If time is money, then being lean is both. Thanks to mega retailers such as Wal-Mart, lean principles have rapidly spread to a variety of different manufacturers, such as consumer foods, apparel and food/beverage.

Over the past few years, these retailers have dramatically changed how they do business in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. How products are ordered, how inventory is moved throughout distribution centers and barcodes vs. rfid technology for inventory management have all been taken into consideration in order to work as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

While lean thinking has been rapidly expanding amongst large manufacturers and retailers, there are still a lot of companies that have hardly implemented any lean concepts.

At the end of the day, it’s about adding value for customers—but how can companies do that while also reaping in benefits for themselves?

Lean opportunities for wholesalers and retailers fall into three basic categories:

1) Retail Strategy
For lean concepts to be successfully applied within a retail or wholesale organization, departmental strategies need to be aligned with and support an overall lean company strategy in order to efficiently function as one lean, cohesive machine.

2) Merchandise Management
When it comes down to it, efficiently managing merchandise comes down to having the right product at the right price at the right time. To achieve this trifecta, developing, securing, pricing support and communicating the retailer’s merchandise offering effectively is of the utmost importance. Failing to manage merchandise using lean principles causes waste, taking away value from both the customer and the enterprise.

3) Store and Distribution Operations
Store and distribution operations tend to be where companies have the biggest amount of waste. Depending on how many stores are involved, it can be one of the hardest areas to manage, making lean principles seem unattainable. But distribution is all about optimizing trade-offs between handling costs and warehousing costs, maximizing the warehouse while maintaining low costs and minimizing time.

It’s All About the Customer
In a retail environment, it’s crucial to consider store operations and process improvements from the customers’ point of view before making lean improvements. Remember, what’s good for the customer is good for your business; it’s just about finding the right solution.

Analyzing in-store logistics can be very beneficial to becoming a lean organization. These “last 10 yards” of the supply chain can have a drastic impact on your bottom line—from employee productivity, to quality issues, to receiving processes, every little step in the last 10 yards is crucial to improve processes and increase profits.

In addition to those crucial last customer-facing moments in the retail environment, omni-channel marketing, such as e-commerce, adds an entirely new layer of challenges to becoming a lean organization.

Identifying where customers will see value across all channels and applying lean concepts to these areas is crucial in retail and wholesale environments in order to succeed in today’s competitive market.

 

 

IntelliTrack recently made updates to our StratusMobile software in order to help our customers work as efficiently as possible.

Rapid Issue and Rapid Receipt
StratusMobile users can enjoy Rapid Issue and Rapid Receipt.This feature was added to enable users to quickly issue and receive items during a Stock Issue and a Stock Receipt. In addition, items can be continuously scanned to an Issue Order or the Receipt Order by using the Lock feature.

Add and Maintain Item and Assets in Containers
With the new StratusMobile update, users can easily add or remove items and/or assets from a container, allowing for assets and items to be grouped into a moveable location. Grouping the items makes it easy to make updates if an item or asset needs to be removed.

Now, the Add Container form and Edit Container form each have two new tabs—Assets and Items. An asset can be easily added or removed from the container in the Assets tab. Items can be managed in the Items tab. The new form was created with rapid item data entry to a container in mind and uses a Lock feature, allowing users to “lock” a value in a field so that it doesn’t have to be continually scanned.

Rapid Asset Entry for New Assets
We’ve added a new Asset Inventory form for rapidly adding new assets. With the new form, users can rapidly add new assets to a site-location, in addition to assigning a serial number, assignee and condition to the asset. The new Inventory-Assets form uses a lock feature that allows default values to be set within a field. In addition, users can customize the prompting sequence when adding data.

Update StratusMobile Today
In order to take advantage of all these great features, please be sure to update your StratusMobile application and database. View instructions on how to update your StratusMobile software.

In addition to updating the Stratus Mobile, updates were made to the Stratus Web Application.

