7 Ways a Digital Inventory Management System Can Revolutionise Your Business
June 16, 2021 - 11 minutes
Think about your current inventory management system: is it a smooth running process, or is locating and managing parts a logistical mess? If maintaining your day-to-day inventory management is a nightmare, a digital inventory management system, with the option to automate ordering, can drastically reshape your operations.
Let’s review 7 features you should include in your digital stock management solution.
Knowing how much stock you have, down to the exact part, and where they are can be a tremendous undertaking without a digital inventory management system. Each minute of the working day is valuable, and your team spending chunks of time searching for parts, mistakenly stockpiling inventory, and losing parts will eat away at both productivity and company revenue. Breaking this mould is daunting, but controlling all aspects of inventory effectively is necessary for a growing field service business.
Real-time knowledge around all aspects of your company stock, managed by an inventory management software, will optimise your daily operations. Improving efficiency and supporting the synergy of your team is where a digital inventory management system shines. Real-time availability tracking includes which parts have been reserved for jobs, are being returned, and what your next order looks like. With real-time inventory knowledge at your fingertips, your team can continuously stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for a multitude of situations.
When your engineers are on site and need a specific part, they won’t need to call the back office or check the stockroom themselves; up-to-date stock data will be available from their smartphone to instantly show them if and where they can find the part. For your business this means less admin time and consistently using existing stock before purchasing more. For your customers, it means faster job completion and ultimately, greater satisfaction.
Of course, your inventory management database also comes in handy when the required parts are not currently available. Knowing for certain that the part is out of stock gives you the confidence to put in an order, which takes us onto the next essential feature of an inventory management system – automatic reordering.
Automatic reordering to stay prepared
Inherently, many aspects of the ordering process are out of your hands. While your team can’t control how long it’ll take for a part to ship and arrive, you can cut unnecessary time wasted when placing a typical order. If your engineers don’t have the right parts, at the right time, the harsh reality is that your customers will book future jobs with competitors who are better prepared. Put yourself in their shoes; wouldn’t you do the same?
The more streamlined your ordering process, the better. Digital inventory management systems should cut down on ordering time while maintaining accuracy to best serve your stockroom manager and engineers. An automatic reordering system is a fantastic option to ensure that the standard parts your team utilises will always be available. For example, you could set your software up to always keep a stock of 10 blue widgets and 20 red widgets. As soon as the stock level drops below those numbers, the system will automatically order more in your pre-defined quantity. With an automated tool like this, you can guarantee that essential, everyday items will always be in stock for your team.
Automatic reordering can account for jobs where your engineers are expected to have the right parts upon arrival, but these jobs aren’t the only situation your company will face. This leads us to our next stockroom database system feature: purchase orders.
Purchase orders in the field
A call-out, or diagnosis job offers another avenue to utilise the full capabilities of an inventory management system. In these situations, there’s a reasonable chance your engineer won’t have the correct part in their truck or in the stockroom. To get that part for the customer as quickly as possible, engineers need to be able to place orders when they’re in the field with minimal effort.
For some businesses, engineers may need to call the office, relay the request to the stockroom, and wait for the order to be processed, relying on several people to place that order. Of course, this adds avoidable time to the workflow and delays the job’s completion, resulting in a less happy customer.
An optimised system will look like this: An engineer needs a part for a job, so they order it right away using their mobile phone app, with the costs and PO record logged against the job; they then have the best chance for the part arriving sooner and completing the job promptly.
With the right system automatically overseeing your stock in the background and helping your team refine the ordering process, your company can always be looking forwards, rather than catching up. Once ordered parts arrive, it’s vital that your stockroom manager has a smooth workflow and the supporting tools to get everything inputted correctly.
Mobile bar code scanner for easy check-ins
A long and tedious check-in system is the bane of many stockroom managers’ existences, slashing efficiency and leading to mistakes. A bar code scanner, acting as a further extension of your inventory management solution, can be a tremendous time-saver. If you’re imagining a handheld scanner like those at a grocery store, you’re thinking too big. A bar code scanner on a mobile app is an efficient and economical solution that can heavily improve your parts check-in process.
When new parts arrive, instead of manually recording data like name and product number into a spreadsheet (or even worse, a paper-based log), this lightweight solution allows your team to quickly scan the part’s bar code, select the quantity, and add it to your inventory. Checking in a new part should be easy too; after the first scan, you simply assign the bar code to the new part and the system will now recognise it going forward.
