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.

reverse logistics

Reverse and repair logistics are essential to global supply chain aspirations… here’s why.

The objective of forward, or, “conventional” logistics is to extract the best performance from the flow of goods, as well as devices and equipment on their journey to the consumer. Mainstream logistics are not too difficult to understand, and the majority of companies demonstrate a good understanding of how to budget and plan a products’ journey on the way to consumers. The question is, what to do when the consumer makes the decision that they no longer want a product and want to return it or exchange it for something else? This is why reverse logistics are an essential cog in the wheel of global supply chain management.

What are Reverse Logistics?

To put it simply, reverse logistics is the operation concerned with the journey of products and materials, usually goods, which are being returned to the source of origin from a consumer. Customer dissatisfaction is one of the main reasons this will take place, but there are a few others, such as:

  • Errors in delivery
  • Equipment that has reached the end of it’s life
  • Warranty Returns
  • Defective or damaged products
  • Upgraded equipment
  • Buyer regrets purchase

As you might imagine, to reverse the logistics flow will put budgets under severe pressure, as well as decreasing the efficiency of the supply chain and rates relating to asset recovery. If you should wish to optimize your global supply chain and bring up standards of customer service, then it is important to understand the importance of reverse logistics operations and techniques. By doing this, the full value of returned products can be recaptured and all regulations can be adhered to.

Using Reverse Logistics Applications

The products sold by electronics companies could be said to have a shorter life span and require a more complex global service set-up than most products. Therefore, it is important to realize that this will make reverse logistics processes all the more complicated. Luckily, there is now advanced software technology that has come into common use in order to help companies further develop and enhance their practices in relation to logistics management.

These software platforms can be employed to recognize adverse trends, and at the same time, correct any potential problems which may arise, as well as providing better insights into traceability by way of providing history logs and cost variables, so it becomes apparent when certain components or products need replacing, helping to save on labor.

Need help managing your reverse logistics? Find the right logistics software for you.

A recent survey by the IDC Global Technology and Industry Research Organization has produced a key point, in that of US manufacturing respondents surveyed in 2014, 41% are utilizing the public cloud techology to access IT resources.

On of the main reasons for this high number of adopters is that the advantages for manufacturers in doing this are notable, these are seen mostly in flexibility gains from the cloud for businesses and their IT departments.

This trend is not restricted to US companies either, the IDC European Vertical Markets Survey of 2014 points to the fact that 50% of European manufacturing companies who responded have adopted or intend to adopt Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in the cloud. In Asia-Pacific, 49% of respondents made the same claim.

Other key findings included in the report:

  • There is a majority of manufacturers globally who use the public (66%) or private (68%) cloud for more than a couple of applications.
  • “Cloud Also” is still the main strategy employed for replacement and new IT infrastructure investments dedicated to the public cloud. 62% of respondents stated that their company’s approach to bringing new IT services on board is “Cloud Also”, and when it comes to replacing existing IT functionality the percentage is only slightly lower at 57%.
  • The share of annual IT budgets allocated to Cloud services and architecture is set to climb by approximately 27% over the next couple of years, according to the manufacturing respondents.
  • Cloud computing is set to become the standard in new operations (whether growth is acquired or organic) over the next decade for manufacturers who are seeking to operate and service contracts and customers on a global scale. Manufacturing companies will rely upon industry and enterprise clouds increasingly, as they access information, operational support and technology resources. In order to prepare for this, manufacturing companies also have a need to review the networks already in place as well as communication structures.

These percentages point to the fact that manufacturers are experiencing a period of digital transformation, which is being powered by third platform technologies, and is now essential to how they do business and is dictating how they provide services and products to their customers.

As a consequence of this, strategies need to be applied to adopting cloud technologies in order to extract the most value from IT resources, encompassing accessibility, speed and cost.

Find the right cloud solution for you.

The annual growth of 10.8% in supply chain management (SCM) and procurement software applications is performing better than the majority of US software markets and is worth a total of $9.9 billion as of 2014, Gartner Inc. has reported.

