It’s Bad to Be Good at Managing Inventory the Wrong Way

When I was a kid, I had a Physical Education teacher who tried to teach me how to shoot a basketball the right way. I thought the way I was doing it was fine because that was the way I had always done it, and it seemed to work just fine.

To win the game, you have to learn how to make baskets, Inventory System Software BlogBut he told me that I had just gotten good at shooting the wrong way, and I needed to break my old habits if I wanted to compete with other kids. He turned out to be right.

Similarly, small and midsize businesses can get really good at managing their inventory the wrong way, but it won’t be good for them in the long run. It can actually hold them back from being more competitive. Unfortunately, habits die hard, and the longer you wait to uproot these old ways, the harder it gets.

The Wrong Ways

Here are some creative ways companies try to make outdated inventory management systems work:

Pen and Paper

Some companies develop extremely complex and detailed shorthand notes to keep track of their inventory by hand in notebooks.

The problem is that those notebooks can be lost, destroyed, or stolen with no backup system to restore lost data. Plus, if an inventory specialist leaves their company without training someone on their shorthand code, all of the data they’ve written down can be difficult to decipher.

Excel Spreadsheets

Excel wizards can devise elaborate spreadsheets that help them calculate costs, keep track of vendors, and get updated with cycle counts.

The trouble is that Excel isn’t designed exclusively for managing inventory, nor can it automatically complete calculations and other processes. That means whenever you order or sell products, you have to manually enter those new values into Excel. Plus, data mining is long and tedious when you have to pull individual pieces from a giant spreadsheet.

Personally Designed Inventory Program

Writing your own inventory management software might seem like an attractive option to avoid having to purchase software.

This presents a host of problems that are ironically similar to using a pen and paper. The person who writes this program isn’t likely to write a comprehensive guide on how they set it up, so if they ever leave, you’re back to square one trying to find someone who can figure out how the program works. That’s not even counting how much time and resources have to go into the creation of this program from scratch.

A Better Way

Small businesses can certainly get good at managing their warehouses, supply chains, and other aspects of their inventory with these methods, but they could be much more efficient if they mastered a better system.

Inventory management software solves all of the problems the above systems have:

  • Files are much harder to lose when they’re digitally recorded, instead of on paper.
  • Inventory management solutions come with extensive training materials so anyone can learn how to use them, instead of just a select few.
  • You can set automatic reorder points on products and do other things to automate processes.
  • Inventory counts are instantly updated when products are ordered, bought, and sold.
  • It’s easier to generate reports and analyze data to discover trends.

If you learn how to manage inventory the right way, you can compete on a higher level and really score.

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It’s Time to Start Thinking About Warehouse Management in 3D

Warehouses have a huge amount of floor space to store items in. But you have probably also noticed that they have tall ceilings.

2D warehouse management, Inventory System Software BlogTake a look at the picture on the right. What do you notice? There’s a lot of unused space. Sure, the floor is covered with boxes, but what about all of the empty vertical space?

It’s time to start managing your warehouse in 3D, not just 2D.

Forklifts, pallets, and industrial-strength shelves let you store items high above the ground. You should still store fast-moving items on the floor so they’re easily accessible, but there’s no reason you can’t make use of the area on top, too.

By thinking in terms of vertical space as well as horizontal space, you can double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of inventory you can store in a single location.

For companies with long-lasting or highly customizable products, having a lot of spare parts and products on hand can be a cost-effective way to go. Many vendors offer volume discounts if you buy in bulk, so it can pay to order a lot at one time and then store the excess inventory up top in your warehouse.

The sky is the limit when you start managing your warehouse in three dimensions!

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5 Reasons You Need an Advanced Workforce Management Solution

Your workforce is at least as important as your inventory. If you don’t have people to move stuff around and get products to your customers then it doesn’t matter how much inventory you have in stock.

There are better ways to manage your workforce, Inventory System Software BlogEffective workforce management is something that eludes a lot of small businesses because they don’t have the resources that larger organizations do. Of course, small businesses don’t have a whole lot of employees at the start, so they can get away with using Excel spreadsheets or even paper notes to keep track of employees’ hours and schedules.

But eventually they’ll come to a point where they need something a bit more advanced. A workforce management solution can make life easier for leaders and their employees. Here are five reasons you should

1. You Need to Manage Your Human Resources Wisely

It’s really nice when you can go into a program and instantly see who’s working on a particular project, who’s at lunch, who’s out sick, etc. Knowing what your employees are up to doesn’t mean you have to be a micromanager, but it simply means that you’re better informed on how your all-important human resources are being put to use.

