There comes a time when a growing business can no longer manage inventory using manual means. Growing types and volumes of raw materials or finished products spread across multiple warehouses and distribution centers is just too much to handle, even with the best plans or spreadsheets.
An inventory management solution is necessary, especially for businesses in the steel and metals industry, but how do you choose the right one? Follow these four tips to choose inventory software that supports your unique business needs.
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Inventory Management System
There are a number of ways to manage inventory, from custom-built systems to specialized inventory software to enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions with inventory management features. However, every business is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all software solution that can address every unique business operation or goals. This makes it difficult, but here are four helpful considerations as you begin this process.
- Budget: Decide on a budget or a range you can afford to invest in an inventory management system. Keep in mind you will see a wide range of quotes depending on whether you choose an on-premises system or cloud-based solution. In addition, costs vary based on the number of users, capabilities, and scalability. Make sure you understand the total cost of ownership before selecting your vendor and system.
- Inventory needs and goals: Determine what you need to track about your inventory, such as product attributes and variables, traceability and lineage, as well as storage locations and quantities. A separate inventory system may require that you track certain information in one system, then manually enter or compare sales or orders using another business system. A single, integrated business management system will eliminate the need for redundant data-entry and provide reliable, real-time data about inventory whether it’s in the warehouse, being used on the shop floor or being delivered to a customer.
- Choose strategy/methods: There are several automated ways to manage inventory including barcodes and RFID tags. You can also establish lot control, kitting or slotting strategies. Like many businesses, you may have high-volume and fast-moving inventory, as well as low-volume and slow-moving items. As you establish the most efficient ways to manage your inventory, make sure your chosen business system can support your strategies. Changing your strategy to meet software needs is costly and can lead to bigger problems. Your business systems should work the way you work, not the other way around.
- Know your users: Determine who will be using your business management system and where they are located. Modern technology can be deployed centrally, enabling each of your facilities, warehouses and distribution centers to enter and access data. Similarly, with added mobility, sales and customer service representatives can access data while in the field using their smartphones or tablets.
Choose Inventory Wisely
Choosing inventory software is an important decision that can directly impact productivity and profitability. Consider the tips we’ve provided here, and feel free to contact us for a more in-depth review of your goals and options.