The procurement software and SCM markets have witnessed steady growth in the face of healthy demand for applications. Supply chains remain a key factor in maintaining a competitive advantage and fueling objectives in business growth, which include increasing customer satisfaction, business agility, plus improving operations.

The leaders in modernizing their supply chain engaged opportunities in both large and specialized operations, and in doing this boosted agility and moved innovation forward throughout 2014. SCM applications delivered during this period, as there was growth of 17%, well ahead of the market curve. New on premises licenses saw significant growth as well, though lower at 9%, with companies wanting to upgrade their supply-chain portfolio via a number of different delivery models.

The largest amount of growth was in SAP at 19.9%, this is an improvement over last year when it was also top performer, and it’s market share within SCM markets has grown to 25.8%. There is a continuation of the trend for the introduction of new and newly acquired SCM products into the market, and has the ability to upsell solutions from within the established ERP base currently installed. Although Oracle continues to be the second biggest provider in the supply chain technology market and is also the largest SCE (supply chain execution) provider, the momentum it had from software revenue has fallen off slightly, market share now stands at 14.6% compared to 16% last year.

A total revenue of $438 million means that JDA software has retained third place in the global market share rankings, and currently holds 4.4% of the entire market. It remains the biggest pure play vendor, which is focused on the supply chain irrespective of the 1.7% decline it saw compared to 2013.

The SCM market as a whole is fragmented; the top 10 vendors retain 55% of the market. The remaining 57 vendors who comprise the rest of the market saw their collective annual revenue grow by 9.6%. This points to opportunities not only in the acquisitions driven market, but also for specialized and complementary to the larger offerings from suite providers.

In a recent interview, two members of the executive staff at Americold, namely Daniel Cooke, Marketing Director, and Kevin Van Belle, VP of the IT department, were asked for their thoughts on the selection of a 3PL with the necessary IT standards.

They were told that the proposed objective was operational, and to focus on IT capabilities specifically in order to differentiate between 3PL’s. Some non-negotiable aspects of the 3PL’s operation were laid down; every 3PL should have WMS (warehouse management system), as an example.

In their response, it was established that a key point is that management can no longer manage without metrics. So, it is key that there is an understanding of they types of metrics a 3PL would use in-house, and which of these could be presented to their customers. Internally, some 3PL’s are large enough to be able to use all of the operational metrics generated by their own warehouses to analyze their operation and guide decision-making. For example, “Is there a specific warehouse which is achieving more picks every hour than the rest?” If so, how can we achieve these standards in other warehouses?

LMS (labor management systems) can also generate metrics. The implementation of LMS, which uses engineered labor standards, is still variable.

As for sharing metrics with customers, it is imperative that they understand how the data has been collected, how they are assembled to meet the customers needs, how they are provided, and finally, how near the data is to real-time. The customer could go further to ask if they need any data from logistics, and whether the 3PL can provide this information.

It is better if real-time metrics are provided beyond exchanging common EDI messages and is integrated with interfaces in real time. Interestingly, it was suggested in the interview by Kevin, that 3PL’s who are trying to achieve high operational standards are interfacing with more of their customer’s systems than previously, and data is being accessed at an earlier stage in the planning cycle than before, which is surely a signifier of the way these relationships can move forward.

Stratus line of products - Inventory SoftwareWhether you are finally making the move from a paper and pen or spread sheet inventory or are upgrading the inventory software installed on your servers, it is time to consider a more effective option. Check out cloud-based barcode technology. Our IntelliTrack specialists can walk you through the pros and cons for your operation.

Web-based inventory technology with cloud storage offers you several advantages. Take the time to review just some of the features and benefits so you will know what questions to ask in order to make an informed decision.

