application only.)

a. Item lookup list fields that now contain the clear option are: Model, Manufacturer, and Category.

b. Asset lookup list fields that now contain the clear option are: Assignee, Condition, and Account.

The user should be sure to update the batch application so that the customer/vendor records there also contain the new country field.

We apologize for any downtime caused by the updates, but hope you will be able to enjoy these great new features. Contact us should you have any questions regarding the updates.

intellitrack stratusThis Sunday, July 12, we will be making updates to IntelliTrack Stratus products. The updates will take approximately one hour, during which time, the site will be unavailable.

Once the updates have been successfully completed, we will provide a detailed explanation of what to expect.

 

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but look forward to releasing some great new features.

If you have any questions regarding the update, please feel free to contact us.

Please check back next week to learn more about the updates to Stratus.

inventoryA recent report published by the State of Small Business illuminates the fact that approximately half of SME’s are not tracking their inventory or are doing so by manual means. Fixed assets and inventory are sometimes seen as assets by a companies financial department, however not every asset belongs with inventory. With these practices being brought to light, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that approximately 50% of new SME’s go to the wall before the end of their fifth year. It must be understood that assets and inventory are notably different aspects of a business. In the case of inventory, it can be described as what you sell to make your profit, where assets are there to assist the company with the acquisition, maintenance and distribution of inventory. This is an important concept to note when deciding whether your company needs an inventory management or fixed asset system, and this is especially true for brick & mortar enterprises.

What separates these two aspects is inventory can be counted as the raw materials, products being manufactured as well as complete items the company wants to sell in order to get their turnover. If the business is to be successful, the inventory must be either sold, processed via distribution channels, or used in production. Assets can be considered as anything that is used as part of the companies efforts to produce their products, including machinery or other equipment, and crucially to the difference, they are not counted as part of the revenue stream or as products. It is unusual to sell such items within a year, barring upgrades, moving the factory, or in the most unfortunate scenario, closing.

Inventory must be kept track of as it is a considered current asset by the finance department, meaning it will be sold in the sort term, all being well. Time may render some inventory obsolete, or overstocking will make it difficult to sell everything. The inventory management system must be able to foresee these occurrences in order that the company will have a chance to deal with them.

Keeping track of assets is also very important. Specifically, fixed assets, or hard assets, which are filed under long-term assets by the finance department. This refers to the idea that the company sees them as long-term investments, which will pay off over time.

Find the right inventory, or asset software for you.

Inventory SoftwareThe sharing economy is gaining traction these days. Based on the concept of sharing products instead of owning them, this form of collaboration has become quite trendy in some sectors. Cars and tools are only two examples of hugely popular shared commodities.

In her 2010 book, “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,” Rachel Botsman, speaks about products with “high-idling capacity.” Just think of cars and bicycles that sit in driveways and garages most of the day. An even more telling example is the power drill that can be found in more than 80 million households in North America. The average power drill is used 13 minutes in its lifetime!

The answer to more responsible stewardship of products used occasionally has evolved into formalized sharing processes. For example, there are hundreds of tool lending groups in North America and an increasing number of car collaboratives. Groups sharing children’s toys and baby furniture are quite common.

Some of these collaboratives are based on an informal honor system of sharing among a group of people who live in the same community. Other groups have paid staff that administer the transactions, collect fees perhaps annually or per use and facilitate lifecycle issues. There are as many other variations on setting up sharing economy initiatives as there are people to dream up the ideas.

Need for Inventory Management

Even though there is an element of trust to varying degrees within all these ventures, there is still a need for an organized approach to managing the inventory. After all, whether a workshop full of wrenches and saws or a fleet of $40,000 hybrid vehicles, the shared items represent considerable capital expenditure. A smart administrator understands the practicality of using barcode or RFID technology to:

  • Track location of each item in the common inventory
  • Coordinate scheduling
  • Maintain the items in good repair and adequate number

Inventory Data Collection

The barcode labels or RFID tags of an inventory software solution can provide useful information about each item such as:

  • Details of items; e.g. brand, model, serial number, vendor, data purchased, condition
  • Location of item on premises
  • Name of user, time checked out and expected return time
  • Maintenance schedules; e.g. oil change, tire rotation, blade sharpening
  • Lifecycle benchmarks; e.g. reduced emission control, degrading electronics, missing parts

Check-In-OutBenefits of Using Inventory Software

Inventory software such as IntelliTrack Check In/Out or other DMS solutions can provide an accurate, up to date and complete inventory listing typically resulting in:

  • Increased efficiency for maintenance and repairs
  • Increased accountability of user to return items in good condition
  • Reduced number of lost or stolen items
  • Ability to compile statistics such as frequency of usage, repeat users, increased demand and geographic info
  • Ability to determine feasibility of expanding in volume, kind of product or geographic availability

A collaborative economy initiative often begins in a small way with a few people sharing a few items. In the beginning, they would probably not see the need for any kind of technology solution. However, once the idea spreads beyond a few neighbors, no matter what kind of item is being shared, it quickly becomes obvious that some kind of inventory tracking and management tool is required.

