Category: Stock (Inventory) Control
- Serial Number Controls vs Batch Numbers: Which is Best for You?
- The serial numbers require durable and legible labels.
- The inventory management system you use must support the tracking of serial numbers.
- You will need to have the ability to read and record serial numbers with barcode scanners.
- You will need to track serial numbers by location (warehouse) and via shipments post-sales.
- What Are the Best Practices for Stock Control Optimisation?
- Inventory management is the order, managing, storing and moving of your stock.
- Inventory optimisation is more specialised, such as ordering the right products in the right quantities so as to meet your demands.
- The Top 4 Business Benefits of Stock Control
- Why Stock Control is Important for eCommerce Success
- What are barcodes used for?
- Inventory (Stock) Control
- Is stock ordered mostly only when there is a shortage?
- Do you know how much stock to order and when it will be delivered?
- Are orders time consuming to make up because of searching for stock?
- Is data being captured more than once, perhaps into multiple systems, in order to manage inventory?
- Are spreadsheets or whiteboards used to manage activities such as picking orders, working out what needs to be manufactured etc?
- Are there stoppages in the manufacturing process due to raw material shortages?
- How easily can bottlenecks in the manufacturing process be identified?
- Are stock take counts inaccurate and time-consuming?
- Are customers able to obtain accurate delivery dates?
- Is there a lot of obsolete inventory?
- Do you know which your slow-moving items are?
- Do you know which your best selling items are?
- Do your sales reps sell products you don’t have or at the wrong price?
- How efficiently are products that have serial or batch numbers handled?
- On stock items in shops which are scanned at the till.
- On high-value items showing their unique serial number.
- Produced by scales for items sold by weight which are then scanned at tills.
- Tagging assets that businesses own.
- On books, not only to price them but to easily find them
- On baggage labels, helping airlines track luggage.
- In hospitals, for patient identification and information such as allergies etc.
- 2D barcodes (QR Codes) used in printed media, read by smartphones for further information on articles.
- On airline boarding passes.
- On trees, helping to prevent illegal logging.
- EAN-13 – Worldwide retail. A 13 digit numerical number with the last being a check digit.
- EAN-8 – An 8 digit number and derived from EAN-13 for smaller items.
- Code 39- An alphanumeric codes, with an optional check digit.
Serial Number Controls vs Batch Numbers: Which is Best for You?
For inventory tracking, the two most common tracking options are; serial numbers and batch numbers. Both are effective in different areas, but understanding the differences will allow you to decide which is best for your business.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Serial Number?
Serial numbers are a unique set of identifiers that are assigned to individual items within a batch of products. Unlike batch numbers, serial numbers have a one-to-one relationship with each individual product so you can’t get two products with the same serial number.
How Do You Find a Serial Number?
These are often inconspicuously located on the back or bottom of electronic devices, as well as being printed on a label or engraved into the product. It’s usually listed as ‘Serial Number’, ‘Ser No’ or ‘SN’ to differentiate it from other product identification. Certain electronic items save their serial number on the device ROM so you can view it using the software. These can be located under ‘Settings’ or ‘About’ with ‘activation key’ another terminology for serial number.
What Are the Benefits of Serial Numbers?
In terms of inventory control, serial numbers provide you with a number of incredible benefits. Here’s a look at some of these.
1. Oversight and Stock Control
Serial number tracking allows the tracing of every individual item in your inventory from the time it’s delivered through to sale. Basically, it means that items can be identified down to individual components, so you don’t have to waste time searching through boxes or warehouses looking for parts. Serial numbers allow you to track what’s in stock at any time, prompting new orders and reassignment of stock where necessary.
2. Records and Regulation
Serial number tracking allows for necessary record-keeping and accuracy in case of external audits. Serial numbers also ensure compliance, which is particularly vital in highly regulated manufacturing industries with specific variants.
3. Product Details
Serial numbers provide you with specific information about the product such as colour, size, weight and configuration.
4. Identify Issues and Trends
Serial numbers allow you to pinpoint any particular item issues and address them quickly. They also allow you to identify which items are trending more than others. This guides you in stock for the future so that you’re not overspending.
Serial numbers assist in reducing shipping errors which can be critical for certain industries such as pharmaceutical and medical.
