Over the past few years, there has been an observable diversification in consumer habits, and retailers are under pressure to evolve in time to meet these developing demands. There is no blanket approach for retailers to take towards their distribution systems in these circumstances.

Their approach is largely grounded in developing their facilities using automation and a number of other new technologies as they come online. This is a given for larger retailers, who distribute their products in a great number of directions. It is also apparent that the rest of the field needs to make similar adjustments in order to keep up and fulfill their orders on time.

A lot of the change in the retail landscape is driven by ecommerce, which has put pressure on warehouse managers to evaluate and integrate relevant types of automation into their operation. One system that can be of great help is a warehouse control system (WCS). A WCS can help to automate processes, systems and material handling equipment and goes a long way to solving a warehouses automation problems.

Implementing modular WCS lets companies automate the most pressing segments of their warehousing operations or distribution centers in order to provide a first class service to customers without getting bogged down with cost. The modular approach makes integration seamless with both operatives and processes enabling even small operations to enter into direct competition with the biggest and best.

The benefits of a companies response to customer expectations by utilizing WCS is best understood when broken down into three segments; by responding to orders of a high volume, by sharpening their business processes and by improving their overall competitiveness.

There are many different types of distribution businesses out there—there is no single fix when it comes to dealing with high volume orders. This situation is made more acute by increasingly varied demands from customers. Implementing a WCS allows companies to direct handling equipment to where it is needed most, meaning that small and high volume orders can be shipped to a variety of destinations with a consistent level of success. The modularity of the system allows companies to select exactly which elements are appropriate for their product portfolios. This type of versatile system allows companies to maximize output without ripping out their existing ones.

Another great benefit of a WCS is that it allows companies to improve their business processes by providing real-time, product specific information about their systems. This means reactive maintenance can be carried out on processes as they run. In what is a truly interactive practice, operators can receive information and implement any necessary improvements to the process enabling the cycle to continue and be improved by increments in every round.

WCS makes companies much more competitive by allowing them to ship and process both small and large orders form a single hub. The software makes decisions on orders by determining the most efficient logistical approach to each one based on factors including size and destination. It also does away with a certain amount of dependence on people within the warehouse environment, reducing the collateral losses, which come along with employees. As WCS evolves it can only serve to benefit companies by saving money time and space.

Discover the right solution for your warehouse.

Inventory management is a crucial aspect of any business within the retail industry. As we move towards the winter holiday season, financiers, market analysts and retailers are keeping a close eye on the wider economic environment and are considering how it will impact consumer behavior. There is much uncertainty in the markets at this time of increased volatility. To combat this, retailers must implement inventory management practices strategically in order to flesh out their balance sheets in this crucial quarter and provide extra insulation from extraneous market factors.

Companies have been fighting a long battle when it comes to inventory management. Prior to the 2008 crash when the markets were extremely bullish, a lot of companies took a laissez faire approach to inventory management practices. The age of austerity that has followed the financial crash means that companies have been under increasing pressure to improve how they manage their inventories. While some have been doing this with increasing success, others are finding it difficult to move away from their prior practices. Problems for organizations in the latter category will become more acute as the holiday season approaches.

These two categories of retailers can be further defined as those who are “open to buy” and those who are “open to sell” in their respective outlooks. Open to buy is the classic approach to retail, which dictates a backward-looking and formulaic approach to inventory acquisition and is often ignorant to developing trends. A retailer will look at what they did during a composite period previously and attempt to modify their approach using this information in conjunction with any other qualitative data they can generate.

The second category of open to sell retailers encompasses an approach which is much more focused and analytical in its basis. This group looks at what is moving off of the shelves and the relative market value of these items in real-time. These retailers are able to observe their margins in real time, providing an opportunity to increase margins and ultimately, enhance their trading capacity.

