From the outside looking in, the warehouse might appear to be the most straightforward part of running a business.
Stuff comes in, stuff goes out. What more do you need to know?
But the fact of the matter is, the warehouse and all its key processes – managing outgoing orders, ordering and receiving incoming shipments of materials, maintaining your stock, and keeping it all organised – is vital to any business. The warehouse can siphon off massive amounts of resources in terms of both capital and labour if inventory isn't managed efficiently.
These days more and more businesses are turning to inventory software development to create warehouse inventory systems designed specifically for their business, for reasons that we'll get into in a moment.
But first, let's talk about inventory control in general, why it is essential, and what challenges inventory software can help businesses overcome.
The Importance of Inventory Control
It's almost too incredible to fathom, but there are still plenty of companies out there even today that use a “manual inventory system.” That means there are companies that keep track of their stock and incoming and outgoing orders by having people go around and count it, mark it on a clipboard, and perhaps enter these figures into a spreadsheet.
Or perhaps not even that. One recent survey showed that nearly 50 per cent of small companies that have between 11 and 500 employees use a manual inventory tracking “system” like the one outlined above, or they don't track inventory at all.
That's an astonishing statistic all on its own. But when you begin to examine the costs associated with lackadaisical, manual inventory “control,” it becomes even more striking.
Inventory Software: What Is it and How Can it Help?
In this digital age, more and more companies recognise that the kind of inventory control that people have been using since the Egyptians scribbled hieroglyphics on papyrus is badly in need of an upgrade.
Plenty of companies have found the costs associated with incorrect shipments, product loss, out-of-stock orders, product returns, and overstocks – not to mention the customer-related headaches that are the inevitable follow-on effect of these issues – to be unacceptable.
So along came inventory software development.
Inventory software development creates a set of programs that are interlinked, connected to the cloud, and work in concert to track and manage your stock across every department of your business that intersects with inventory in any way. This can include product sales and ordering, customer service, materials purchasing, warehouse operations and more.
Since each department's optimal functioning is dependent on having up-to-the-minute data related to inventory – what's in stock, what orders have been shipped and where are they en route, what materials are on hand and which ones are not – the warehouse is the obvious focal point.
It's where you keep all your stuff, after all.
How Warehouses Can Benefit from Custom Inventory Software Development
For starters, warehouses can become more efficient overnight when they've adopted a bespoke inventory software system by merely having data on hand that's updated in real-time.
A well-documented study published in Management Science looked at nearly 400,000 inventory records from 37 retail stores, finding that almost two-thirds of them were inaccurate. But with inventory software, everything in your entire supply chain is continually being monitored and tracked.
Not only can the sales department, warehouse, customer service, and management track outgoing orders and shipments, everyone who is in the loop can also track when incoming shipments of needed materials are due to arrive.
Beyond simple tracking, a custom inventory software solution can also be designed that incorporates dynamic purchasing engines with integrated analytics programs. The way this works in practice is that by analysing past sales performance, data related to stock on hand, and forecasting future sales, the system can be calibrated to automatically trigger ordering of materials as the need arises.
The software then contacts the vendor directly, and replenishing your stock is seamlessly executed.
Warehouse Operations and Inventory Software Systems
Here are a few more of the specifics on how custom inventory software development can improve the operations of a warehouse.
Improves Pick, Pack and Ship – Custom inventory software development can create a bespoke app just for you, one that provides accurate and up-to-the-minute data for your warehouse workers on inventory location and status, improving picking efficiency, as well as reducing erroneous shipments. What's more, it helps prevent customers from ordering out-of-stock items because those items will automatically show up as unavailable on your e-commerce site.
Automates Order Receiving – Mobile software solutions dramatically reduce the time required for receiving materials at your warehouse. Workers scan the incoming items, and they are automatically entered into the database and checked against the purchase order for accuracy.
Increases Storage Efficiency – When it comes to efficiency and organisation, warehouse inventory software solutions are the obsessive-compulsive manager's dream. Every item in your warehouse is catalogued of course and entered into the cloud-connected system. But beyond that, the software can create storage plans that maximise efficiency and eliminate redundancy by grouping like items together into logical sectors.
Improve Labour Efficiency – Warehouse-centered inventory software also improves labour efficiency due to the organisation outlined above, with a result of drastically reducing the amount of time spent searching for needed items. What's more, the system can not only direct warehouse pickers and packers to the precise location of the item they need. It can also be calibrated to create a route that is optimised for efficiency as the worker makes his or her way through the warehouse to fill each order.
Cuts Costs – It's easy to see how custom inventory software development aimed at the warehouse end of your operation can help to reduce costs. But it's difficult to overstate just how far the ripples extend in terms of reducing expenditures for a business.
For starters, labour costs can be kept in check and reduced due to improvement in efficiency. Time wasted fruitlessly searching for items that are mislabeled, incorrectly stored, or simply out of stock is all but eliminated, and order receiving is significantly streamlined.
Keeps Your Customers Happy – Bespoke warehouse inventory software is also a money-saver on the customer-facing side. By eliminating erroneous orders – for instance, orders taken for out-of-stock items or incorrect items being shipped – your customer service labour won't be needed to put out as many fires. You'll also save on returns and eliminate delays related to import/export requirements since all of that data will be automated and updated in real-time as regulations evolve.
Reduces Overstock – By incorporating automated purchasing triggers, the system can prevent over-ordering materials before they're needed. This reduces the chances you'll have capital tied up in stock that can't be quickly turned over, and also reduces the costs of maintaining and storing unneeded materials.
Case Study: Triactive America
It's easy to see how a warehouse using an inventory software system can run more efficiently and reduce costs. But what's the difference between using an off-the-shelf application versus investing in inventory software development for a custom system?
The example of Triactive America, as presented by ASAP Systems is a good illustration of how the uniqueness of each business necessitates a custom software solution.
Triactive is a company that makes and ships no-cost outdoor gym equipment for communities across the U.S. As you can imagine, in fighting America's obesity problem, their equipment is in high demand by municipalities and schools across the country.
The problem was that Triactive's staff was still using a manual asset tracking system, wasting untold labour hours receiving items, processing purchase orders, locating needed stock, and issuing sales orders to customers – all by hand.
Stock was moved multiple times after it had been received, both within each Triactive warehouse and between warehouses, so no one really knew where anything was until they got an order and had to go look for it – a nightmare for efficiency and wasted labour.
What ASAP did was:
implement an inventory tracking system
centralise the inventory data into a cloud-based system
create a detailed, easy-to-read, and accessible inventory map
train and work with Triactive staff on an ongoing basis to show them how to use the software.
Inventory Software Development and Your Warehouse
Triactive's success in increasing their efficiency and reducing labour hours along with costs points to the multiple ways a custom inventory software application can help any business.
Here at Laracle, we create bespoke inventory software designed for warehouses of all sizes, tailored to your specific needs.
Our team of developers has the experience and skillset to craft a unique warehouse inventory software system for your business that will result in improved efficiency and savings – and won't cost you a fortune.
Give us a call today, and one of our development team members will set up a time to sit down with you and look at the specific needs of your business' warehouse. Then we can get started designing a software system that will have you wondering how you ever did without it!