How Would Drones Affect the Way Companies Manage Their Inventory?

Drones could turn out to be a game changer in the business world. As companies like Amazon prepare to use drones to ship packages from a warehouse to someone’s back porch in just a few minutes, we’re left to wonder if this will turn out to be the wave of the future.

Some Doubts

How could drones affect inventory management? Inventory System Software Blog

How could drones affect inventory management?

There are a lot of reasons to doubt that:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have concerns about the use of commercial drones.
  • Right now drones have a very limited reach, so only customers living within 10 or so miles of a distribution center could actually use the service.
  • It’s cost-prohibitive and risky for companies to invest in an unproven technology.
  • Consumers would probably have to pay a hefty premium to make the service worth it to retailers instead of using traditional couriers.
  • There are safety concerns, such as if drones malfunction and cause property damage or bodily injuries.

But, as with any new technology, there could come a time when these logistical problems are solved and drones become a common method of getting goods to customers.

The Big Question

The question then is: How would drones affect the way companies manage their inventory? I see two major areas of inventory management being affected:

1. Automation

A dramatic shift would occur in warehouse workforces. Companies would need to switch to a more automated system where as soon as an order comes in, the products start getting prepped for shipment. People will need to work faster and smarter to keep up with drones. That means no more printing picking lists or hunting for lost items in a warehouse.

Companies will have to vastly improve their pick/pack/ship process and use mobile devices and clearly defined maps to guide employees through the picking process. Barcodes, inventory management software, mobile devices, and other advanced tools would be absolutely imperative to use.

2. Supply Chains

When you shorten shipping times from days to hours you’re going to need to get products into your warehouses much faster to avoid stockouts. Distributors would likely need to work with local suppliers rather than relying on a central hub for their goods. That way, they could be more flexible in responding to shortages and hopefully eliminate them altogether.

Finding the right inventory balance could get much harder because of the limited warning time. This could lead companies to overstock to be safe from stockouts, but that probably wouldn’t be best. Companies would need to heavily rely on sales data to spot trends and find areas for improvement in their order fulfillment and supply chains.

Looking to the Future

We’ll see what happens in the coming years. Technology changes so swiftly, it’s hard to tell what will be the next big thing. We’ll be in for a wild ride of creative destruction if drones catch on and revolutionize the way companies do business and manage their inventory.

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The Limits of Excel Inventory Management

Many small and medium businesses struggle to manage their inventory efficiently. They spend a lot of money buying parts and products, and oftentimes they overshoot the mark and wind up with more than they need. And if they do that too often or don’t have a good system in place to make sure inventory gets used in a timely manner, those parts and products will sit in a warehouse too long and spoil or become obsolete.

Excel is limited as an inventory management tool, Inventory System Software BlogOn the flipside, many companies don’t order enough and so they run out of materials and products just when they need them. This slows down production lines and leaves shelves bare.

The trouble is that many small businesses try to keep using Excel spreadsheets or handwritten notes because that’s what they did when they were first getting started. But they can’t keep doing that forever. Excel can’t handle businesses’ needs once they reach a certain point of complexity.

It’s too easy for information to get lost or logged incorrectly in a spreadsheet. Plus, trying to find specific data on an order or product can be time-consuming and frustrating in Excel.

Businesses eventually need to upgrade to something better: inventory management software. By using software to automate your inventory management processes you can find the right balance in your inventory levels and speed up the ordering, receiving, manufacturing, and many other essential parts of your business.

Plus, it’s much easier to record data when you use a barcode scanner, and you know there won’t be any data entry errors when it’s not being typed by hand but transmitted wirelessly.

Excel as an inventory management solution is extremely limited in its capabilities while inventory management software allows you to break through those limitations and be more efficient. The only question is how much better off you’ll be for making the switch.

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To Be Successful, Business Owners Need ‘The Right Stuff’

“There was a demon that lived in the business world. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their inventory controls would freeze up, their balance sheets would buffet wildly, and their company would disintegrate. The demon lived at the point where your inventory management gets so complex Excel can’t handle it. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no small business could ever pass.”

Business leaders need to have The Right Stuff: courage and inventory, Inventory System Software BlogThis quote comes from the 1983 film The Right Stuff (though I did modify it a little). The good news is that this demon can be defeated, and I’ll tell you how.

Having The Right Stuff

To be a successful business leader, you have to have The Right Stuff. I mean that in more than one way because it can refer to personality traits, as well as more literal things.

You need tenacity and courage to persevere through any challenge that comes your way, but that’s not all you need.

Even the most courageous leader wouldn’t be much good without some impressive resources to back him or her up. That’s where the other part of The Right Stuff comes in. You must fill your warehouses with the right stuff, or inventory, that your customers are looking for.

Using The Right Tools

To slay the demon of complexity and have the right stuff in your warehouses at all times, you should use a secret weapon called inventory control software.

