Prioritizing technology solutions in today’s digital environment is a necessity. Gone are the days of paper inventory tracking and manual data entry. The businesses of tomorrow need technology solutions that give real-time information in order to make key business decisions when it comes to inventory.
Essential to these best practices is the use of automation and inventory tools that enhance your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system’s inherent capabilities.
Yet the reality is, 74% of respondents to the Digital Inventory Report reported that are not yet leveraging sufficient software means to streamline inventory management.
Here’s what you need to know to integrate—and enhance—your ERP and inventory practices with mobile software:
Understanding ERP and Inventory Management
Over 90% of CFOs consider an ERP platform an important element of digital strategy. A strong ERP gives you transparency across your organization, allowing you to review workflows, make strategic business decisions, and align departments.
Essentially, an ERP helps organizations run their business by acting as a single source of truth.
It’s also critical to your inventory management strategy. By coupling your inventory management processes and your ERP system, you can increase efficiency, improve count accuracy, cut down on excess stock, and sync orders and shipping information.
However, ERPs alone can’t help you fully optimize inventory management. That’s why tools such as mobile barcode scanning, warehouse automation software, and mobile apps are imperative. Only together can the intersection of these technologies equip your operation with inventory management best practices.
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Current Problems with Traditional ERP and Inventory Management
With so many benefits, how come ERP software doesn’t give your organization everything it needs to manage inventory? Let’s find out:
ERP Systems Need High Quality Data Inputs
An ERP system is only as good as the data that fuels it. When data entry is a mix of paper tickets, hand-keyed information, and even spreadsheets, your ERP’s accuracy lags days behind the warehouse reality. And that’s if the information even gets entered in the first place.
Gathering Data from Multiple Locations is Tricky
Reconciling ERP data collected from multiple locations can be extremely difficult. When inventory processes are not digitized, workers on the warehouse floor are left to search for items that are potentially unavailable. This causes drain on your production line and your shipping times, resulting in unhappy customers, and potential quality issues.
With outdated information from several locations, the challenges are multiplied.
Manual Processes Cost Time and Money
As if these obstacles weren’t enough, over time manual processes and inefficient technology systems lead to wasted time, labor, and money. Cost overruns and work stoppages affect the bottom line. Scalable growth is impossible. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, sluggish operations can lead to disastrous results.
Key Software Solutions for Enhanced ERP and Inventory Performance
The reality is manual and partially automated technologies are no longer enough to drive supply chains of the future. A technology suite that enhances your ERP environment is critical to inventory success.
Automation in Inventory Management
Automation is the opposite of manual processes. For inventory management, automation begins with software that integrates into your existing infrastructure.
By automating inventory handling workflows, warehouse operations can free up more time to focus on big picture strategies affecting the overall inventory strategy. Automation can eliminate multiple steps in everyday laborious tasks, like receipts, cycle counts, picking, and maintaining optimal stock levels.
Plus, connecting software automation for these procedures to your ERP gives you a holistic picture of your inventory management. Only then can you make the best decisions for your organization.
Despite its benefits, research has found that over 60% of companies are not currently using technology in their supply chain efforts. This could be because of the steep price tag that accompanies some automation options, or the amount of time companies believe it will take to onboard this option.
Fortunately, mobile automation software can alleviate these issues without sacrificing benefits.
Mobile Automation to Enhance ERP Software
You don’t need a full suite of automation products to make technology work for you and your ERP system. Incorporating mobile inventory solutions for your ERP can deliver immediate benefits. ERP mobility solutions include handheld barcoding devices, mobile apps, RFID, and data collection software.
Unlike the hefty price tag and lengthy implementation time of a WMS solution, mobile barcoding software delivers greater inventory accuracy, efficiency, productivity, and cost savings at a lower price point.
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Mobile software enables workers to access, update, and input inventory data through mobile devices, connecting in real time to your ERP system. This provides immediate visibility and eliminates disparate information within mobile inventory practices.
Cloud-Based ERP Software
Another consideration for ERP users is the use of current- and next-gen cloud-based software. This type of PaaS (platform-as-a-service) connects workflows, processes, systems, and data sources together in a fast, secure, standardized environment.
Most major ERP software providers offer cloud-based solutions:
With so much promise, many organizations struggle to migrate from legacy ERP platforms. Reasons include cost, complexity, and fear of change. Only half of our Digital Inventory Report respondents are either currently operating in the cloud or actively planning to move to a cloud-based environment.
A PWC survey had similar findings: almost half of businesses who have moved to the cloud did not realize the outcomes they were looking for, including lowered costs, revenue growth, and increased resilience.
The key to realizing the benefits of cloud-based ERP platforms may lie in supporting technologies, like mobile barcoding and warehouse automation.