View Labels Page
In the Stratus Web Application, improvements have been made when previewing and printing the following labels:

  • Asset, Item, and Location Labels are now sorted in ascending order
  • Asset Labels now have the added ability to be sorted by an Asset Number range
  • Assignee Labels now have the ability to be sorted by an Assignee range

Rapid Check-In/Check-Out feature
The Rapid Check In/Out feature now contains a Rapid Check-In/Check-Out Operations Reportas well as a new Save and Print function. The Operations Report contains all of the Rapid Check-In/Check-Out Operation Labels, which are contained on a 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper. Simply print the report and all of the operation labels will be conveniently located on one sheet of paper. The new Save and Print feature allows users to save the check-in or check-out transaction and loads the correlating Confirmation report onscreen. The Confirmation report includes the asset number-item, description and assignee for each asset that was checked in or out during the session. The Confirmation report can be previewed onscreen, exported to a file or printed depending on your needs.

Contact us with any questions regarding either the StratusMobile update or Stratus Web Application update.

 

On Sunday, June 29th updates will be applied to the IntelliTrack Stratus products. The updates will take roughly an hour during which time the site will be unavailable.

Performing a full physical inventory can seem like a daunting task, but having accurate inventory is the key to overall accuracy in the warehouse. Luckily, there’s ISRP by IntelliTrack to help with all of your inventory needs.

ISRP is ideal for small to mid-sized warehouse order fulfillment operations and is comprised of four main functions—Inventory, Shipping, Receiving and Picking.

ISRP Inventory supports warehouse functions such as physical counts, cycle counts and moving inventory, all from a mobile device.

Download a step-by-step procedural guide for performing a full physical inventory using Intellitrack ISRP and start increasing your accuracy today!

You do not need a drone to provide excellent delivery service to your customers. We have been fascinated recently by Amazon’s commitment to delivery service within 30 minutes of placing an order, thanks to a drone zooming in and dropping a package right outside our doors. However, there is more to customer satisfaction than a high flying technological wonder.

What makes customers happy?
There is much more to a successful delivery than just a package showing up at the door. Your customers are probably happiest when:

  • They receive the product they order, not a substitute or something that was stored on the next shelf in the warehouse
  • The package is delivered to the correct address
  • The order arrives when scheduled

How to deliver on customer satisfaction?

For small to mid-sized businesses, there is a software solution for customer satisfaction. It is an Inventory Shipping Receiving and Picking (ISRP) system that calculates and tracks all data about the inventory, from receiving and storing products and receiving customer orders to picking, shipping and invoicing the items. You want the process to flow smoothly and if there are any glitches, you receive an immediate alert so you can take care of the problem right away.

ISRP software integrates the four main functions necessary for successfully filling customer orders:

  • ISRP Inventory is all about having an accurate and complete count of the inventory no matter what the location within the company operations. The system has the capacity for physical inventory and cycle counting. You can design queries and request reports that allow you to monitor and manage inventory.

Accessing this kind of information gives you the confidence to know you absolutely can fill the orders being received. You can build in reordering alerts so you never run out of product. You can track consumption over defined periods and cycles so you can plan ahead.

  • ISRP Shipping functionality validates all the details of your customer’s order and generates the shipping labels. The system is integrated with the delivery service provider such as FedEx or WorldShip so there is no need to risk errors by rekeying customer names and addresses.

The shipping information can also be exported to your billing department. Once again, eliminating the need to input the information again eliminates the risk of error. The customer will receive the items ordered and the correct invoice.

  • ISRP Receiving is the part of the software solution that enters all necessary data about the product you have ordered from a manufacturer or distributor. Such data typically includes a purchase order number, due date, vendor ID and the location where it is being stored. Errors are significantly reduced and the receiving process is speeded up as the information is validated by barcode or RFID tag readers. The product will now be easy to find to fill your customer’s order.
  • ISRP Picking imports the details of the customer order and validates the part number, location and quantity using a portable barcode or RFID tag reader. This efficient system reduces if not eliminates error so the customer will be assured of the correct product in the requested quantity arriving at the door.

