Here are three features that every company will rely on their inventory control software
in the future.
Good inventory control is all about having the right product in the right place and at the
right time. And thanks to the ecommerce boom, which is expected to hit $4.5 trillion in sales for the B2C sector and $1.2 trillion on the B2B front by 2021, the need for reliable
inventory management procedures has grown significantly over the past few years.
As companies strategize on how to best procure and position inventory in a way that meets
their customers’ changing demands, many of them are using inventory control software to
streamline the process while saving time, money and manpower. In return, those companies get
more accurate inventory records, better vendor relationships, reduced errors, improved
operational efficiencies and enhanced customer service.
Encompassing all aspects of a firm’s inventory management process—including purchasing,
shipping, receiving, tracking, warehousing, storage and reordering—inventory control
software provides accurate inventory counts, automates supplier management and product
reordering, and provides data that can be used for good decision-making.
As inventory control software continues to evolve, vendors are adding new features and
capabilities to their solutions. Here are three that benefit a broad range of companies
across all industries:
Vendor managed inventory. In today’s fast-paced fulfillment world,
more retailers are relying on their distributors and/or manufacturers to manage
their restocking needs, fulfill orders as soon as a product hits the “reorder” point
and keep products on their shelves. Gaining visibility into this process is
cumbersome and time-consuming without an inventory control system to provide high
levels of visibility into demand forecasts and other key data points. A supplier
that’s left to “guess” at its customers’ vendor managed inventory (VMI) needs, for
example, could wind up with too much of its own inventory in stock. This, in turn,
increases that supplier’s physical space needs and bumps up its inventory costs—all
expenses that will be passed along to the customer.
An inventory control system which accounts for VMI allows companies to manage and
report across hundreds of different locations. Whether they run multi-location
inventory or want to leverage advanced features (e.g., reorder points, lead times
and seasonal cycles), a system which offers visibility into VMI will provide:
accurate reporting, accurate profit and loss, VMI stock location replenishment data,
and improved sales.
By handling the VMI process, inventory control software helps both the supplier and
customer improve their current inventory management processes, provides demand
forecast visibility and enables more efficient ordering, scheduling and labor usage.
These “wins” translate into lower carrying costs, better asset utilization (i.e.,
trucks and other vehicles) and fewer stock-outs.
Mobile inventory control. Working “without wires” has become
mandatory for managers and employees who need to be able to navigate the warehouse
or DC floor without having to be tethered to a cable or cord.
This trend is making its way into the inventory control realm, where barcoding
systems, radio frequency identification (RFID) and other wireless technologies are
helping workers more efficiently manage inventory in fast-paced fulfillment
environments. NetSuite’s mobile inventory control solution also supports companies’
product traceability requirements—a layer of complexity that not all systems can
As this trend continues to mature, expect to see barcode scanning and other
technologies helping to significantly cut down on the amount of time spent cycle
counting and conducting year-end inventory counts.
Using automated data entry solutions, for instance, companies can accurately track
and make decisions about their inventory, which will be based on ongoing counts
generated by mobile inventory control systems. By combining mobile devices with
barcode scanners and inventory control software, for example, companies can
eliminate paper while leveraging automated data entry to make the best decisions
across all of their locations.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning. By making machines
work and react like humans, artificial intelligence (AI) is working together with
machine learning (ML) to help companies automate their operations and free up human
labor to focus on more important projects.
Considered futuristic in the inventory management realm, AI and ML will continue to
make their way into inventory control software. Right now, for example, distributors
are already using chatbots combined with analytics solutions to confirm order status
from their manufacturers. Taking that concept a step further, ecommerce sites will
incorporate AI-enabled chatbots that provide real-time customer data on: what’s
currently in stock, how much those items cost and the supplier’s shipping policies.
The employee who once staffed that chatbot can then be reallocated to another
position, thus improving overall labor utilization. Artificial intelligence will
also help companies make more out of their existing warehouse space, cut production
costs and improve their demand forecasting—all of which will help them improve their
inventory management, customer service and bottom lines.
All the Right Moves
The need for good inventory controls isn’t going away. In fact, it’s becoming a strategic
imperative for more and more companies as the pace of business speeds up and as customers
become more demanding. Future-forward features such as AI, VMI, and mobile device
integration can greatly improve the efficiency of inventory management.
Using a solution like NetSuite allows companies to consolidate their inventory systems into a
single, integrated warehouse inventory control solution. Completely integrated with NetSuite
financials and customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, the solution provides
complete visibility into all demand and supply measurements across the entire organization.