Digital ERP integrations
The sheer volume of data that flows into your ERP is immense. Add in the number of sources for this data and you can quickly become overwhelmed. IoT sensors, CRM platforms, warehouse robotics, and mobile devices all contribute to the influx of data.
Maybe that’s why only 20% of companies capture more than half of the benefits of an ERP system.
Properly integrating data sources into your ERP, and automating workflows to provide real-time information, will be paramount to driving decision-making.
Just ask SunOpta. Following a recent acquisition, Sunopta had two ERPs running their business. By integrating a barcode system with customized mobile apps that seamlessly integrated with both ERPs, they were to gain control over every step of their operations. This resulted in enhanced traceability, faster order fulfillment, increased reliability, and greater flexibility.
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Data & Data Forecasting
Because modern day ERP systems are built on data, it’s important to clean and migrate solid data sources from the beginning. This will give you a better starting point when utilizing your ERP in business planning.
Ensure your team is reviewing, cleaning, and merging existing data when you onboard an ERP—and on a regular basis following launch. Duplicate or irrelevant data will only harm your efforts in the long term.
Once you have a clean, available data source, apply it to future decisions through the use of forecasting. Good data can help you optimize your warehouse floor plan, identify inefficient processes and time/resource drains, elevate customer service, and give you a better understanding of your inventory needs.
Automated data collection, complete with barcode scanning, industrial computers, scales, IoT devices, and more, can help minimize errors caused by manual entry and optimize your processes, increasing your ability to respond quickly to fluctuating market trends and customer shifts.
AI-Powered Inventory Management Software
AI-driven inventory tools are on the horizon. Although in its infancy, AI technology is already driving smart data analytics in enterprise software, including ERP systems.
In the near future, AI will be able to assist with automated ordering and replenishment, suggested purchasing, and directed worker movements, all while updating your ERP system.
Before onboarding the latest AI tool—whatever that tool may end up being—make sure you have an understanding of your overall business goals. AI is only as good as its integration, so ensure these tools can partner with your ERP and other inventory software.
And while this technology is still relatively hypothetical, AI-powered inventory management is sure to revolutionize the way we automate our supply chains.
Implementing Software Solutions for ERP and Inventory Management
Leveraging strategic software solutions to elevate ERP inventory management is a no-brainer. This pairing enhances supply chain transparency, improves data functionality, and provides you with better inventory planning and analysis.
However, an ERP inventory solution is only as good as its implementation. Limited functionality and inability to grow with your company could end up causing you more in the long run.
When choosing a system, begin with a short list of potential vendors you’ll want to review and interview. Look for the following as you research:
- The business case and intended objectives
- Certified or validated software integrations
- Project scope and budget expectations
- Success factors, including an ROI analysis
- Current inventory processes
- Future growth goals
- Training needs
- Software parameters (cloud v. on-premise, maintenance, security)
Disconnected, disparate integrations waste time, money, and resources. By reviewing your intended outcomes and current issues, you’ll be better prepared to onboard a system that can grow with you.
After all, solid inventory management takes a fully connected system of people, processes, and systems.
When you lay the foundation, you’ll begin to see the benefit. ERP implementations can produce valuable ROI, including a reduction in inventory levels and cycle time, as well as improved business transactions and better performance metrics.
Future Trends in ERP and Inventory Management Software Solutions
As technology and ERP systems continue to evolve, companies have the opportunity to enhance their supply chain strategies. New trends are constantly emerging, including:
- The use of AI integration in inventory management, especially with demand forecasting. According to a Gartner study, 65% of CIOs say AI will continue to be integrated into ERP systems.
- Expansion of mobile integrations in inventory management. Almost 60% of Digital Inventory Report respondents plan to expand the use of mobile devices and software in their future inventory practices.
- The maturing of Industry 4.0 technologies including IoT, warehouse robotics, and smart manufacturing practices. McKinsey recently found that Industry 4.0 technologies will create up to $3.7 trillion in value by 2025.
Ultimately, these trends are leading to a more efficient, modern warehouse operation. They also give companies the ability to meet consumer demand and increase delivery time in a constantly changing marketplace.
However, this technology is only as good as your foundation. With the right integrations and relevant data, digital transformation can help set your operation ahead of the competition.
The Future of ERP and Inventory Management in the Age of Digital Transformation
In the age of digital supply chains, ERP optimization and inventory management integration are must-haves. By creating a clear flow of useful information into your business system, you can enhance your warehouse workflows for timely and efficient delivery.
Mobile data automation, digital inventory management, and a strong ERP system give you the best access to real-time information for critical decision-making. In a world of ever-changing priorities and supply chain obstacles, this level of understanding is essential to achieving future goals.