Technologies such as big data and cloud computing provide the basis for the open to sell approach, and the capacity to implement these technological improvements is what separates the winners from the losers in a contemporary retail environment. Practices such as trend monitoring and inventory analytics give retailers the opportunity to respond to new trends as they occur. This is critical in order to remain relevant as young consumers come online and competition increases. Businesses can improve their practice via an analytical approach, which is centered around ecommerce and social media analytics, data strategy and taking affirmative action where needed.

Social media and ecommerce can provide a huge amount of data for analysis and businesses can observe what their customers respond to online—they can even track the behavior of the customers of their competitors. If this research is carried out with an intensely systematic approach, it can provide real insight into developing consumer habits. Companies who look long and hard at the data they generate via website analytics on their ecommerce outlets can gain insight on customer responses to their products, allowing them to plan strategically and invest in the right areas of their business for the coming seasons.

Further investment must be directed towards strategic data analysis, even where budget is hard to find, this is a must for any retail operation. Even taking the relatively small step of increasing access for an industry intelligence unit within an operation can enhance seasonal planning. Once the company has generated sufficient data, it is imperative that it is acted upon to stay ahead of the curve this holiday season. This means that lines to suppliers must always be open and that inventory management practices must be upgraded where necessary. Moving from an open to buy approach towards an open sell strategy means that retailers can meet demand wherever and however it occurs.

Will you be ready for this holiday season? Learn more about inventory management solutions today.

The definition of supply chain involves a network of trading partners engaging in the exchange of information and goods. People and organizations within a supply chain are often spread out over the globe and across various organizations, so it makes sense that cloud computing is the resource of choice when establishing a well-networked supply chain.

Support for this theory is evidenced from a study recently authorized by SCM World entitled “Supply Chain and the Future of Applications“. Claims made within the study notably includes that 46% of participants in the study claim that more collaboration within a supply chain means that problems will be solved in half the time. Further to this, the report claims that the larger supply chains are becoming more dependent on platforms within the cloud in order to achieve faster and more accurate problem solving by harnessing the enhanced capability for collaboration.

The main benefits of using cloud computing to enhance the capability of the supply chain include a higher visibility of items as they move through it, faster and more consistent sharing of information with global partners and more capacity for the automation of components within the supply chain.

Higher visibility of goods as they travel through the supply chain is achieved via hosting in the cloud as their status can be distributed throughout the supply network. For example, the exact time goods will arrive can be revealed in order to ease the organization of delivery processes. There are many working parts to a logistical system, these include suppliers, manufacturers, distribution centers, retailers and finally customers. With so many components, greater visibility within the supply chain of goods as they pass through is essential in order to inform the interested parties about the whereabouts of specific products, potential re-networking and other specific needs to ease the passage of goods.

The capacity the cloud provides for information sharing in real time between interested parties means that supply chains now have more in common with social media networks than the former platforms for enterprise communications, due to the currency and speed of information. By harnessing the potential of the cloud, partners within the supply chain have the capacity to give up to date reports on shipments, products and factory and logistical challenges for example. All of this information is available in real time via one update from the holder of specific information. This is an astounding progression in the capability for the sharing of information provided by the ascension and availability of cloud computing.

Automation of the supply chain within the cloud means an increase in reliability, responsiveness and efficiency. The former cumbersome method of using paper documentation to chart payments and the status of products and deliveries is done away with. As a further advantage, less hands in the supply chain process means that margins for error are all but eliminated. As interactions are increasingly handled electronically the potential causes for consternation of the former labor intensive and error prone supply chain processes are eliminated.

A report by Gartner predicts that the value of the supply chain market will reach $3.8 billion some time in 2016. The main challenge to this predicted growth is the growing complexity of the technology involved. Many of these complexities will be solved by cloud computing’s capacity to provide greater visibility of goods in transit, the ability to share information instantaneously throughout the supply chain network and greater facilities for automation among other potential benefits. These three factors combined with the potential for more development provided by the cloud mean that the challenges posed by supply chain communications and logistics are more easily remedied, leading to more efficient operations.

Still haven’t moved to the cloud? Find the right solution for you.

