- Many inventory management challenges are caused by outdated manual processes.
- If simply ignored, inventory management problems can snowball, leading to high overhead costs, poor throughput, demand planning, inflexibility, lost business and more.
- For ERP users, the answer to solving these challenges may lie in automation technologies like mobile barcoding.
Inventory fuels the modern enterprise. But many companies still lack the precise control they need to manage it accurately and efficiently. According to Zebra Technology, 49% of warehouses report that outbound packing, staging and loading are particularly troublesome areas for effective inventory management.
If you use manual processes to handle your inventory, you can’t expect accuracy higher than 60%. Low accuracy greatly increases the time and expense required for each material movement. As a result, costs go up while speed, agility and customer service plummet.
To solve these inventory challenges, many companies are finding success in flexible technologies that extend ERP capabilities to mobile devices. Mobile barcoding is a prime example.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how to solve some of these main inventory challenges.
Paper Causes Inventory Management Challenges
If you struggle with inventory, you’re not alone. The problem may not be in how hard you strive to solve the challenge. It may simply be that you are using manual processes, like paper or spreadsheets, to track your materials.
Problems emerge when you manage inventory by hand or with data entry, such as:
- You can’t find your inventory
- Lack of timeliness or outdated inventory records
- Skyrocketing overhead costs
- Inability to meet demand with a smaller on-site workforce
- Problems adapting to social distancing or sanitation measures
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented disruption to supply chains. Fulfilling the promise of reliable, rapid distribution and turnaround is proving difficult to meet—and nearly impossible with paper or slow manual processes. Supporting pandemic-era social distancing and sanitation needs is also challenging.
Poor inventory management also negatively affects other parts of your supply chain:
- Demand planning: Lack of immediate insight into demand trends and inability to adjust to overnight surges or disruptions.
- Vendor management: Lack of crucial visibility into supply movements and changes.
- Production: Can’t easily adjust production schedules based on inventory changes or customer demands.
- Digital Transformation: Inability to add Industry 4.0 technologies.
How to Optimize Inventory Management with Barcoding
Today’s supply chain challenges mean companies must prioritize flexible technologies to stay competitive. Whether it’s shifting demand, unpredictable vendors, workforce concerns or others, companies need to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice.
If you’re experiencing some or all of these challenges, consider remedying these issues by starting with the following adjustments:
1. Put Your Ear to the Ground
Speak with your line-level workers to determine where the true areas of inefficiency are. Often, what they see each day may differ from management’s understanding of problem areas. This is a commonly overlooked area for bottlenecks and inefficiency.
2. Consider Mobile Barcoding
Barcoding your inventory is a basic first step in a digital warehouse. Mobile barcoding takes the advantages of automation to the next level, maximizing efficiency and accuracy:
- Gain end-to-end inventory tracking throughout receiving, put away, production, picking, shipping and more.
- Solve inventory visibility challenges you may have been experiencing with manual processes.
- Better adjust to fluctuating demand or vendor challenges.
- Shift production as needed.
- Meet fast, transparent shipping expectations.
Mobile inventory software is easy to use and learn. New and seasonal workers can get up to speed with 80% less training time. Individual workers experience a 30% or greater increase in productivity. This means you’ll need fewer workers to accomplish as many or more tasks—all while enhancing social distancing and safety for staff.
3. Look to Your KPIs.
Look to your KPIs across production, warehouse management, order fulfillment, quality control and customer expectations. Are your orders being fulfilled on time? Are they being shipped correctly? How many items are returned for incorrect fulfillment? Are you losing too many customers to competitors?
Make note of the deficiencies and determine where best to allocate new resources to solve these problems. Investing in cost-saving technology is a great way to deliver major improvements across most common warehouse KPIs.
Making Flexibility a Priority
Manual inventory management processes simply aren’t sustainable in today’s digital world. Mobile barcoding is a cost-effective, flexible technology that helps solve common inventory management challenges.
Mobile barcoding can be easily customized and expanded to perfectly fit your business workflows. Enhance ERP functionalities with:
- Low-Code Mobile App Development
- Offline Data Collection
- Field Services Mobility
- WMS Directed Movement
By automating data collection for ERP with mobile inventory software, you can drive accuracy and efficiency. Expect positive downstream effects as well. Barcoding solutions are also an important first step in digital transformation for your enterprise.