Having a serial number sequence helps with warranty claims as well as providing after-sales support. If an item is faulty and returned, you have all the information to provide your clients and customers with the necessary support. This is particularly true for complex products such as consumer electronics where the same parts are used in multiple makes and models before being phased out. Even for routine maintenance, being able to track the serial number allows for the matching of parts and products.
7. Product Recall
For manufacturers, it’s imperative to have serial numbers in case there’s any fault with the product and a recall is needed. Using serial numbers, you’re able to identify the faulty component and minimise the recall number, rather than having to recall all the stock from the factory. Serial numbers take it a step further and allow you to identify the actual production run, meaning you can isolate the production run with the fault.
8. Theft Protection
Another post-sale benefit of serial numbers is protecting your customers in the event of a theft. If a valuable item is stolen and recovered by the police, it can be linked back to its original owner and returned, provided the serial number is reported. The digital serial number, known as a Media Access Code, can also identify items and alert customers to stolen devices.
Which Products Use Serial Numbers?
The process of applying serial numbers can be very time-consuming as it’s required for each, individual product. For this reason, serial numbers are not used for certain fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) but rather technical merchandise. Here’s a look at some of the items.
The appliance industry relies heavily on serial number sequencing as this allows for easier location of parts. You simply have to input the number to find it on the manufacturer’s site. Everything from microwaves and stoves to washing machines and tumble dryers will come with a unique serial number.
Cars, trucks and all other manner of automobiles will come with a serial number known as a vehicle identification number (VIN). These have a total of 17 numbers and letters that are used to distinguish each automobile and are incredibly helpful for warranties, car recalls, registration of the vehicle, insurance and theft.
Serial numbers are able to identify laptops, tablets, cellphones and all other electronic devices which is helpful for tracking warranties and dealing with after-sales service. Serial numbers also provide insight into product compatibility, with codes indicating whether products are compatible with updated versions.
What to Remember When Using Serial Numbers
When using serial numbers for your products, you need to take note of a few elements:
What Is a Batch Number?
Batch numbers – also known as lot numbers, lot codes, or code numbers – are used for identifying a particular number of products with have common properties. So unlike serial numbers which are unique to each product, a number of similar products could have the same batch number. Batch numbers consist of a combination of numerical digits which are assigned to product groupings determined by the organiser. Companies might assign batch numbers based on location, manufacturing or expiration date.
What Are the Benefits of Batch Numbers?
1. Inventory Oversight
Batch numbers provide you with inventory tracking information on how the goods move in and out of your company.
2. Assist in Manufacture
Batch numbers allow for the categorisation of materials which helps with the manufacture of products. They also allow companies to classify finished goods for distributors or suppliers.
3. Spot Trends
Batch numbers allow you to note trends within specific groups that show if and why you’re generating a profit or a loss. You’ll also notice patterns such as repeat returns or defects from one batch.
4. Quality Assurance and Recall
Batch numbers allow for random batch testing as well as identifying defective items. In the event of a product recall, batch numbers mean you can easily track the products rather than recalling all manufactured items.
Government organisations may require batch and tracking numbers for particular products, so it’s best to check you’re remaining compliant.
Which Products Use Batch Numbers?
Batch codes are especially helpful when you have batches of products or if you manufacture and receive items in large quantities. Batch numbers allow for ease of location as the products are stored together. Some of the products most suited to batch numbers include:
Dye batch numbers are used to classify various types of fabric or clothing according to the colouration during the process. The reason being that, when mixing a new batch of dye, the colour will never be absolutely exact because factors such as dyeing time and temperature impact the shade of the colours.
Most national regulators require manufacturers to keep records of all fireworks imported for distribution, which means batch tracking numbers will be of assistance.
– Food and Beverage
Food and beverage manufacturers require batch tracking numbers such as best-by dates. This gives retail outlets an idea of when they should stop selling items. It’s also important for any product recalls as it shows when batches were produced together.
– Medical, Chemical and Pharmaceuticals
Likewise, all pharmaceuticals, medicines and chemicals will require batch tracking numbers to indicate when they should be used by. This was evident with Covid-19 vaccinations which had to be urgently administered before expiring.
What Is the Difference Between Batch and Serial Numbers?
The main difference between batch and serial numbers is that batch numbers are used for a group of products manufactured at the same time. Serial numbers are unique numbers assigned to specific items. Software systems are available to help you monitor these codes for better inventory management and forecasting. Contact Omni Accounts today to find out more about the latest tracking software.
