Researching the inventory management process? We'll be bold and make a few assumptions. You likely fall into one of two categories.
First option: up to this point, you’ve managed inventory on your own, maybe through Excel or other semi-manual methods. Now, you're scaling so much that operations have quickly become overwhelming. You need support in getting the process under control ASAP.
The second category is a bit more complex. You’re more than familiar with 3PLs, and maybe you’re even partnered with one. A warehouse management system (WMS) is also not a new concept — in fact, your team is likely using that technology or has access to it through your 3PL. Yet, you’re not happy with the service for one reason or another.
No matter what brings you here, in our 40 years of fulfillment experience, we’ve learned a thing or two about creating that optimal, tech-enabled process that provides real-time data insights. And here are the steps you should consider taking to get there, too.
Whether you're just starting out with a WMS or working with a partner, there should be no question on your mind exactly what the technology is accomplishing for your business. If you’re not sure how it’s being used, then it’s time to investigate. Here are a few questions you should ask about your WMS, with each “no” answer serving as a significant red flag:
Many third-party logistics companies swear up and down about their WMS capabilities but simply do the work they’re tasked with while providing little insight into what their technology actually does. It's critical to find a company that helps you not only streamline the logistics process, save time and reduce operational expenses, but also delivers complete transparency into the process and insights.
Vendor infractions are difficult to keep track of all the time. In fact, it often takes weeks for companies to notice when a vendor didn’t hold their part of the bargain with delivery or shipment quality; by that time, it’s often too late to point back and hold them accountable. Wouldn’t it be nice to know when a vendor-caused event happens, even before you’re invoiced for any charges?
Shipment and purchase order reports directly reflect vendor performance. Without real-time visibility into those metrics, you have little insight on how good — or bad — of a deal you’re getting with your current providers. Regular reports on vendor performance provide a clear picture of where your money goes and give extra leverage for contract negotiations, which can save your company significant costs.
Whether you’re a veteran of tech-enabled fulfillment or just getting started, it’s critical that your tech services support your level of need. Do you have tools and reporting capabilities built into your system that you can customize based on your needs?
The best inventory systems out there will send you real-time alerts about your stock, flag shipment issues and ensure that the order has been carried out correctly. And, if keeping an eye on those metrics is too overwhelming for your small team — the right vendor will support you through the process, ensuring high accuracy levels and quick delivery times, even if you don’t have the time.
Sending out alerts to the right team members in a timely, automated manner can make the difference between a happy customer experience and the exact opposite. However, this isn’t always possible due to lack of tech capabilities or data interoperability of the system itself. That’s why it’s critical to ensure that your inventory management system can be customized to share real time info with the right team members.
Plus, a feature as simple as a mobile app can significantly improve the communication about business priorities and ensure every shipment gets carried out correctly. It’s also a bonus when you can send the user reports to anybody you need to in any format, including Excel or PDF — without extra membership fees or software downloads. Deliver the data in the simplest way possible and it’ll get applied for the quality of each shipment.
Accurate, almost magical, inventory shortage forecasting is possible. In fact, you should expect no less than control-per-item from your inventory management system. Advanced forecasting technology tracks usage month after month to calculate to the day of when you may run out of stock.
This prediction allows you to use the system to calculate manufacturing time, vendor delivery time and shipment time to the customer — all before the stock levels hit critical numbers. It’s all about lead time; the more insight you have, the better you’re prepared for the future.
At the end of the day, it’s about a seamless inventory management process: from the shopping cart, to the vendor order, to the warehouse and beyond. And it’s about getting help when you need it. If you're looking for extra support in your process, you've come to the right place. Check out Materialogic's adaptable fulfillment services supported by a dynamic WMS that delivers real-time insights right when you need them most.