What are the ISRP Advantages?

The primary advantage of using an ISRP software solution in your warehouse is all about accurate, complete, current information in order to fill orders efficiently. There is no more apologizing because you have to backorder an item or send a substitution. When a customer has spent time deciding on a product, you can be sure that is exactly what he wants to receive.

The customer data is all in the system so there is little chance of error in shipping labels. Having that functionality integrated with the system used by the courier who will actually be delivering the package is a great bonus feature. The risk of error just keeps on decreasing.

Customer satisfaction begins with the first step in the entire inventory process. If you know for sure that your purchase order is filled, received and stored in your warehouse, you are in a much better position to fill your customers’ orders to their complete satisfaction.

A drone dropping a package on their doorstep is not going to keep a customer happy. A delivery service arriving at the door with exactly what the customer ordered as a result of an efficient and accurate end-to-end ISRP system is impressive.

The IntelliTrack Solution

IntelliTrack Inc. offers state of the art ISRP software solutions that can be customized to meet your company’s needs. There is a web based option with cloud storage that can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. There is also a system that can be locally installed on your company server and might be appropriate for your operation. IntelliTrack professionals are always ready to discuss your needs and what works to satisfy your customers.

 

IntelliTrack’s Package Track Data Management Software recently received a Certificate of Networthiness (CoN).

Package Track makes mailroom management and proof of delivery easy and includes applications for Inventory, Stockroom, Check In-Out and Fixed Assets, in addition to Package Tracking.

With Package Track, warehouse employees can easily check-in packages and assign them to the proper receiving customer. In addition, the software features a ‘mailroom’ database that stores customer locations and contact notification information. Once a package is ready for pick-up, the application automatically sends an e-mail notification.

Package Track by IntelliTrack was granted the CoN based on its trusted standardized platform, configured per FDCC.

Learn more about the CoN for Package Track.

Never take for granted the security and integrity of your asset management. There might be locks on the warehouse at night, a system for signing out supplies, a paper trail for processing a customer order and even a security guard at certain sites. However asset vulnerability is much more than being susceptible to actual theft. It is any condition that leaves your inventory open to losing product, information, time and money.

Indicators of Vulnerability

Consider the following common signs of the vulnerability and see if any of them apply to your business:

  • Lost Assets

Do you know how many items you have, where they are and who last touched them? If not, you are not managing your inventory effectively. All too often, it is careless or rushed employees who accidentally store an item in the wrong location or forget to log it in or out. It might be a small tool, a case of first aid supplies or a vehicle.

No matter what the size or cost, that item is lost to your inventory. What is particularly worrisome is that you might not even realize there is something missing. All you can do is hope that someone will find and restore the item to active use.

  • Theft

Unfortunately, there are employees who will take advantage of a weak tracking system to steal assets, whether equipment and tools, or consumable supplies. Would you know immediately if there are items stolen or do you have to wait until there is a question mark on a monthly report? Is it possible you would never find out?

  • Time Spent Searching for Items

Do your employees spend time searching for misplaced items? Do you even know how often that happens? Are these incidents logged? Are there personnel issues because employees are blaming each other for misplaced items?

  • Errors in Audit

Is your auditor able to ensure the accuracy of the inventory count? Is he able to allocate costs to the inventory, identifying items past their prime or missing in order to monetize his findings?

  • Inventory Shortage or Overage

Is your inventory often caught short of product needed by employees or customers? Or, are there supplies and equipment stored in dark corners that will not be used for months, if ever?

  • Unreliable Inventory Records

Can you rely on your inventory records to plan your operations? Are you confident it is time to replace certain equipment or tools? Do you need to order more product to ship to customers or is there already more than enough on hand?

