Inventory management is a pain. In the past, employees devoted entire weeks to counting and recounting stock and comparing their numbers with orders and sales. Inaccurate inventories led to miscommunications with customers, imbalanced budgets, and worse, but manual inventory management is slow, wasteful, and inexact. Thus, businesses stopped using manual techniques – and the business world was never the same again.
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The technological revolution wasn’t driven by incensed inventory managers, but changes to inventory management systems have certainly changed how businesses function. Here are a few ways modern inventory management systems have changed business for good.
Real-Time Order, Asset, and Inventory Management
Traditional inventory management systems relied on devoting periods of time to balancing incoming and outgoing orders, counting stock, and tabulating assets. Usually, at the end of the day, week, month, or quarter, staff performed their inventory duties, which were arduous and often inaccurate. Not only did manual inventory checks inhibit performance in other areas of the business – not only were they typically riddled with errors – but they delayed precise knowledge of inventory levels until the manual catch-up could occur.
Today, advanced systems equipped with tracking technology eliminate delays in knowing inventory levels. Thanks to RFID tags and scanners, which automatically identify and log items as they travel in and out of the warehouse, systems are updated every time a product moves. Plus, advanced tracking technology is especially useful in asset inventory management for businesses that provide services as well as products, which also once struggled with manual asset tracking. For the first time in history, staff (and customers!) can be certain of stock availability in real time, preventing a multitude of mistakes, ensuring higher levels of customer service, and facilitating insights into inventory needs.
Insights From Big Data
The tech integrated into inventory management systems doesn’t just save time; it generates information about a business’s inventory that leaders can use to fine-tune their ordering and improve the business. In fact, advanced inventory management is facilitating the accumulation and analysis of big data in an exceedingly beneficial way. Using high-tech inventory management systems, business leaders can gain specific insights regarding their products, such as which products sell best at which times, what customers want most, and how businesses can become more efficient at making sales. It’s not inconceivable that enhanced inventory management will be a major big data trend for 2018.
There are potential downsides to big data, even within inventory management. For one, it makes the system much more complex; for another, it incentivizes retaining more data for longer periods, when that data might not provide valuable insight. Still, the knowledge gained – namely which inventory systems are more efficient and provide greater benefits to staff and customers – vastly outweighs these drawbacks.
Blurred Lines Between Retail and Fulfilment
It should be no surprise that e-commerce has become outrageously successful: Affordability, convenience, and unlimited options make online shopping more advantageous than brick-and-mortar retail. As a result, many traditional shops have been forced to create online stores – but rather than sending ordered items from a warehouse or fulfillment center, like web-only stores do, many brick-and-mortars are shipping directly from their stores – or offering in-store pickup – and thereby forming a hybrid retail model that would be impossible without flexible, intuitive inventory systems. Thanks to inventory management’s new reliance on tech, it is powerful enough to allow this blurring of retail and fulfilment spaces.
Diversified Solutions for Everyone
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for businesses to adapt to the tools available to them. Because software and tech were limited to those produced by just one or two developers, businesses were often stifled, forced to restrain their growth and ideas to what their tools could manage. This was as true in accounting and marketing as it was in inventory management.
Today, the explosion of software development and tech firms has created exceeding diversity in the marketplace, so businesses can pick and choose the solutions they need. Inventory management is no longer inhibited by rigid rules; businesses can expand their inventory in unconventional ways to meet the distinct demands of their unique audiences. In fact, businesses can work with inventory management system developers to build custom solutions from the ground up, so they can be certain their inventory management capabilities will scale as they do. Undoubtedly, the future of business will emerge as a result of the lack of constraints on inventory management.