With an intuitive bar code scanner built-in to your inventory management system, your stockroom manager can check in new deliveries and stock in moments. Plus, all newly checked in parts will automatically sync to your database, meaning your up-to-date stock levels will be accessible to your office staff and engineers right away. Checking in stock is only part of a stockroom manager’s responsibilities, once everything has arrived it then needs to be organised.
Efficient picking lists
When parts arrive and are checked in, transitioning them from your stockroom to your engineer’s vans can take up a lot of admin time. Managing this movement via spreadsheets can be a time-consuming and chaotic process; but it doesn’t have to be this way. A stock management software can accurately facilitate the movement of inventory from your stockroom to your company fleet.
Think about it, shortening the transfer time means your team can get on the road quicker, and have the capacity to complete more jobs. When parts need to be moved from the stockroom to your engineers’ vans, your team can be kept on schedule with easy-to-build picking lists.
Picking lists are noteworthy because of the accountability and organisation they bring to your stock management. By having a location assigned to each list, like “Stockroom”, or “Tony’s van”, your stockroom manager can oversee the correct movement of parts to various locations. Building a picking list should be easy too! For example, if the stockroom manager can see all the parts needed by an engineer, by date, they can logically build a list for each engineer. All that’s left to do is to physically prepare the necessary parts for the engineer. When the engineer arrives at the warehouse, they’ll need to confirm that they have collected the parts. This stockroom database management system logs the transaction and seamlessly transfers the parts from the stockroom to the engineer’s van.
By supporting the ability to build customisation picking lists, your inventory database software can streamline a vital aspect of your day-to-day stockroom workflow and get parts out to engineers quickly. Once that’s done, it’s then essential to give your engineers thorough insight and control over the stock that they are storing in their vans.
Track what’s in your vans
Your engineers play a vital role in stock management, and they deserve to be ingrained in your inventory operations. Fully involving them with stock control, with all important information accessible on their smartphones, will further cut down on time and increase productivity.
A digital inventory management system that supports multi-location functionality should empower engineers to track exactly what is in their van and give them the power to make transfers while out on the road. Forgoing the picking list process, if Tony the engineer needs a part for the job, and knows Bill, another engineer has the part in his van nearby, they can meet up, exchange the part, and record the transfer within the company database using their smartphones. Tony doesn’t have to drive all the way back to the stockroom, and can install the part and complete the job quickly.
Additionally, simply being able to search from their smartphone to see what’s in their van can save time spent rummaging around looking for certain items. No matter what the day brings, your engineers can be supported and feel in control of their own stock.
Of course, sometimes parts go unused and may not be required for other jobs, which is where our final feature comes in – streamline stock returns.
Streamlined returns workflow
How often are you returning parts? Never, or rarely returning parts to vendors can be the result of two situations. The first means that your inventory management solution is currently working well enough to limit overstock. The second indicates that your current inventory database isn’t accounting for lost parts and backstock. Piles of unused parts at the back of your stockroom is an inefficient and costly use of both your stock and company budget. Equally, when parts are left in vans too long, they’re prone to becoming lost or broken. Across your company fleet, if left unmanaged, this practice will slowly, yet steadily, chip away your company profits.
With the right software, you can mark items for return, track their progress and current status, plus communicate with vendors too. By ensuring a transparent returns process, you stand a better chance of completing the return and recouping your investment quickly.
The ability to both easily and accurately return unused parts to vendors should be a regular aspect of your digital inventory management system. Inventory returns software will support your company’s growing cash flow and help your team keep track of each and every part.
Let’s wrap up…
A dependable digital inventory management system will function as an essential assistant to your stockroom manager and engineers. As your business continues to grow, you can stave off the common stock pitfalls and problems that field service businesses face. Instead, your stockroom and parts management systems will remain organised and uncomplicated.
As covered above, 7 revolutionary features to include are…
Real-time inventory levels
In-the-field purchase orders
Mobile bar code scanning
If any of these solutions sound like the perfect fit for your field service business, Commusoft’s Inventory Management system is the software for you. Our all-in-one job management system efficiently simplifies day-to-day tasks, increases productivity, and scales your profitability.