Financial Consequences of Asset Vulnerability

If your assets are open to carelessness, theft and mismanagement, your bottom line will suffer. Even a business that is profitable is either losing money unnecessarily or not realizing its sales potential. Unfortunately, every single human and system weakness error can affect your company’s financial health in the following categories:

  •  Product Availability

Financial loss is obvious when products disappear, whether through negligence or theft. The loss is mitigated if the items are simply misplaced and eventually show up. In the meantime, however, it can mean a loss of revenue as you can’t use or sell what you can’t find. Or, it might mean cash outlay if the missing items must be replaced if the work is going to be done.

  • Productivity

When your employees are searching for misplaced or lost items, they are wasting time away from their primary jobs. If the same one or two employees regularly misplace items, you probably want to look into ongoing performance issues. Whatever the frequency of carelessness or value of the individual items, there is always a negative impact on overall productivity.

A side effect of frequently misplaced items is the negative impact on the relationships among your employees. If it appears that one person is always causing trouble for the others, the blame laying game begins. When there is continual tension and frustration in the work environment, productivity drops.

The productivity calculation is quite simple: a decrease in employee output equals a decrease in company profits.

  • Customers

One of the most significant results of asset vulnerability is damage to your customer base. Usually, it is a product problem. If product is regularly misplaced or stolen, there will be ongoing shortages so orders cannot be filled as they are received.

Even if items are not lost, if there is sloppy, inaccurate, incomplete record keeping, you will not be able to plan your inventory effectively. The result is the same: unhappy customers. A diminishing customer base equals decreased profits.

Strengthen Your Asset Management

Whether your operations focus on providing products or services, it is essential that you are able to access accurate, up to date, complete data about all your inventory. Fortunately, there are many affordable, user-friendly software packages available to help you organize all your fixed and consumable assets.

Install one of these systems and you will have information about the volume, kind and movement of the assets in your warehouse, stockroom or on the road. You will know immediately if something is missing, or needs repair or replacement. You will receive alerts to reorder or move stock from location to another. All the information available can be customized to your particular operation.

There is no need for your valuable assets to be vulnerable to loss or mismanagement. IntelliTrack has a full range of software solutions for asset tracking and inventory management. Check out what is right for your industry at: http://www.intellitrack.net/barcode-inventory-software.asp

At IntelliTrack, we strive to offer continual best-in-class services to our customers. That’s why approximately every four weeks we add new features to our IntelliTrack Stratus product line. On Sunday, June 1, the Intellitrack Stratus products were updated, offering some great new features:

Field Chooser
With the recent updates, a field chooser is now available at the Inventory Data page and the Assets Data page. The Field Chooser allows users the flexibly to determine which optional fields are displayed on each page. Once selected, a field or multiple fields can easily be removed from the page grid and once removed, fields can be added back to the page via the Field Chooser. Adding the Field Chooser offers a higher level of customization and personalization for our customers and we hope you’ll take advantage of this exciting new feature!

Inventory Date
The date of when an item or asset was added to a location can now be easily viewed from the Inventory Data page and the Assets Data page. The addition of the Inventory Date field should provide greater visibility to the location of items and/or assets and when they were there.

Customer and Vendor Information
The new updates offer extensive options for customer and vendor information. The following fields have been added to better maintain the Manage Customers page and the Manage Vendors page:

  • Company Name
  • Contact Name
  • Four user defined fields

Now, a specific company name and contact can be entered, along with up to four defined fields on information specific to the customer or vendor.

You will find all of these great benefits in the Stratus web application. Additionally, please be sure to update your Stratus Mobile application.

Should you have any questions regarding the update, feel free to contact us!

On Sunday, June 1st updates will be applied to the IntelliTrack Stratus products. The updates will take roughly an hour during which time the site will be unavailable.