The management of returns is usually not considered to be among the most costly aspects of an enterprise. However, a combination of competition, pressure from customers and increasingly more stringent environmental policies and regulations mean that the management of returns is being identified as a rising priority for a growing number of companies.

The processes involved in the management of returns are numerous and evolving. They include recycling, waste disposal, substituting materials and reusing them. The American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) created a report entitled “Open Standards Benchmarking Logistics,” which states that 78% of companies who responded to the report have varying degrees of policy relating the return of goods in place.

The report is broken down into three categories of policy for comparison by the APQC including: no implementation (23%), some implementation (31%) and extensive implementation (47%). From the results, it is apparent that companies believe formalizing returns policy leads to higher costs, however, they might be prudent to consider generating revenue from reuse and refurbishment practices.

Data generated by the APQC points to a trend for organizations without a policy for the management of returns spending less than their counterparts whose costs are inflated by logistical costs arising the from handling returns. The actual difference amounts to $20 out of every $1000 of revenue.

Other indications from the APQC’s data bring to light the implication that organizations who have policies for the management of returns have a greater amount of money being spent in order to manage and process the return of products. This same group also has comparatively higher costs associated with warehousing and logistics.

The amount of difference in costs generated by those who have policies and those who haven’t is not insignificant. However, perhaps a longer-term view is needed when considering whether a return of goods management policy is worthwhile. If the potential for generating additional revenue is harnessed, these policies could pay for themselves and even return a profit. This would be subject to industrial regulatory requirements. At the moment, the management of returns is indisputably an additional cost, which may be worth investing in for the future.

Does your organization have a returns process in place? Let us know by commenting on our Facebook or twitter pages.

There are two key factors in an emergency medical response in a hospital: equipment and staff training. This is true whether dealing with victims of a plane crash or responding to a single person with an infectious disease. However, many healthcare facilities are better equipped to respond to the obvious trauma of dozens of accident victims than to the rare admission of a person who is possibly highly contagious.

The current Ebola scare like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak a few years ago drives home the need for preparation. All staff need to understand the protocol and regularly practice the procedures for dealing with patients who present with even possible symptoms of the particular disease. The response usually begins with immediate isolation before a full diagnosis and treatment. Any contact with the patient puts the healthcare staff at risk.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the first line of defence for medical staff involved in treating the patient. There are many hospitals in North America currently scrambling to order the basics such as:

  • Respiratory protection with full face shield, helmet or headpiece
  • Single use impermeable gowns
  • Single use nitrile gloves with extended cuffs
  • Single use boot covers
  • Single use impermeable aprons

Hospital administrators are also checking to make sure they have an adequate store of consumable supplies, including anti-viral drugs. A recent audit of Department of Homeland Security pandemic supplies uncovered quantities of supplies and drugs close to expiry dates.

Inventory Management Challenge

It is easy to see the need for robust inventory control in such an emergency. There is no time to be searching for PPE that is used only occasionally and no one is quite sure where it is stored. Essential supplies might be expired. Equipment might be on loan to another unit.

Hospital administrators and clinical managers want to be able to access all the necessary equipment and supplies immediately. They want to be confident everything is in adequate supply and ready to use. Such as response requires an inventory system that is accurate, complete and up to date.

There are three aspects to inventory management of hospital emergency equipment and supplies:

  • Fixed assets such as specialized equipment that is used over and over again, including some of the PPE components
  • Consumable supplies such as the single use gowns, gloves, boots and surgical hoods for emergencies and the usual thermometers and bandages
  • Shared equipment such as laptop computers and bariatric wheelchairs

IntelliTrack Inventory Solutions

IntelliTrack has web based software packages that eliminate the guesswork about the state of readiness, location and quantity of essential equipment and supplies. The technology uses barcode labels to track every single piece of inventory. Not only is there a reading of location, the data capture can includes descriptors about condition, expiry date, serial number, maintenance requirements and user. All this information can be accessed on mobile devices.

