Do you buy and sell inventory? Do you operate at least one warehouse location? Are you picking, packing and shipping orders to customers every day? Do you purchase inventory from a variety of vendors? Do you take orders from customers over the phone, through email, via a sales team or through eCommerce or EDI? Congratulations! If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need proper warehouse inventory software. Every wholesale distribution business will require much of the same basic functionality for managing inventory, accounting, customer accounts and warehouse operations. And while each business will have its own unique processes, there are several features inherent in warehouse inventory software that can help your business automate processes, eliminate errors, reduce the time it takes to pick, pack and ship orders and keep your customers happy. Manually tracking inventory information in spreadsheets is prone to human error, time-consuming and frankly, frustrating. Although Excel can be a powerful tool, it is not appropriate for growing businesses who instead can benefit from proper warehouse inventory functionality. So, what does that include exactly? Let’s take a look at the top 5 warehouse inventory software features every wholesale distributor needs.
(1) Basic Inventory Control
Starting with the basics, inventory control functionality is an important part of warehouse operations. This includes the ability to set min and max levels, perform cycle counts, track serialized items, pick, pack and ship orders and manage bin and shelf locations. Proper inventory control means knowing what inventory you have available in your warehouse, in-transit, or on backorder at any given time. This allows your business to determine stock levels based on supply and demand and account for leads times and seasonal fluctuations. Holding too much or too little inventory can result in extra costs or lost customers, and without a properly organized warehouse, employees are left wasting time finding product when picking orders.
The best warehouse inventory software also includes functionality for accounting. Typically, this type of all-in-one solution is known as ERP software and includes functionality for inventory management, warehouse operations, AND accounting. This is because you can’t do one without the other. The right warehouse inventory system will also include tools for order entry and processing, purchasing, invoicing, tracking accounts receivables and payables and managing the financial processes of your wholesale distribution business. While you may have been able to manually track inventory information in a spreadsheet and then accounting information in a separate solution (like QuickBooks), as your business continues to grow and order volume increase, this will become unmanageable. A simple keying error or a delay in updating information across systems can all cost your business money – and can result in upset customers and employees.
(3) Barcode Scanning
Barcode scanning is an easy way to improve on existing warehouse and inventory management operations. Scanning product during the receipt and pack process reduces the amount of errors, decreases the time it takes to unload and ship product and helps to ensure you’re shipping the right items to the right customers. If you’re looking for more advanced barcode scanning, consider functionality for mobile handheld picking. This functionality works on mobile devices, allowing users to scan products at the source during the picking process.
(4) Reporting & Analytics
Reporting and analytics is a must-have for any business. Tracking information such as top inventory sales by unit, inventory slow moving items, sale by date, inventory movement exceptions, as well as financial reports such as profit and loss statements, allows your business to make informed decisions. The right information available at the right time aids in purchasing decisions, helps to negotiate rates with suppliers and customers and provides insight into opportunities for special promotions or discounts. Reporting provides a snapshot of company health and helps to identify patterns and trends.
(5) Lot Tracking
Lot tracking functionality (or traceability) is an important feature for companies that deal with perishable or potentially harmful products and includes tools for tracking expiration dates. Lot tracking allows your company to track the movement of inventory from supplier through to your customers. In the case of a recall, lot tracking and recall management functionality helps you quickly identify which products were affected and notify the appropriate customers. Lot tracking is also useful for businesses that need to track dye lots for specific color patterns.
Finding a software solution with the 5 features listed above is a great starting point for automating processes and growing your business. At a bare minimum, a solution should include basic tools for inventory and accounting. It is then important to find options that also include advanced functionality depending on your specific needs and industry requirements. The right software solution can be a huge asset for your business - if you take the time and dedicate the resources and money to finding a proper system.