Inventory Management Software Supports Reverse Logistics

TradePort USA has been offering reverse logistics services to retailers, manufacturers and distributors for more than a decade. Headquartered in the historic small city of Somersworth NH, this dynamic, innovative company has established an expertise in recovering and reselling consumer electronics at wholesale prices.

Situated in a renovated mill, the TradePort warehouse is the destination for overstock, open box, distressed and returned electronics. All devices are subjected to a 4-point Product Evaluation Process based on package condition, cosmetics, functionality and package contents. Then, the items are repaired or refurbished as necessary. When they are ready for resale, the electronics are marketed through various e-commerce channels including the TradePort website, Amazon and eBay.

Each day,TradePort’s shipping and receiving departments are hustling to make sure the many packages keep moving in and out. The company also operate a storefront business in Somersworth. Well positioned to expand its partner base and set up satellite distribution centers, TradePort wanted to make sure it had the capacity to guarantee complete customer satisfaction with both vendors and buyers.

The Challenge

Like many other successful businesses, TradePort discovered there are always challenges riding the coattails of company growth. The leadership team recognized the symptoms of systems issues which would be more problematic as they expanded, including:

  • Unexpected stockouts
  • Selling items not in actual inventory
  • Incomplete orders being shipped such as a TV without a remote control
  • Inventory information stored mostly in employees’ heads
  • Too much time taken to put together an order
  • Time spent dealing with unnecessary customer complaints
  • Uncertainty about current status or location of item
  • Unknown on hand Inventory
  • How long product has been in the warehouse (turn times)

It became clear the real problem was the lack of control over inventory coming in and moving out. Employees were not confident they knew exactly what was in stock and where it was in the process of grading, repair or refurbishing. Customer queries and complaints told them the checks and balances were not in place for filling orders.

It was obvious the issues of scaleability and inventory control had to be addressed. Dave Marino, the Director of Operations and Logistics at TradePort is clear that they “needed control of the product as it wasn’t sustainable to take on additional vendors or additional partners” when they were not sure when the product was received and where it could be found. Management was committed to resolving the issues in order to plan realistically for expansion.

Finding a Solution

There was the hope that an off-the-shelf product was the answer. TradePort did consider a few options which were readily available, but were not confident the products would solve their problem. With the help of GHA Technologies, Inc., a solutions provider, TradePort came to realize they would be better served by engaging professionals to assess their particular situation and recommend a custom solution.

The consultation process started with IntelliTrack Inc., a leading provider of efficient and cost effective inventory management solutions around the world. The IntelliTrack Project Manager spent a day onsite at TradePort, watching, listening and checking records so he understood every step of the process and who did what. He confirmed the company needed to know more than the description, location and number of items in its warehouse. The ability to track the work in progress for each item was critical, from verifying the product’s functionality to making it saleable and preparing it for shipping.

IntelliTrack was ready to present a proposal and negotiate an installation at TradePort.

Setting the Stage

By now, TradePort management was seriously laying the foundation for expansion and wanted to make sure that any technology solution would be designed for their new environment.

 

The leadership team at TradePort committed to implementing Lean manufacturing principles by mapping the value stream of all its processes from the perspective of the end user. Then, they worked hard to eliminate any wasted time and effort in the workflow. The result for TradePort was a 40% expansion in the warehouse, streamlined operations and reduced waste.

TradePortwas now prepared to upgrade its inventory control system.

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The IntelliTrack Solution

IntelliTrack chose its recommendation carefully: Warehouse Management System (WMS) RF Professional, locally installed and using barcodes. This particular WMS solution could focus on TradePort’s primary need to track the work in progress. The software features standard functions such as:

  • Physical inventory and cycle counts
  • Shipping receiving and picking
  • Barcode labeling
  • Zone picking
  • Batched order management
  • Management queries
  • Productivity reports by user or transaction
  • History lookups by user or transaction
  • Cross dock warnings
  • Inventory Inspection and grading
  • Relocating product within the warehouse
  • Accessory kitting
  • Flexible import utilities for inventory and orders
  • Receiving Orders to allow the receiving department to see expected product (preparation)
  • Ability to create custom product conditions
  • Timely and knowledgeable customer support