The three main IntelliTrack software products are:

  • IntelliTrack Fixed Assets provides detailed tracking of each piece of equipment and can even monitor age and value and calculate depreciation
  • IntelliTrack Stockroom tracks the usage and levels of consumable stock and manages reorder alerts as requested
  • IntelliTrack Check In/Out helps manage shared equipment, collection and allowing easy access to information about user, location, maintenance on equipment or any other report that is requested.

These software options make inventory management more accurate, efficient and cost effective. There is also a degree of accountability built in when the users, condition or equipment and duration of use are tracked. IntelliTrack software solutions can be customized for a perfect match to the needs of any healthcare provider.

The primary purpose of inventory management in a warehouse or distribution center is to identify and track each item from receiving to shipping. At any given time, you want to know the level of the stock, where each piece is located, and even its condition, serial number or expiry date. However, when you are considering purchasing new inventory management software, there are two other features that are strategically important.

Integration

Look for an inventory control system that can be integrated with back office functions, including:

  • Accounts receivable for invoicing
  • Purchasing for processing re-ordering alerts
  • Sales for pre-empting customer complaints
  • HR for support in performance management and schedules
  • Owner or senior management for business planning and budgeting
  • Shipping services for faster delivery to correct address
  • Financial reporting of inventory value for annual reports and tax returns

You can customize reports to ensure the cost effectiveness of your inventory management program. Accurate invoices will be generated immediately.  An informed purchasing officer will not be paying premium costs for rush orders to fill stock shortages or paying the cost of carrying surplus stock. Longer term planning and budgeting will be based on customized reports. Financial reports will have real time integrity.

Integration also helps with the human factor in your business. Your sales staff can be alerted if there are unavoidable delays in filling orders so they can negotiate with the customer. HR solutions for issues of employee productivity will be based on recorded facts, not just casual observations or feelings.

Scalability

You also want to consider inventory management software that is scalable. This means the system has the existing capacity to handle a growing amount of work or it can easily be expanded to accommodate such growth.

This key feature will serve you well in various situations, including when you:

  • Are ready to expand your warehouse operations
  • Want to sell your 3PL services to more clients
  • Have discovered a new product line you want to sell

For example, you are going to lease another facility two blocks away or even in another town. This means hiring eight more staff who will be using the inventory management system. The number of items in the inventory will double. A scalable solution such as the IntelliTrack Warehouse Management System (WMS) has no difficulty handing more product with more users in two or more different locations without compromising the integrity of the data.

Such an inventory software program can also be used for 3PL services increasing the number of clients using your distribution center and/or encouraging them to expand their customer base. Or, perhaps you want to expand your own product line. This means you will need not only more physical space, but also an adjustment to the inventory management software. Scalability is strategic in inventory management as no successful business is static.

From just these few examples it is easy to see that the capacity for integration with other business functions and scalability are two important features for inventory management. Click here to contact the IntelliTrack team to discuss the technology solutions just right for your business.

On October 26, we updated IntelliTrack Stratus products to include the launch of the IntelliTrack Integration Services for Stratus. In addition, we improved the sorting functions for the Customer, Vendor, Carrier and Shipping Method lists.

Integration Services for Stratus
Since the updates, Integration Services have automatically been added to the Stratus application. The IntelliTrack Stratus Integration Service is an interface for third party application data integration that can be used to transfer data between Stratus and a third party system, or, to import and export data to and from Stratus.

Lists Automatically Sorted in Ascending Order by Name
Previously, the Customer, Vendor, Carrier and Shipping Method lists were not automatically sorted in ascending order by name. Now, with the automatic sorting in ascending order by name, entries within a list are much easier to find.

We apologize for any inconvenience the maintenance may have caused, but hope you enjoy these new features. If you have any questions regarding the latest Stratus updates, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

On Sunday, October 26, 2014, updates will be applied to all IntelliTrack Stratus products. During this time, the site will be unavailable. The updates are estimated to take approximately an hour and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding these updates, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Stay tuned for more information on these new updates and how they will improve your business processes!

