Inventory management and supply chain management aren’t the flashiest of a company’s operations, nor do they seem like their efficiency could be improved by an app. But just as inventory and supply chain management are crucial to the success of a small, medium, or large business, so to are these core operations the perfect area for innovation – facilitated by an internal business app.
Ever had to search for a barcode scanner? Ever had to run off the floor to check inventory levels on a desktop computer? Is your team constantly playing catch-up at the end of the week to figure out just exactly how much of a product is left in your inventory?
An internal business app can solve these supply problems, and much more. Let’s go over how.
Common inventory management problems
What are the most common challenges inventory managers face in today’s market?
- Low product turnover
- Excess inventory
- Failure to keep track of stock
- Poor service levels
- Difficult identifying demand patterns
- Lack of visibility
Many of these challenges are amplified by the multi-channel marketplace, and the disruption of buying patterns and behaviors fueled by mobile shoppers. While these changes of scale and expected turn-around times can potentially dramatically increase a business’ profits, the rapid changes of today’s market can be difficult to keep up with, or even keep track of. It’s somewhat ironic that the mobile devices that brought about these changes are also the answer to the problems they created.
Shoppers are more efficient now than ever before – it’s time for the companies that supply the products to catch up. If a customer can see how many of a certain product remain in Amazon’s inventory, why can’t you?
You really don’t have to be Amazon to achieve that level of efficiency and inter-connectedness.
Low product turnover
Let’s face it – not everyone has the access to the amount of warehouse space that Amazon can brag about – which means warehouse space is a precious commodity, especially in a fast-paced, on-demand economy. If you’re not properly keeping track of demand, you run the risk of either running out of stock, or wasting space housing a product with little demand that could be used to hold a more popular product.
An internal business app can help here – by integrating your mobile app with your customer facing website and POS system, as well as your own internal database, every transaction is immediately tracked and reported on all of your systems. This gives multiple departments the ability to analyze customer purchasing trends more effectively and in real time – and when enhanced with analytical tracking capabilities, your system can warn you about poorly performing (or over-performing) products before they cause a speed bump in your operations.
Ever order too much product? We don’t even have a warehouse, and we’re constantly dealing with the problem of finding space for all the extra water cooler refill jugs. It seems like we’re constantly bouncing between two extremes – either at the verge of an inter-office drought, or it’s monsoon season (albeit in the form of large bottle of water).
An internal app helps mitigate the risk of ordering too much product – analytics are very good at recognizing trends that wouldn’t normally be noticed. They can also even help warehouse managers find extra or unused space that could be used to store excess product.
Failure to keep track of stock
It may be a meme by this point, but modern problems do require modern solutions. With the growth of the on-demand economy, keeping track of stock with manual checks isn’t time efficient, nor as reliable as it needs to be to stay on top of fluctuating product demand.
This is a problem that’s compounded by the fact that many sales happen out in the field. Just because it’s called an internal business app doesn’t mean it’s limited to the four walls of your warehouse, showroom, or sales floor. Your sales people out connecting with and selling to clients can update your operations and inventory manager with sales they’ve made in real time.
Accounting errors add to costs – an internal app can cross-reference and compare numbers from all of your departments in real time, so when your crews are counting, you can be sure the numbers they come up with are correct.
Poor service levels
Every business knows customer satisfaction is the number one key to success, and failure to meet customers’ expectations will spell the doom of any company. Knowledge is power – and in this case, knowledgable employees means happy customers.
Internal business apps means everyone is on the same page – from your head of operations to your warehouse associates. Delivery and lead times vary depending on the product in question, and delays can lead to dissatisfied customers. An app helps optimize your inventory management operations so you don’t have to worry about a product showing up a day after it was scheduled to arrive.
Difficulty identifying demand patterns
Keeping track of demand can be made extremely difficult by continuously growing and morphing product portfolios. Product uncertainty is a very real problem these days, especially when some products have short lifecycles.
In order to stay on top of these ever-changing product portfolios, you need to use analytics tools. With an app, you can keep these tools in the warehouse rather than an office, therefore bringing more efficiency to your operations.
Lack of visibility
With a global market, accurate supply chain management is crucial to your success. An internal business app can help with that facet of your business’s operations as well. Let’s look into how.
Common supply chain management problems
Getting the right product to the right place at the right time is – to put it mildly – complicated.
The most successful method for reducing operating costs is to make those operations more efficient. Shaving a second here or there can have a huge and lasting impact on your overall expenses.
We’ve used it as an example before, but it’s a well-used example for a reason: consider the decision of UPS to not make left turns; they invested in a software that mapped the United States (as well as most of the world), in order to nearly eradicate left turns from their parcel delivery truck routes. This decision ended up saving the company over 20 million gallons of fuel every year – those seconds it takes to make a left turn add up – and in the same manner as UPS, shaving off seconds from your warehouse operations can save your business a significant amount of capital.
When your entire team are receiving real time updates to incoming and outgoing product deliveries, and collectively can work together to achieve the same goal faster – they are no longer forced to carry a clipboard around to manually keep track of products.
With rising fuel, energy, and freight costs, compounded by a much larger International customer base, having a system that can plan efficient routes is essential to cutting expenditures.
Labor rates are also on the rise (which is a good thing!) – but that means every second spent keeping track of inventory is precious – and those seconds could be better utilized in other areas of the warehouse. With an internal business app, your employees have more time to do what they were hired to do, rather than keep track of shipments and product numbers.
Supplier and partner relationship management
Miscommunication can be a major roadblock to efficient operations. In order for your supply chain to effectively get a product from point A to point B to point C, everyone in every step of the process needs to adhere to mutually agreed standards of operations. This is especially important when assessing your operations in order to understand current performance levels, as well as finding room for improvement in your operations.
When every employee is in the know, and literally on the same page, this standard is simple to stick to. While this can be achieved through a mixture of communication methods, such as web portals, cloud storage, and email, having more than one form of communication results in wasted time and effort on everyone’s parts.
An internal app keeps all communication and analysis in the same place.
Like we stated at the beginning of this blog, inventory and supply chain management aren’t the flashiest of business operations. This is a big reason many employers find it hard to find and identify interested and qualified talent.
An internal app helps solve this issue via two different fronts: making the job more attractive, and lowering the acceptable knowledge threshold.
Any supply chain manager worth their salt needs an extensive understanding of every facet of your supply chain. With an internal inventory and supply chain management app, the burden of knowledge is reduced because it’s so much simpler to keep track of data – analytics can identify demand patterns before even seasoned supply chain managers would, and products are automatically tracked and updated throughout every system simultaneously.
This also helps to make positions more attractive. 70% of the workforce in the U.S. is disengaged – and one of the major reasons for this is lack of direction. An internal business app gives new employees the direction and knowledge they want, therefore increasing your employee retention and acquisition.
Apps aren’t just for consumers
We hope this blog gave you some ideas as to how an internal business app can improve your inventory and supply chain management. If so, keep an eye out for more ideas on how your business can improve its efficiency and bottom line with an internal business app!