Real Time Data

Any authorized personnel can both input and access data immediately at any given time from anywhere via the internet. This means that:

  • Details of the entire inventory are always visible, including location, stock level, lot numbers, conditions, manufacturers and even users
  • Workflow can be monitored and adjusted as needed for maximum efficiency
  • Performance can be monitored with data available for reviewing the overall procedures and the work done by individuals

Cost Effective System

A web based inventory solution such as the IntelliTrack Stratus line of products saves you money in the longer term:

  • Little or no upfront capital expenditures; you can often use your existing hardware
  • Typically, expenses are paid in monthly/quarterly instalments as you are using the software
  • Minimal downtime for software installation
  • No need for expensive, regular upgrades of servers and other equipment
  • Little or no costly time away from the job for worker training
  • No need to pay for an IT specialist on staff as there is no IT infrastructure to install and maintain; system admin, backup, recovery and upgrades are all done remotely by accessible professionals

Results of Installing a Cloud Based Inventory Software System

You will immediately see the results of installing cloud based inventory software. Product such as IntelliTrack Stratus packages gives you complete control in tracking and managing your inventory so your business will experience:

  • Increased productivity

With the real time data that allows you to monitor both process and performance, you will be able to adjust the variables until you achieve optimum workflow. You will not just think there are patterns or trends in the operations, you will be able to describe them in detail and make changes accordingly.

  • Integration opportunities

A good inventory solution allows easy integration of your inventory software with back office systems such as accounting, sales, shipping and even HR scheduling. However, a cloud-based installation also makes it easy for B2B integration among shippers and receivers, increasing the overall visibility of your inventory throughout the supply chain.

  • Increased profitability

There are always ways to save money when you have accurate and complete data to help adjust the workflow and worker schedules. However, a significant benefit of cloud-based inventory software is eliminating the need to employ and supervise IT personnel. You can simply purchase the inventory software and professional services you actually need for the amount of time they are used.  Besides saving money, you can also increase revenue as you can focus on building your core business instead of spending time maintaining the current system.

Contact IntelliTrack to start the conversation about installing a cloud-based Stratus inventory solution.  Our team of specialists in inventory software will walk with you through a review of your operations and a discussion of the pros and cons of various options for tracking and managing your inventory. After you make a decision, this same IntelliTrack team will facilitate the installation, training and ongoing support of your new Stratus technology solution.

We recently announced that updates would be made to IntelliTrack Stratus products. Those updates are now complete and can be found in the Stratus web application.

Stratus Web Application

The following changes have been added to the Stratus web application:

  1. Improvements to the item validation when an Issue Order is referenced on a Return Order: A customer return may be a reference to a previous Issue Order for this customer. When an Issue Order is referenced to a Return Order, an item may not be added to the Return Order if it is not part of the referenced Issue Order or if it exceeds the issue quantity.
  2. Three new Issue with Returns reports: Three new Stockroom type reports are included in the Stratus web application.
    1. Issues by Customer with Returns Report
    2. Issues by Date with Returns Report
    3. Issues by Order with Returns Reports

In these reports, view the items found in the issue order, the items issued, and the items returned, as well as the net quantity as a result. This will be helpful when evaluating the net inventory as a result of this issue/return.

To reach the new reports: Select Reports > View/Print Reports to reach the View Reports page. In the Report Type field, select the Stockroom option. In the Report Name field, you will find options for the three new reports: Issues by Customer with Returns, Issues by Date with Returns, and Issues by Order with Returns.

  1. Field Chooser Additions at the Assets Data Page: New asset fields that include User Defined fields 1-6 and the Comment field have been added as options to the Field Chooser at this page—this allows you to add them to the Assets Data page grid. When added to the page’s grid, this asset information is readily displayed and may be viewed directly from the page (instead of opening the asset record to view it).
  2. View History Page, User Defined Field Information Added to the Pick and Receive Transactions: User defined fields 1-4 for a picking and receiving order are part of the Pick transaction record and the Receive transaction record. This helps the user more effectively evaluate these transactions.

We apologize if the downtime during these updates caused any inconvenience, but hope you enjoy all of these great new features.

Contact us if you have any questions regarding the Stratus updates.