This software lets you:

  • Set up automatic reorder points to keep inventory levels stable
  • Speed up the receiving process
  • Organize your warehouses to maximize efficiency
  • Make picking, packing, and shipping faster and easier

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier with the help of an advanced jet airplane. You can break through the barrier of complexity with the help of advanced inventory control software. It will help you keep the right stuff in your warehouse so you won’t be overstocked or understocked at inopportune times.

Then when you look in a mirror, you can ask yourself who’s the best businessperson you ever saw and you can honestly answer, “You’re lookin’ at him.”

The Right Stuff image is the copyright of its owner.

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How Inventory Management Software Protects Your Business

Inventory management software is more than a tool for increasing your company’s efficiency. It also serves an important role in protecting your company from potentially damaging problems.

Inventory management software protects your business' data, Inventory System Software BlogLet’s go over five of the ways that inventory management software protects your company.

Automatic Reorder Points

When you’re trying to run a business, it’s easy to let small details slip through the cracks. Reordering products when they get low is one of those details that needs to be done on a regular basis, but it’s not always easy to remember how many products need to be reordered or when it’s the right time to do it.

Inventory management software allows you to set automatic reorder points on all of your parts, products, and other materials so that you don’t have to constantly worry about when to order more. The software does it for you. Plus, it orders the right amounts so you won’t wind up with too many or too few products.

Inventory Tracking

Sometimes complications happen when a product is in transit. There could be adverse weather conditions, broken-down vehicles, or mistaken order information that leads to disruptions in the supply chain.

You can track shipments’ progress to and from your warehouse using inventory management software. If a product fails to reach its destination or something else goes wrong, you’ll be quickly informed so that you can resolve the problem before it develops into something worse.

User Rights

Only a small number of employees need to have complete access to your inventory records. If you give any employee the ability to make big changes to the database or see sensitive information, many problems could arise.

Protect yourself by setting user rights to limit what areas each user can see when they log in. Employees only need access to areas that are essential to fulfilling their duties. If their duties change, you can simply update their user rights.

Records of Updates by User

Do you know who is making changes to your inventory data? Is someone manipulating orders or doing other things to harm your business, whether intentional or not?

It’s impossible to tell in QuickBooks who is making changes, but depending on the inventory management software you use you can easily see which user was logged in at certain times and what they did. So if you find unwarranted changes or other errors, you know who to talk to about them.

Accurate Data

Entering inventory numbers into a computer by hand often leads to incorrect records. Even the best typists make mistakes from time to time. Just one wrong digit can make a big difference in a company’s finances.

Scanning barcodes solves data accuracy issues. Rather than typing numbers in one at a time, you can instantly update records with the scan of a barcode. Check inventory levels, cycle count a warehouse, reorder products, and do many other tasks with pinpoint accuracy. Plus, inventory software often has the ability to automatically update your accounting records, keeping your books correct across the board.

Safety in Numbers

Learn more about how inventory management software protects and serves your business by signing up for an inventory software demo.

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10 Simple Things Grocery Stores Can Do to Improve Shoppers’ Experience

Today we’re going to go to the grocery store to discover 10 simple things store managers, employees, and chains can do to make their customers have a much more positive experience shopping in their stores. Let’s get right down to it.

Grocery stores should start from the ground up to improve the shopping experience, Inventory System Software Blog1. Replace Faulty Shopping Carts

It’s frustrating when you feel like you’re fighting a shopping cart the whole time you’re walking through a grocery store. Test your carts for structural weaknesses and replace ones that don’t meet your standards. If you have a problem with a lot of carts getting damaged, you may want to look for the underlying cause, such as heavy loads, poor construction, etc.

2. Have Smooth, Even Floors

Cracked floors, bumpy surfaces, and other unfortunate design flaws are annoying. They can lead to rattling carts, tripping feet, and other bothersome experiences. They could also contribute to damaged carts and even more expensive problems. If you want to have a good foundation for your store’s success, you need to start from the ground up.

3. Offer Shopping Carts for Multiple Children

Bringing kids to the store is a challenge. I’ve got three little ones, and a shopping cart with room for just one of them to sit facing me is not enough. There are plenty of creative solutions, such as cart designs that make kids feel like they’re driving a car, more traditional two-seaters facing the cart pusher, and more. They may cost a little more, but they’ll bring a lot of peace to parents.

4. Show, Don’t Tell

When customers ask for help finding a product, don’t just tell them which aisle it is on. Demonstrate that you care by taking the time to walk with customers and show them where the products they’re looking for are. You might even be able to answer their questions if they find multiple options and aren’t sure which is the right one for them.

5. Ask If You Can Help

Pay attention to customers’ body language. If you notice someone having a tough time, be proactive and offer to help them. You don’t want to go overboard and seem like you’re pestering your customers. Try to find the right balance between ignoring and annoying customers. They’ll appreciate your concern.

