Overcoming Common Obstacles to Implementing an Inventory Control System
Implementing an inventory control system is a daunting task under the most ideal of circumstances. The first and most important part of such a system is the inventory management software you choose to use as the core of your system. Your inventory software needs to be able to handle:
- Numbers large enough to keep track of every asset and item your business deals with. This is honestly rarely an issue, but can be with some of the older systems.
- Expiration tracking and serialization.
- The complexity of your fulfullment process
- Your company’s level of general technical expertise.
- Your budget.
In the case of simple number size, almost every modern system is set up to handle amounts up to the highest integer your computer can process, which is generally greater than the number of, say, dollars in the US economy. They’re almost never an issue unless you’re using freeware inventory trackers from a decade ago to try to keep track of the number of hamburger buns McDonalds moves every month.
Serialization and date tracking are attributes that are attached to each individual inventory item — most modern inventory control systems allow you to at least make notes and attach them to items, but a good system will allow you to create a general category and put dates in, or will already have categories for expiration dates and serial numbers.
As your fulfillment process becomes more complicated, the software you use to track items being fulfilled needs to be able to adapt. When you’ve got a warehouse for part A that uses LIFO processing and another for part B that uses FIFO processing and you’ve got three different vendors that all need to bring their parts into the shipping center at the same time as parts A and B arrive, being able to track those pieces in real-time as people inform your stock control system of what they’re doing with what bits is invaluable.
In terms of technical expertise, it’s kind of an Apple-vs.-PC world: there are those stock tracking systems that are easy to use, but hard to get under the hood of, and there are those that are technically very robust but can also be confusing for the unsavvy. Choose whichever is most appropriate for your staff.
And finally, budget: rather than predetermining a budget and then buying the best that fits, do initial research with long-term efficiency rather than short-term needs in mind. Calculate not just immediate fees, but licensing fees or other ongoing charges vs. what the program will actually do for your business, and opt for long-term success.