 

IntelliTrack was also able to customize functions for TradePort, including:

  • Inventory inspection screen able to track an item in an unknown condition through the entire QA/QC process to be made merchandisable to its final location for shipment
  • Secondary inspection screen with different inspection criteria for cell phones
  • Integration SQL database of WMS with Channel Advisor/ShipWorks for importing sales orders
  • Automated inventory upload
  • Label design with two barcodes, one with internal SKU, the other identifying supplier, product description and warehouse location
  • Custom line numbered receiving orders for varying costs
  • Profitability reports; ability to track performance of individual items/SKUs
  • Recycling function to ensure adherence to TradePort’s “commitment to green” guarantee
  • Integration SQL database of WMS with Channel Advisor/ShipWorks to create dynamic sales reporting based on vendor requirements

The initial installation of WMS included six workstations and four mobile computing devices, each with a license for inventory control and reporting. The QA stations also collect information about inspected inventory. Additional hardware included tethered scanners at each QA workstation and at the shipping station, barcode printers, mobile computers for operators receiving and picking order and a centralized server.

Typically, an IntelliTrack consultation, assessment, project development and implementation would take six to eight weeks. Testing and employee training are part of the package. However, in this case, the installation became part of the company’s warehouse expansion with the implementation of Lean principles, so the project at TradePort took approximately six months.

Outcomes

Even after 18 months, Dave Marino still sounds enthusiastic as he enumerates the positive outcomes from the implementation of WMS at TradePort. The new physical and information infrastructures have allowed the company to strengthen its operations.

  • Increased efficiency.

Overall, the company is more efficient and better organized as seen in:

o   Smooth, consistent workflow

o   Workforce and other resources redeployed as necessary to maintain workflow and increase productivity

o   Streamlined pick, pack, ship process

o   Integrated mobile computing devices and scanners so not running back and forth in warehouse

o   Elimination of manual input of email files from vendors; now imported directly into WMS

  • Cost effectiveness.

WMS has proven its worth financially through its:

o   Ability to access information to help prioritize inventory of high volume and high dollar value

o   Ability to take advantage of new opportunities in the cell phone market

o   Time saved in front line operations equals money saved

  • Improved relationship with customers.

TradePort is more confident in its relationship with its customers and its commitment to:

o   24 hour turnaround

o   Accuracy and completeness of shipments

o   Maintain its Top Seller rating on eBay with 99+% positive feedback

  • Improved information for inventory management.

Information is now readily available to produce accurate, complete, real time customized reports on:

o   Customer orders

o   Daily sales

o   Receiving

o   Daily productivity by each task

With the SQL database connected to the shipping database, it is easy to run reports for use internally and for vendors. Such flexible capacity is important at TradePort as each vendor requires a different report. Fortunately, there is a TradePort employee who is able to produce whatever reports are requested by management by using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

Ongoing

IntelliTrack is still working with TradePort on the value stream for reporting, particularly in the inspection process. There is information being added to fields so even more reports can be produced.

There are ongoing challenges, particularly in paying attention to detail. For example, an item is not actually stored in its barcoded location. It has been suggested that bigger, brighter barcode might take care of the tendency to human error.

Installing WMS RF Professional for inventory management appears to have been a good strategic decision for TradePort. The system is robust enough to support expanded operations. If needed, more features can be added and the software further customized to accommodate growth.

Summing up TradePort’s perspective, Dave Marino says, “IntelliTrack has given us the ability to scale our business using managed growth, allowing us to take on additional partners and vendors while maintaining the A+ standards we are known for and our customers have come to expect.”

To find out more about how IntelliTrack can help your company in better managing its inventory, call 888-583-3008, or visit the website at www.IntelliTrack.net.