What Are the Best Practices for Stock Control Optimisation?
One of the biggest balancing acts for manufacturing and retail industries is ensuring sufficient product availability for customers while minimising the risk of overstocking. Here’s a look at how you can optimise stock control to achieve this balance.
Inventory Optimisation vs Inventory Management
Just to touch on the terminology, it’s important to differentiate between inventory optimisation and inventory management.
However, it’s safe to say that the two do work together to ensure your business is running as cost-effectively as possible.
How Do You Optimise Stock Levels?
At the heart of it, stock optimisation is achieved through forecasting demand and then managing the supply variables within your particular inventory parameters. There are certain techniques that you can implement within your business to optimise stock levels, thereby lowering costs and boosting your productivity.
What Are the Best Practices in Inventory Optimisation?
Businesses that aren’t looking for ways to optimise inventory are missing out on massive cost-saving opportunities. With the development of digital techniques, it’s becoming much easier to optimise stock. Here are a few of the current best practices.
Internal communication within your business, as well as external communication with your supply chain partners, must be optimised to ensure collaboration. This will guarantee elements such as quality control are checked at every stage, with more efficient overall operations.
Consider a Just in Time (JIT) Inventory System
The JIT inventory system means having the right products and materials at the right place in the right quantity. This is a form of cost-minimising as you save on storage. To implement the JIT system, you need to develop strong relationships with suppliers, reduce your production cycles, improve quality control and implement accurate forecasting.
Track the Supply Chain
Modern businesses need to rely on up-to-date information across the supply chain so that everyone knows the location of the stock at all times. New technology – mobile devices, barcode scanners and tracking devices – all work to improve your tracking of the supply chain. This real-time data lets you know if something is wrong so it can be immediately rectified, and you can also identify cost-saving solutions through this overview.
Create an Inventory Plan
Using inventory optimisation software, you’re able to gather accurate data that can then be used to create an effective inventory optimisation plan. The data required will be your current inventory, lead time, standard costs, orders and Bill of Materials (BOM). By implementing a clear inventory plan you can be assured of standardisation across operations.
Use Consignment Inventory
To decrease the cost of inventory and optimise stock control, you can look at implementing consignment inventory so that a portion of your inventory is stored with your supplier until it’s sold. Online retailers often use consignment inventory, only buying the actual inventory when it’s been sold.
Manage Pipeline Inventory
For eCommerce retailers, in particular, pipeline inventory can be an area to reduce cost. During this stage, the stock is under the control of third parties, sometimes being imported across borders. By improving pipeline inventory, you’re minimising risks associated with missed orders, late deliveries, manufacturer mistakes and delivery delays.
Minimise Lead Time
This is the length of time it takes from ordering inventory to delivering the goods. When your lead time is too high, you’re holding onto safety stock and this leads to bigger holding costs for extra storage. To minimise your lead time, you have to develop strong supplier relations thereby negotiating faster lead times and improving flexibility for re-ordering.
Improve Inventory-holding Costs
Whether the stock is stored in your warehouse or by a third-party operator, it’s important that you practice efficient storage with better layouts, and updated handling equipment. Effective use of storage space is vital, but you can also look at alternatives to warehouse storage, such as third-party storage or vendor-managed options.
More Effective Forecasting
One of the most impactful stock control optimisation techniques is improving your forecasting – determining whether you need to increase or reduce stock levels. You can incorporate stock optimisation software to manage data from a variety of sources so that you’re benefiting from accurate forecasting. This will determine seasonal shifts in purchases and anticipate fluctuations in demand.
It’s important that you don’t remain complacent in your inventory optimisation, but rather constantly seek ways to make improvements. This will ensure you meet complex and ever-changing customer demands and keep up with competitors. It requires periodic reviews, running continuous improvement programmes, and reducing cycle and lead times. This can be done by establishing data-driven decision-making for the business.
What Are the Benefits of Stock Control Optimisation?
When you implement best practices for stock management and optimisation, you’ll immediately start reaping the benefits associated with enhanced storage. Here’s a look at a few of the benefits you can enjoy.
Lower Working Capital
You’re actively decreasing the amount of capital by lowering the amount of inventory stored. This provides you with sufficient financial savings that can be redirected elsewhere.