6. Keep Your Shelves Stocked

This seems like a no-brainer, but it requires good planning to keep shelves well stocked. Customers, of course, like it when they can actually find what they’re seeking when they come to a store. When you have a sale or you enter a time of year when certain products sell faster, you should plan ahead and stock up on those products. Planning pays off.

7. Keep the Place Clean

This also might seem obvious, but a clean store is always better than a dirty one. People are constantly walking in and bringing dust, rocks, and other debris into the store with them. It’s up to you to sweep and spot mop frequently, as well as dust your shelves and clean up messes that occur from time to time. Shoppers are turned off by sticky floors and other signs of neglect.

8. Give Free Samples

It’s not always easy for people to try new things, even if those new things turn out be better than what they’re used to. Giving customers samples of certain products is a great way to pique their interest and get them to expand their horizons a little. Shoppers enjoy the chance for a free nibble or drink for themselves and their kids, too.

9. Don’t Rearrange Products Too Often

There’s probably a manual somewhere that tells store managers they need to rearrange their store setup as often as possible to prevent customers from knowing exactly where to find what they’re looking for and not branching out and finding new things. That’s a legitimate strategy. But still, it gets annoying when things change too frequently. Try to balance your need to turn shoppers into hunters with making them satisfied customers.

10. Identify Product Categories on Shelves, Not Just Above the Aisles

It is so helpful for customers who are looking for, say, ketchup on the condiment aisle to see a sign sticking out from the shelf they can find all the varieties and brands of that particular product. This saves them time and makes shopping a little easier.

These are just 10 things. There are likely many other simple and complex ways to improve your shoppers’ experiences in your store. Feel free to share your thoughts on these ideas or contribute your own ideas in a comment below.

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Money Isn’t the Deciding Factor in Small Business Success

So you’re a small-business owner with dreams of becoming a big success. How are you going to make that dream come true?

Small businesses can beat big competitors with smart strategies, Inventory Software BlogA good way to start is to look at the examples of others who have been in your shoes and managed to overcome incredible odds to eventually dominate in their niche. You don’t have to be exactly like them, and you should certainly forge your own path rather than just blindly following others. The point of examining them is simply to get a feel for what works and let the creative juices flow.

I recently read an article by MJ Gottlieb entitled, “When Forty Bucks Makes You A Millionaire,” which describes how one entrepreneur turned his weakness into a huge strength.

Daymond John was trying to get some attention for his new clothing business called FUBU back in 1992. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough money to advertise or even make a lot of samples for people to try out. So he turned to celebrity endorsements. He managed to get several famous people to wear his clothes on TV and at big events, which gave his clothes instant credibility and catapulted his company to overnight success.

This strategy was extremely inexpensive: the cost of a few shirts and hats. But it required a great deal of bravery and creativity to make it work.

Money doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in whether or not a small business succeeds. FUBU managed to compete with much larger clothing lines because its founder was smart and tried something different.

Of course, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other sites have opened up entirely new avenues to cheap advertising and other ways to reach customers at a huge discount from traditional advertisements. You can be just as successful by working hard in smart ways as if you had access to enormous resources.

Online marketing, inventory management software, and many additional tools and strategies are available to help your business take off, no matter how small it might be right now. It takes a lot of creativity to beat the giants of your industry, but it’s definitely possible.

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10 Ways to Compete with Much Larger Businesses

A CNN article entitled “How to compete against a corporate giant – and win” recently caught my attention. It gives a lot of great advice on how small businesses can stand out against the competition in surprisingly simple ways.

With the right tools small businesses can compete with giant corporations, Inventory System Software BlogI gleaned six useful tactics from the article and then I added four more to this list of 10 ways small businesses can compete with much larger businesses:

1. Use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to spread the word about your products cheaply and effectively.

2. Focus on what makes your products unique. You must differentiate your brand to get people’s attention.

3. Gather customer recommendations to show other potential customers. Your website should be full of powerful testimonials from happy customers.

4. Sponsor events or organizations that tie into your target market. This is a good way to get in front of people who are looking to try new products like yours.

5. Respond promptly to customer requests and feedback. Some customers prefer doing business with small businesses because of the quick and personal responses they get.

6. Personalize your customer service in ways larger companies can’t. When you have a small customer base you can have customers speak to the CEO on the phone and do other things that you would never expect from a giant corporation.

7. Use inventory control software that offers the same features that large corporations have. This will help you optimize inventory levels and cut carrying costs.

8. Run as lean as possible without sacrificing quality. Eliminate as many unnecessary expenses as possible by using inventory control software to identify and fix problem areas.

9. Create an open corporate culture that empowers employees and eliminates red tape. You can make up for your comparative lack of resources with a lot of innovation and employee engagement.

10. Earn people’s trust. Position your company as an expert problem solver in your field through blogs, social media, videos, etc. People are more likely to trust companies that give them useful, impartial advice.

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