We were all fondly remembering the ‘good old days’ when Karl Lagerfield, the genius fashion designer, decided to burst our bubbles and casually remind us that we’re the ones who’re old, not the days. Ouch!
Now, it’s not wrong to remember the good old days; what’s wrong is being stuck in them. What’s that saying again? “It was good while it lasted.” Cherish the old times but step up to the new times.
This mindset is especially valuable if you’re into retail. Times have changed incredibly and the digital solutions and innovations available in retail are mind-blowing.
You can’t complain about excess stock, obsolete stock and spoilage when you’ve not even taken advantage of a tenth of the retail technology out there, can you? Inventory management alone has many new-age technologies available for use.
Already, 88% of retail businesses plan to improve their inventory processes with digital innovations. There must be something they’re seeing, and by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be seeing it too.
Hope you brought a large appetite as you’ll be eating a well-seasoned meal of digital technologies in inventory management. You’ll learn what innovations are available in the industry and how they can make your inventory processes more efficient. Bon appetit!
Inventory Management For Retailers: A Recap
You already know what managing inventory is, but a little brush-up won’t hurt. Inventory management for retailers basically involves the ordering, storing, selling and tracking of stock. It means your inventory must be visible at all times. You must know what to order, when to order, the quantity to order and where to store your stock. The main aim is to ensure goods are in the right place at the right time.
Inventory Management Techniques
After deploying strategies to get more sales, you need sustainable techniques to cope with the demand. Whether your company is eCommerce, brick-and-mortar or hybrid, there are general techniques for managing inventory that cut across all businesses. The ones listed below are some of the popular methods. You will recognize one or more that you already use.
- Just-in-time (JIT): this is when you store just what you need to save money and space
- Push: this is when you order based on forecast
- Pull: this is when you request products based on orders
- Cross-docking: this is when you sort and ship goods as they’re being delivered
- Dropshipping: this is when a third-party company is responsible for the storage and shipment of products
Top 5 Technologies For Managing Inventory
Have you ever gone grocery shopping without a shopping list? I have and I ended up forgetting what I really needed and buying stuff I didn’t need. You don’t want that happening to you as you take your inventory processes through digital transformation. Arming yourself with the list below will ensure you go for what you really need.
1. Warehouse management technology
Gone are the days of using paper spreadsheets to keep track of goods in the warehouse. Warehouse Management Software (WMS) takes care of this and lots more. You can opt for the ready-made package or order a customized one. Also, you can have it cloud-based or on-premises; your choice.
The features you should look out for in a WMS are the following:
- Storing and tracking of inventory information: details like names, price, image, availability, date of arrival and store-keeping unit codes are easily stored and tracked in a WMS
- Products addition and removal: you can easily add and remove products manually and electronically
- Dashboard: a dashboard gives an instant overview of the inventory
- Order fulfillment: a WMS helps facilitate order fulfillment
- Packing and delivery: the software stores info on products and how they should be packed and delivered
- Invoicing: invoicing and billing other payment management features would be present in a WMS
- Live tracking: all inventory processes can be monitored remotely and in real time
2. Barcode system
Barcodes have been in retail for a while, but it’s being upgraded by the day. Using a sequence of vertical bars and spaces, barcodes identify products. With barcode readers, laser beams read the barcodes and the reflected light is translated into data. Once this is done, the data is then transferred into a computer where it is stored.
In managing inventory, barcodes bring ease and speed. Thousands of items can be scanned in a relatively short period compared to manually entering them into a paper spreadsheet or even a computer spreadsheet.
Also, using barcode technology in your inventory processes gives you better accuracy. Errors common to manual methods are eradicated and you have more accurate data. This makes inventory control easier.
3. Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID is similar to barcodes but uses radio waves to manage inventory. To use this technology, you need an antenna, reader and tags. Here is how it works. A unique RFID tag is given to every product. This tag stores data and is scannable. The antenna transmits radio waves which generate current in tags, allowing them to receive, send and update information.
With the RFID system, many tags can be read automatically, saving time and increasing productivity. Real-time tracking is also one of the goodies you get with a radio-frequency identification system.
4. Robotics technology
Robots are no longer just what we see in sci-fi movies. The future is here and we can now use this invention in retail. Smart robots are being configured with customized warehouse management software to handle sorting, movement and storage of warehouse inventory.
As you grow in the retail business, you’ll have difficulty managing increasing order volumes. Instead of losing good business by not being able to keep up with the orders, why not invest in robotics technology? It will enable you to carry out more tasks with lesser labor and cost.
5. LiFi technology
The Light Fidelity (LiFi) technology is similar to WiFi. The difference is that it uses light sources and sensors to transmit information instead of radio waves. LED bulbs generate the light source that updates the frequency to transmit data. This is useful in building warehouse networks and can be used to position robots.
6 Benefits Of Using Emerging Technologies To Manage Your Inventory
This is the ‘what’s in it for me’ moment. Time to see what 88% of retailers saw that made them decide to invest in upgrading their inventory technologies. Here are six benefits you get from using digital solutions in managing your inventory.
1. Better accuracy
Using innovative technologies in managing inventory processes gives you improved accuracy. You can fill orders and track products accurately. Data analysis and reporting you get also help achieve this.
2. Inventory visibility and real-time tracking
Monitoring and tracking inventory has never been this easy. You get real-time information that enables you to stock adequately to meet customer demand. You know the level of your stock at every point in time. This information helps you to avoid the risk of understocking and the cost of overstocking.
3. Reduced labor costs
Automating many parts of the inventory process means you get to save the labor costs that would have been used to perform those tasks. These funds can be used for other business expenses.
Technology’s main selling point is time-efficiency and it stays true to purpose in this regard. The technologies available for managing inventory help save time by completing in seconds, tasks that would ordinarily take hours. You’re able to dedicate more time to more important business functions.
5. Improved forecasting
You make data-driven forecasts with inventory technologies. Information like stock levels, sales, purchases and buying patterns give useful insights that help with making decisions like replenishment, pricing and inventory optimization.
5. Enhanced customer experience
Ultimately, improved productivity and efficiency brought about by your adoption of innovative technologies enable you to satisfy your customers better. Additionally, the data you get from using new-age solutions for your inventory helps you serve your customers better, giving them satisfactory experiences and getting more traffic to your online store.
Stay Ahead Of The Pack With Inventory Management Technologies
No matter how fast your car is, you’re never going to beat a jet in speed. The reason is simple. A jet is built exactly for that – to be faster than a car. Likewise, these technologies for managing inventory are built to help you move past the old business models and be ahead of your competitors.
Digital solutions like the warehouse management system, radio-frequency identification, barcode system, robotics technology and LiFi technology are some of the innovations you can leverage in managing your inventory.
For your troubles, you get better accuracy, inventory visibility and monitoring, reduced labor costs, time-efficiency, improved forecasting and enhanced customer experience, among other benefits.