2. Payroll Numbers Need to Be Accurate and On-Time

If an employee forgets to clock in or clock out, it shouldn’t be a huge deal to go in and fix it. These kinds of errors happen all the time. You need to make sure your numbers all check out and then have an easy way of calculating payroll taxes and other amounts to withhold.

3. You Should Be Able to Estimate Project Costs

Before you begin a big project, you should calculate how much it will cost to make sure it will generate enough of an ROI to be worth your time. A workforce management solution can help you calculate the number of hours it will take to complete the project and the costs you’ll incur by putting employees to work on it.

4. You Could Use Some Help with Scheduling Employee Shifts

As you add more employees, balancing all of their schedules manually can become a serious challenge. You need a solution help you keep track of all of your employees’ preferences so you don’t accidentally schedule someone to work on a certain day or time when they’re not available.

5. You Need to See Advanced Reports

You would probably never know that employees are more efficient at a certain time of day or that one employee is responsible for 50 percent more output than his associates if you didn’t track those numbers. Set your priorities and monitor them with a powerful solution instead of relying on guesswork.

By effectively managing your workforce, you will solve a major issue and give your business a competitive advantage. So let’s get to work!

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5 Reasons Employees Wind Up Doing Things They Weren’t Originally Hired for

Are you doing the exact same things today that were on your job description when you were originally hired? If you stay at a job for any significant amount of time, you’ll probably answer no.

Employees often wind up doing much more than their original job responsibilities.Why is that? Things change, and so do people. Your company isn’t the same as it was a few years ago, and you’re not the same person you were back then, either.

Let’s talk about five reasons employees often wind up doing things they weren’t originally hired to do.

1. They Gain New Skills

Most people aren’t stagnant in their skills. For example, a cashier at a drugstore can move into photo developing, receiving, or other areas of the business. It’s human nature to want to learn new things instead of doing the same thing over and over.

2. They Want to Stand Out

A good way to impress your boss and move up in the company is to do things outside of your job requirements. Ambitious people do this all the time. If you stick to your job description and refuse to do anything else, you won’t be as likely to win friends and become an indispensable team player.

3. Companies Downsize

When a company hits a rough patch and has to lay off some employees, that usually means the ones who are left have to take on those missing employees’ duties. This can involve having to master new skills, such as sales, customer service, technical expertise, etc.

4. Business Operations Get More Complex

The more a company grows, the more work it takes to keep it running. Ideally, companies hire more employees to meet their growing needs, but sometimes they move too slowly or don’t fully understand their needs. Again, it’s up to the hard workers to step up and go beyond their job descriptions to get the job done.

5. Technology Changes

As businesses get more sophisticated and automate more processes, they are increasingly looking for employees who can be flexible and understand the new systems. For example, warehouse workers can be a lot more productive if they learn how to use warehouse management software and hardware to speed up all of their receiving, ordering, picking, packing, and shipping tasks.

The point of all this is simply to note that you shouldn’t expect to remain stagnant in your job. Whatever you do for a living, you can count on it changing over time. Whether you want to get noticed and move up or deal with layoffs or new technology, you need to be open to trying new things.

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Criticism Is Critical to Your Success

It hurts to be told when we’ve made a mistake. But the sad truth is that we grow the most when we are willing to accept criticism from people and make changes based on their feedback.

Not All Advice Is Equal

Criticism, constructive or otherwise, can help people and businesses grow, Inventory System Software BlogOf course, not everyone’s advice is equally valuable. Some people are just angry and wanting to tear you down. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice. It’s important to protect yourself and yet be ready to allow useful feedback in.

The key is to set your pride aside. Even if someone is saying really painful things to you, know that those things don’t make you a bad person. They are a chance to reflect on what you’re doing and find ways to improve.

Creating an Open Corporate Culture

Leaders who are unable to bear criticism will reach barriers in their abilities that they won’t be able to surpass. They shouldn’t surround themselves with Yes Men, nor should they only associate with negative people. There needs to be a balance between kindness and criticism.

Encourage a culture of openness so your employees feel safe offering feedback. Then you can more effectively weed out weaknesses and replace them with strengths, both in the way you manage and the way your business functions.

Listening to Critics

People who are critical of your business or who say things to try to tear it down could ironically prove to be a boon by helping you notice flaws you otherwise would have missed.

Unhappy customers might be pleased with the majority of what your company offers, but just one or two things led them to have a bad overall experience. By focusing on those few failures you can turn things around, especially if you’re already doing so much right. You can even show those customers that you listened to them and made key changes. That might encourage them to give your company another chance.

Critical Analysis

We’re all imperfect people. When someone makes a mistake, it’s tempting to jump down their throat about it, but it’s always a better idea to kindly help them fix it and learn from the experience.

I can’t claim to be perfect in this regard. But it’s critical that all of us keep trying to humbly listen and help.

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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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