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The Visible Value Blog

5 ways to improve inventory management

Posted by Gareth Aitken

November 17, 2016 at 4:14 AM

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Today’s marketplace is undoubtedly competitive – but that competition is only going to get fiercer.

For today’s businesses to maintain a competitive edge, it’s absolutely paramount to streamline and optimise existing operational procedures within the supply chain and manage inventory carefully. In order to meet the constantly changing demands of the 21st-century customer, it’s imperative that these businesses have a holistic, end-to-end overview of the supply chain. With this visibility, these businesses can simplify their processes drastically to become more cost effective and ultimately, more efficient. 

In that vein, effective and adaptable inventory management requires a technological schematic to augment and refine existing procedures. Simple aspects like inventory visibility, tracking, management and ordering can all be simplified and enhanced through technology, allowing the business to drive costs down and boost productivity.

Here are just a few ways in which incorporating technology can help refine inventory management and overall supply-chain process: 

 

Computerised Cloud-based Tracking

Knowing the current inventory capacity can enable a business to take on projects and provide services without exceeding the budget or incurring unnecessary costs. At the same time, inventory transparency and a clear understanding of what goods are unavailable enables immediate action to be taken to minimise downstream supply chain problems.

Technology can do all this – and more. Having a comprehensive cloud-based inventory tracking system in place streamlines every aspect of the supply-chain process such as: data entry, invoicing, order tracking, shipping information, procurement and delivery.  Every variable is tracked in real-time and collected in one central database, allowing for easy access and review at every stage of the process. This means that a business has immediate visibility of goods in or out of stock, significantly improving order fulfilment. 

Interlinking all warehouse tracking options with inventory tracking system for complete visibility of all products, will save a significant amount of time and money, whilst making the supply chain more resilient and adaptable, as well as improving inventory management and processing. 

 

RFID solutions

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) allows businesses to identify and track products throughout the supply chain through the usage of a small tag, which is essentially a microchip with an aerial, containing digital information about the item in question. RFID utilises radio waves to communicate between the tag and a reading device, which is capable of reading the digital information stored within the microchip.

Businesses can construct RFID portals which allow for continuous supply tracking and information updating whenever products pass through them. These portals are capable of tracking large quantities of products simultaneously and are not constrained by item quantity.

RFID tagging can prove particularly useful in situations where barcode tagging cannot be applied; to improve inventory security by placing RFID portals at points of entry and exit; as well as for improving quality assurance by providing a secondary method of data acquisition.

But to truly utilise RFID solutions, you need to incorporate industrial grade desktop printers which are capable of printing large volumes of RFID labels quickly and easily. These printers should also be able to print standard barcodes, thereby enabling you to meet every labelling and tagging need as quickly and accurately as possible.

 

Barcode systems and scanners

Implementing a barcode system which corresponds to the computer tracking software will drastically reduce errors made in the inventory management and tracking process. Not only does a barcode system improve operational capacity by cycling more orders more often, but it also eliminates errors on the front-end of the supply chain process. Human operators are prone to errors and a large warehouse equates to a large amount of manual data entry. So, from time to time, there’s always the possibility of data being recorded incorrectly. Fortunately, scanners and barcodes don’t experience this disadvantage as often.

But not only do barcodes provide safeguards for your business’ inventory management, they also provide security for your customer as well. Just imagine if a product shipment of pharmaceuticals -  dangerous if digested in large quantities – are, due to a human error, marked as ‘water treatment materials’ – and the potential disaster is clear.

Lastly, barcodes are easy to track. When items have been stolen, barcodes make it easy to track and identify lost inventory.

Therefore, being able to simplify inventory management and acquisition through barcode systems and scanners, as well as prevent potential errors at the start, will only improve the overall process. Barcodes ensure continuous quality and security and allow a business to provide an excellent standard of service.

 

Easily deployable mobile devices

Even with barcode systems, RFID and cloud-based inventory management systems, the workforce on the ground requires easily accessible, mobile solutions. This can be anything from small scanners that can identify products, to mobile phones and mobile printers that can connect wirelessly to the cloud-based inventory tracking software and provide updates in real-time.

Having this equipment in place will ensure the warehouse is continuously moving at every stage of the supply chain process, no longer hindered by the need for manual intervention as everything is interconnected. Mobile devices streamline inventory control tasks from inventory acquisition to delivery, providing the whole workforce with complete end-to-end visibility of the supply cycle and adding an extra layer of quality assurance and item security.

In addition, today’s latest mobile devices are all interconnected, meaning it is easy to transition information from mobile scanners to mobile devices – and vice versa.

 

Small-form deployable desktop printers

At the point of contact for newly received goods or goods being prepared for shipping, labelling those individual products can become an arduous task. If for example, a warehouse doesn’t have a deployable desktop printing solution, the time spent labelling these materials for inventory management and tracking will impact turnaround time and the overall supply-chain process.

To truly be both competitive and streamlined, warehouses need to incorporate small-form, desktop printing solutions which can be deployed at the point of contact and are capable of printing large numbers of labels quickly for inventory management. 

Thanks to the design of modern desktop printers, they can be quickly mounted anywhere within a warehouse. In addition, their technological capabilities mean they can be interacted with from anywhere within the warehouse, enabling employees to:

  • Reduce trip times significantly when producing batches of labels, as they can print at the point-of-use
  • Avoid delays associated with packing up equipment and returning to the point of contact
  • Increase overall accuracy as labels can be printed at the point of contact, minimising labelling mistakes

Furthermore, desktop printers can have tremendous accuracy, capable of reproducing the smallest of text as legible labels, for both human and machine reading. The accuracy of compact desktop printers drastically reduces the possibility of erroneous labels, resulting in fewer misidentifications by scanners and creating a more streamlined supply-chain process.

By implementing desktop printers at the point of contact, businesses can refine the overall supply-chain process as well as visibility of their inventory. Optimising the supply-chain at the very beginning and reducing errors throughout will reduce costs significantly.

Undoubtedly, the elements listed here need to be at least considered by the modern business wanting to streamline operational procedures within the warehouse. With demand for goods constantly increasing, the incorporation of sophisticated technology into everyday activities is absolutely necessary to maintain both competitiveness and effectiveness.

To find out more about how desktop printers can help you transform the efficiency of your inventory management processes, click here or the button below:

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Topics: RFID, Retail, Printers, EMEA, Inventory Management, mobile devices, Barcode Scanners