Happy-5th-Birthday-Intellitrack-StratusHappy 5th Birthday to the Stratus line of cloud based inventory software from IntelliTrack!

Recognizing the increasing demand for web based solutions and building on feedback from satisfied customers, IntelliTrack has worked tirelessly to design excellent technology systems for tracking inventory. Stratus solutions have been at the industry forefront since the beginning of cloud based activity.

The Stratus portfolio has expanded to the point IntelliTrack can say with confidence that every organization from a warehouse or fire department to a hospital or university can benefit from a convenient, hosted Stratus solution. This web based option provides all the necessary tools for managing inventory in an efficient, cost effective manner and produces reports to prove its value.

Integration is a signature element of IntelliTrack technology. Stratus software works easily with accounting applications such as QuickBooks, MAS90 and Great Plains and with shipping software such as ShipWorks. IntelliTrack is now taking Stratus integration services to the next level.

“We are currently investing in developing ways for Stratus to talk to external applications,” said Ron Pawlowski, COO at IntelliTrack. “We know the enhanced capacity will significantly increase the value of Stratus to our customers.”

Currently, there are seven Stratus versions available:

  • StratusInventory for fast efficient physical counts with serial and lots numbers, expiration dates and other identifying information
  • StratusStockroom for physical counts, tracking and receipts, popular for customer managed inventory services
  • StratusCheckOut for collecting and processing all data on consumable and fixed assets including reordering alerts and checking in and out
  • StratusAssets is a full service solution for all data on all inventory, even in multiple locations, reported within customized parameters; ideal for asset audits for accountability
  • StratusVMI is particularly useful for its real time data on which to base the efficient restocking of vendor managed inventory
  • StratusFirehouse for managing equipment and supplies used by fire departments often in life or death situations where there is no room for error
  • StratusISRP wraps up all the data about inventory, shipping, receiving and picking in a small to medium sized warehouse

Each Stratus application can be customized to meet the particular needs of any business concerned about efficient, cost effective inventory tracking and management. IntelliTrack excels at taking time for in-depth front end consultation so the Stratus installation is absolutely the best option available.

With more than two decades of experience responding to the needs of 20,000 customers around the world, IntelliTrack specialists are the go-to team for successful inventory management. Stratus is a stellar software solution with capacity to increase the productivity, customer satisfaction and bottom line of any business.

Pawlowski says the IntelliTrack team is looking forward to the next five years of Stratus success and encourages any business with consumable or fixed assets to come along for the ride. IntelliTrack inventory management professionals are available at 1-888-583-3008 or marketing@intellitrack.net to discuss the Stratus options.

In a recent report from Global Intelligence Alliance’s (GIA) Business Perspectives on Emerging Markets 2012-2017, it was revealed that transportation and logistics professionals expect emerging markets to contribute to 36% of their global revenues by 2017—over double what it is today. The logistics professionals surveyed surmise that China, Brazil, India and Russia will remain the top four emerging markets over the next five years, followed by Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Chile.

In the years ahead, emerging markets can expect to see fast growth—a quarter of respondents agreed that current emerging markets will become future large market. Particularly, cold chain logistics in China will greatly expand, due to the Chinese government’s plans to increase food safety.

Potential Threats
However, because of the volatility in many emerging markets, poor infrastructure, bureaucracy and red tape are common threats, particularly in hard-to-access markets.

For example, Indonesia has over 1,700 islands, making it difficult for carriers, especially with crowded ports and shallow waters.

Potential Success
In order to achieve success in emerging markets, localized competitive positioning, access to customers and the quality of products/services will be crucial.

However, 75% of respondents doubted the accuracy and completeness regarding information on emerging markets. It’s clear that there are a log of uncertainties in emerging markets, but understanding the unique characteristics of each local market and partnering with the right companies will allow those in transportation and logistics companies to take advantage of the forecasted growth in emerging markets.

In total, 60% of the over 400 companies featured in the cross-industry study said that decision making is delayed because of lack of information, while 75% doubted the accuracy and completeness of the information they have on emerging markets.