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Vending Virtues: A Guide to Inventory Management Tools
Inventory management is an essential part of any business that deals with physical products.
23:16 30 March 2023
Inventory management is an essential part of any business that deals with physical products. Any business that wants to remain profitable and trustworthy needs reliable inventory management processes. That’s often easier said than done, especially for businesses with a large inventory or numerous SKUs. However, there are a wide variety of inventory management tools - some standard, some more specific to individual industries or products - that can help businesses manage their inventory more efficiently. If you’re just getting started in a business that requires substantial inventory management, or you’re someone looking to revamp your existing processes, you could always go straight to a company that makes vending machines for tools or whatever product you’re storing… or you can keep reading!
One of the most essential tools for managing any inventory is the barcode. Barcodes are the basic unit of any inventory management system - any company that sells products is going to need them eventually. Barcodes assign an identity to a product that can be communicated across various systems, whether they be the systems of the company that manufactures a product or the company that uses or sells it. They are especially useful for businesses that have large inventories, as they can be used to scan and connect pricing and product information on hundreds of products without the need to reference pen and paper records.
Another product ID tool that is becoming increasingly popular - and in some cases even replacing barcodes - is the RFID tag. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID tags are small radio devices that are attached to products that contain a unique identification number that can be read by an RFID scanner. RFID tags are useful for businesses that need to track products in real-time, especially products that move between different warehouses or facilities in large quantities. Unlike barcodes, RFIDS tags can be scanned just by having RFID scanners in close proximity to the RFID-tagged products, eliminating the need to stop and scan each product individually. They are commonly used in the retail industry, where they help businesses keep track of their inventory seamlessly, and prevent theft.
But where does the information stored in barcodes and tags come from, and where does it go when they are scanned? How do they actually help you sort products? Well, any company storing those products and scanning those barcodes or tags is going to need inventory management software - some kind of computer program that helps track and manage all of those product IDs, and the corresponding inventory. These programs can track inventory levels, sales, and order history, as well as generate reports that help people make informed decisions about their inventory, or, in some cases, use automated tools to make those decisions and take action on them.
A perpetual inventory system is an increasingly popular inventory management system that is built into some inventory management software offerings. A perpetual inventory system consists of software that tracks inventory levels in real-time and updates inventory levels every time a product is sold or received. This system is useful for businesses that need to track inventory levels in real time, as it helps them make informed decisions about their inventory. This is especially useful to companies that rely on just-in-time strategies. Just-in-time, or JIT, is a strategy in which companies that manufacture products can precisely align their inventories of the components that their finished product is composed of with their manufacturing schedule. This strategy reduces monthly or quarterly overhead, ensuring that money is only spent on components that are ready to be utilized and that inventories are kept as low as possible in order to minimize opportunities for waste or loss. For businesses utilizing a JIT model, perpetual inventory systems are absolutely crucial.
Some inventory management software also includes a feature called automatic reorder. This feature allows whoever manages inventory or sets stock requirements to set a minimum inventory level for each product. When the inventory level falls below this level, the software automatically generates a purchase order for the product that is running low. This feature saves the inventory manager or whoever they delegate this duty to a lot of time and hassle, and ensures that they never run out of stock. Features like this make most inventory management software quite easy to use, and they can often be customized to suit the needs of almost any business.
Increasingly, businesses are turning to cloud-based inventory management systems as a way of making live data about inventories more accessible. A cloud-based inventory management system is a system that is hosted on remote servers that are optimized for real-time remote access. This means that managers and business owners can access their inventory from anywhere with an internet connection, and get an idea of what is happening at that very moment. Cloud-based inventory management systems are easy to use and are a great way for businesses to manage their inventory without investing in expensive hardware or software since cloud vendors will provide the hardware and software needed to run these systems as part of the subscription fees they charge.
Software is great, but where does all this stuff actually go? In many cases, products are simply stored on basic shelves in warehouses, but some products require more complex, secure solutions. Many companies store inventories in locked containers like a safe, locked cabinet, or customized vending machines. Some of these systems are standardized, but some products - especially larger or more volatile ones - require custom-designed and built solutions specifically tailored to their industry. Companies that make, use, or store hazardous materials need to use high-security drums or containers to ensure that leakage or interaction with the warehouse environment doesn’t lead to the depletion of precious stock or cause any harm to employees that work in warehouses.
Instances like these are one reason amongst many that automation is making inroads not only in inventory software but in the physical management of inventory as well. Robots are becoming more advanced and more affordable every year, and they can save companies substantial amounts of money, while also keeping human employees safe from potentially dangerous situations or work that might cause long-term harm.
Inventory management is changing just as rapidly as the industries it supports. Every company that makes, stores, or sells a product needs to keep track of inventory and find suitable ways to store and move products. As time goes on, technology makes all of these tasks easier and easier - before you know it, people won’t even need to do anything except help set these systems up and make decisions about what to put in them!