In this day and age, there is no need to be stuck with pen and paper or a spreadsheet. An IntelliTrack specialist can easily identify appropriate, affordable inventory software that can grow as the sharing initiative expands. Today’s sharing economy depends on trust and goodwill, enhanced by efficient data collection and inventory management.

Contact the IntelliTrack team to discuss options for optimizing the sharing experience.

JIT Inventory ManagementDo you use a just in time (JIT) inventory management system? JIT has become increasingly popular in the last decade as businesses balance inventory costs with the needs of customers. It means you will have only enough inventory on hand to meet current demand. You are not spending money storing and maintaining stock just in case an order comes in.

Often, JIT inventory management is not successful because it is not well planned. It simply happens when you are searching for ways to save money and reduce storage space. Perhaps, you have realized the negative impact on your cash flow because you purchased and are storing items for weeks or months before they are used. Some of this stock might slide past its best before or expiry date before you can use or ship it. You decide to strip down your inventory and are then caught short when a loyal or even a new customer unexpectedly places a significant order.

If that is your situation, it is time to consider putting in place the most appropriate inventory software such as IntelliTrack WMS and planning how to use it to its optimum advantage for your operation. JIT then becomes a business strategy not a default decision.

Features of Effective JIT Inventory Management

An effective JIT system features inventory software that provides:

  • Accurate, real time monitoring of all stock

You can have confidence that your snapshot of available inventory is up to date, accurate and complete.

  • Well informed forecasting of need

You can set narrow and realistic parameters for alerts to be sent about stock reaching re-order levels.

  • Integration with other back office systems

You can streamline your operations by integrating the inventory software with other information systems such as purchasing, shipping and invoicing. For example, automate replenishment orders by incorporating information about amount of inventory issued for manufacturing or shipping.

  • Flexibility to adjust quickly to changes in volume of business

Automate alerts about unusually high or low turnover of inventory with possible adjustments to re-ordering processes.

  • Reports

You can decide what reports you want produced automatically or on demand to inform your short and long term planning so your JIT inventory management is realistic and sustainable.

Cautions

Well planned JIT systems can be incredibly effective. However, because there is a fine balance between sufficient stock, stock shortages and stock surpluses, there are a few cautions to consider:

  • Trust in your supply chain

All your efficiency will not pay off if there is a breakdown in your supply chain such as delayed shipments. This is particularly critical if the inventory is perishable or has an imminent expiry date. Although there can never be universal guarantees, you will want to make sure there are back up plans so your operations continue.

  • Ability to use available information for monitoring operations

You and your supervisors must understand how to use the information available from the inventory software to adjust workflow, perhaps redeploying staff until the inventory is replenished, all the while keeping operations moving along.

  • Ability to use information for planning

As the business owner or part of the management team, you have to understand and analyze the reports produced by the inventory software. For example, if there is an emerging trend to increased sales of a certain product over the two quarters, you might want to adjust the authorities for purchasing inventory and review the effectiveness of your shipping procedures. You do not want your JIT inventory to run out or to overload your shipping capacity.

Benefits of JIT Inventory Management

If JIT inventory management is done well, the benefits are obvious:

  • Optimized storage space
  • Improved workflow
  • Increased efficiencies for scheduling personnel
  • Increased cost effectiveness
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Decreased employee frustration at lack of stock

If it is your time to organize JIT inventory management in your business, contact our IntelliTrack team. They can work with you to review your particular needs and recommend the best inventory software to support streamlining your operations. Start the discussion now.

omni-channelThe manufacturers of today are working in a customer-centric “pressure cooker.” One of the biggest contributors to this is the increasing complexity of the business environment. Companies are seeking to achieve the standards expected by their customers when it comes to the quality of the product, speed of delivery and availability. At the manufacturing end, the supply chain is both intricate and spread across the globe, layered with multiple partners. In order to meet customer demands consistently, manufacturers need to access visibility and exert control over the supply chain. This goes for their own operation and the operations of their business partners, regardless of where they may be located.

There is a problem that a high number of manufacturers are being restricted from gaining the benefits of complete control and transparency in the systems by which their supply chains run in real-time. Too frequently, manufacturing companies have compiled a complexity of niche and disparate products in their supply chain over the duration, which are too rigid and are not well enough integrated. As a result, their organization cannot get a complete and accurate picture of what goes on in the data their supply chain generates, from which they could make plans for the long and short term.

The Omni-Chain

This is where the omni-chain comes in, as a way for manufacturers to re-imagine their supply chain. Instead of the union of different links, the omni-chain is a single, cloud-based solution built upon a data set, which is unified and fully integrated, bringing together all the processes of the supply chain—regardless of where they occur.

The omni-chain combines all the processes of the manufacturing process and makes a provision for all data generated to pass freely through the entire operation. As a result of the omni-chain, every interested party, including workers, partners and stakeholders, will have access to the processes within the entire supply chain via relevant and real time data which relates to their specific aspect.

This is facilitated by the cloud, in which agile, flexible and scalable applications are the driver, making it an ideal platform for omni-chain support. These applications lend themselves to the delivery of the omni-chain because they are easily customizable. SaaS supply chain applications are now achieving the same level of functionality as SCM software, which is hosted on premise. The cloud approach gets manufacturers up and running quickly, and at a lower cost.