The inventory in your warehouse represents a lot of value, and it is essential to keep track of each and every component. Organizing data has always been a challenge, and new software tools are making it easier than ever to streamline costs and improve productive output.
The Old Ways
Before computers became common place in the business world, complicated ledgers were kept by hand in log books. Very precise notes of inventory had to be maintained and inventory specialists relied on physical counts of parts. This method was error prone as a human being can only keep track of so much information at a time. While obsolete, upgrading with a personal computer and digital ledgers presents many of the same problems to small businesses.
The Spread Sheet
For small companies or startups, an inventory ledger can be approximated with a well-organized spreadsheet. Spreadsheet software is robust and can perform a number of automated calculations that reduce errors in counts, but as a business grows, this method must be abandoned as well. Spreadsheets do not store history or track process moves. The files must be constantly updated, and there is the risk that important data can be lost. Reports must be generated from scratch, and redundant information between different departments can overwhelm your company’s decision makers.
Eventually a large enough company needs to implement a database system to track inventory. With a barcode reader and digital locations, placing parts into a system and tracking their moves through a process is easy. Reports can be generated that help the warehouse staff streamline redundancies. It is even possible to create multiple locations for your components, and the information remains current.
Databases are great tools, but they are still limited in many ways. They require hardware to support the data, and information can only be accessed by those in the warehouse. Reports are much easier to create, but new information must be manually transferred back and forth between business units.
ERP Warehouse Solutions
Most companies now depend on enterprise resource planning software. These are the most advanced and powerful tools that companies have for managing their entire operations. Like the database, the information in your warehouse is easy to organize and keep current, but an ERP system integrates all of the data your company uses into one solution. Each department has easy access to information that impacts its operations.
With current information shared across business units, employees are free to make decisions and respond to changes in the market. It is important for sales staff to know what is available. Customer service reps should be able to see if a delivery has been made on time when responding to a complaint. Accounting departments need to be able to estimate the value of the inventory to balance accounts.
ERP solutions are also readily available to small companies through software service programs. Instead of purchasing and maintaining the computing hardware and software themselves, high speed internet access gives companies the options to contract with a solutions provider. Storing data on a network server operated by an outside company lowers the initial cost and provides quick access to these tools.
The better organized your inventory is, the greater the efficiency you have in your operations. Upgrading with an ERP solution gives your company the opportunity to streamline processes and increase its competitive edge. These tools are more readily available and essential than ever before.