inventory-tracking-technologies-how-to-choose-the-best-one

Inventory tracking technologies play an important part in the success of a business. It can profoundly impact your inventory management’s effectiveness and costs. Thus, you need to know the best how-tos for better business performances with suitable strategies with your needs and budgets. This article has it all, so explore the details below!

Understanding Your Business Needs

Effective inventory management is the backbone of a smooth-running business. Before diving into specific strategies like cross docking, it’s crucial to understand your unique needs and challenges. Here’s a roadmap to assess your business and determine the best approach for your inventory:

  • Assessing Inventory Volume and Complexity:
    • Volume: How much inventory do you typically hold? High-volume businesses with a constant flow of goods may benefit more from cross docking than those with lower volumes.
    • Complexity: Do you have a wide variety of products with different sizes, shapes, and storage requirements? Complex inventory might necessitate a more traditional warehousing approach with designated storage areas.
  • Identifying Specific Challenges in Inventory Management:
    • Stockouts: Do you frequently run out of stock, leading to lost sales and frustrated customers? Cross docking can help ensure a steady flow of in-demand items.
    • Excess Inventory: Are you holding onto large amounts of slow-moving or obsolete stock? This ties up capital and incurs storage costs. Cross docking might not be suitable for such items.
    • Slow Order Fulfillment Times: Do your customers wait a long time for their orders? Cross docking can expedite order fulfillment by streamlining product movement.
    • High Inventory Carrying Costs: Are storage and management costs for your inventory eating into your profits? Cross docking can minimize storage time and associated expenses.
  • Determining Budget Constraints:

Types of Inventory Tracking Technologies

Barcode Systems

Barcodes are machine-readable image representations of product information. Scanners translate the barcode into data, allowing you to track items throughout your supply chain.

  • Pros: Affordable, widely adopted, easy to implement, and works with basic scanners.
  • Cons: Limited data storage (typically just a product ID), requires line-of-sight scanning, and susceptible to errors if damaged or dirty.

RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification)

RFID tags contain microchips with unique identifiers that transmit data wirelessly to RFID readers. This enables contactless, long-range tracking of inventory items.

  • Pros: Faster and more accurate than barcodes, reads multiple tags simultaneously, works without line-of-sight, and offers additional data storage capabilities.
  • Cons: More expensive than barcodes, requires investment in RFID readers and tags, and metal objects can interfere with signal transmission.

GPS Tracking Systems

GPS (Global Positioning System) technology uses satellites to pinpoint the location of an asset equipped with a GPS receiver. This allows real-time tracking of high-value inventory items or mobile resources like delivery vehicles.

  • Pros: Provides real-time location data, ideal for tracking valuable assets or mobile inventory, and deters theft.
  • Cons: Limited indoor functionality, requires cellular connectivity or satellite subscriptions for continuous tracking, and may not be cost-effective for all inventory items.

IoT (Internet of Things) Devices

IoT devices are sensors and trackers embedded in inventory items that collect and transmit data via the internet. This data can include location, temperature, condition, and other relevant information.

  • Pros: Highly customizable data collection based on sensor type, provides real-time insights into inventory status and condition, and enables proactive management.
  • Cons: Requires investment in compatible devices and an IoT platform for data management, potential security concerns with data transmission, and battery life limitations for some devices.

Choosing the right inventory tracking technology depends on your specific needs and budget. Here are some additional factors to consider:

  • Value and Volume of Inventory: High-value items or large volumes might justify the investment in RFID or IoT solutions.
  • Data Requirements: Do you need basic location tracking or more in-depth information about product condition?
  • Security Concerns: Ensure chosen technology offers adequate data security measures.

Factors to Consider When Choosing

  • Scalability:
    • Think future-proof: Will the software accommodate your business growth? Choose a system that scales easily to handle increasing inventory volume or product lines.
    • Flexibility: Look for software that adapts to your changing needs. Can it handle new sales channels or integrate with future technologies?
  • Integration Capabilities:
    • Seamless connections: Ensure the software integrates smoothly with your existing accounting, e-commerce platform, or other business applications.
    • Data flow: Streamlined data exchange between your software and other systems eliminates manual data entry and reduces errors.
  • User-Friendliness:
    • Ease of use: Choose software with an intuitive interface that minimizes training time for your staff. A user-friendly system fosters faster adoption and reduces errors.
    • Accessibility matters: Consider cloud-based solutions for remote access and mobile capabilities, allowing staff to manage inventory from anywhere.
  • Data Accuracy and Real-Time Tracking:
    • Accurate information: The software should ensure accurate inventory data through features like barcode scanning or lot tracking.
    • Real-time visibility: Look for systems that provide real-time inventory levels, enabling informed decision-making about restocking and order fulfillment.
  • Cost of Implementation and Maintenance:
    • Budget considerations: Factor in upfront licensing costs, ongoing subscription fees, and potential training or support expenses.
    • Long-term view: Consider the total cost of ownership, including maintenance and potential upgrades to ensure the software remains cost-effective over time.

Making the Decision

  • Evaluating Options Against Business Needs:
    • Revisit your assessment: Refer back to your initial evaluation of your business needs (inventory volume, complexity, challenges).
    • Match features to needs: Analyze how each technology or software option addresses your specific requirements. Prioritize features that directly impact your pain points.
  • Considering Long-Term Benefits:
    • Think beyond today: Don’t just focus on solving immediate problems. Choose a solution that scales with your business and adapts to evolving needs.
    • Future-proof your investment: Consider how the technology or software integrates with potential future technologies or business strategies.
  • Seeking Input from Key Stakeholders:
    • Gather diverse perspectives: Involve key stakeholders like warehouse personnel, sales staff, and accounting in the evaluation process.
    • User feedback matters: Get their input on user-friendliness, training requirements, and how the solution will impact their daily tasks.
  • Finalizing the Decision and Implementation Plan:
    • Compare and contrast: Create a comparison chart highlighting the pros, cons, and costs of each shortlisted option.
    • Choose the winner: Based on your evaluation and stakeholder feedback, select the technology or software that best aligns with your needs and budget.
    • Develop an implementation plan: Outline the steps for onboarding and training staff, data migration (if applicable), and system integration with existing applications.

Conclusion

We hope that the insights we provided in the article will help you understand the importance of inventory tracking technologies to adapt to the fast-paced market. It can take your business to the next level, thanks to the technology applications.