Reduce Turnaround Times
Using effective stock optimisation practices, you’re able to improve turnaround times through effective forecasting and minimising lead times. This results in less excess stock and the need to sell stock at reduced amounts later on.
With supply chain oversight, you’re improving operations by ensuring products are getting to customers on time. There are much more efficient operations as you’re not impacting the flow of products.
Your accurate forecasting and improved supply chain management mean that your customers get what they want when they want – which equates to a better customer experience. With optimised processes, you’re driving brand loyalty.
A system that works makes for a happier workplace. By following best practice for stock, your staff is confident in the knowledge that they’re selling the right products to the right people. They’re also empowered in tracking the product through supply chain transparency.
Contact Omni Accounts, leading suppliers of digital solutions that improve operations quickly and effectively. They can provide you with the ultimate stock control software that takes the hassle out of daily operations.
The Top 4 Business Benefits of Stock Control
Stock Control, also known as Inventory Control, is an important part of any business. It is used to keep track of how much stock you have at any one time, or commonly known as stock-on-hand. It applies to every raw material or part that you use in producing a good or service. It can be as small as a paper clip to as large as a truck engine! But the reality is that much of your business’s equity and cash-value is tied up in these stock items, and your efficiency is also heavily affected by having the correct amount of the correct product or part available at the correct time! Stock Control is a little like Goldilocks: not too much, not too little, but just right! The fluctuations of demand and supply can make perfect stock control a complicated goal to achieve. Below we explore the benefits for a business when inventory is professionally managed.
Powerful Stock Control has significant monetary benefits. This cost saving comes from a few different areas. If you are overstocked, your cash flow is unnecessarily tied up in inventory, when it could be earning you money in other areas of your business. In terms of under-stocking, not having a key item in stock can lead to lost customer sales, delays on key projects, expedited shipping costs and many other related cost implications. Good inventory management includes creating a strategy and analysing the business for fast, slow and critical stock keeping items (SKU’s). Here an automated accounting or ERP system that helps your business to powerfully manage your stock inventory is a critical partner in inventory management success.
Meeting customer demand quickly, efficiently and reliably is one of the cornerstones of creating customer loyalty. Customers need to be able to rely on you, in order for them to give your business their returning custom. Stock management helps to ensure that you have the right stock on hand at the right time; or should there be a gap, enable you to source the part quickly from one of your other branches or suppliers. Stock and sales analysis in your ERP software solution will also help you to analyse sales trends and cycles so as to better predict and prepare for future customer demand. If customers cannot get what they need from you in good time, they are very likely to look elsewhere. Good inventory planning and management tools are critical for your customer service levels.
Effective stock control software and processes allow you to watch the movement of your stock in real-time and drive real inventory optimisation for maximising profit and cash flow. The corresponding alerts on the minimum and maximum stock levels across your branches allows you to monitor the stock of your business as a whole, and not just isolated to the branches. This allows you to move stock between branches as and when is necessary, ensuring that you are not over-stocked or under-stocked on any particular item in any particular store or branch.
Increase Efficiency and Productivity
Stock management devices such as stock control software and bar-code scanners can drastically impact your efficiency and productivity. These tools help to mechanise and automate the stock process a great deal. From speeding up stock take-on’s to helping at POS (Point of Sale) to reduce the stock system upon sale, an excellent stock control system helps to ensure your staff are able to manage your stock as efficiently as possible. While manual stock counting, or physical audits, are still strongly advised to mitigate the risk of shrinkage or breakage, having an automated and digital stock control system overall gives you far greater control over, and understanding of your business and its stock. Further than that a well-run inventory management system also assists with operational decisions such as warehouse or store layouts. Inventory analysis allows you to place best-selling and compatible items together to optimise the fulfilment process, or motivate up-sales by placing tempting items for your customers next to best sellers to promote extra spend.
Controlling and optimising your inventory is core not only to your bottom line, but also to your ability to fulfil orders efficiently and satisfy your customers demands timeously. In a world where you often cannot control the supply chain of your stock items or materials, and predicting demand is still just that- a prediction, a powerful stock management system is a powerful tool in controlling, analysing and balancing your stock levels in an uncertain environment.
Why Stock Control is Important for eCommerce Success
Online shopping has been trundling along nicely for several years. Forward-thinking businesses adopted the inevitable shift to cyberspace and tweaked their processes accordingly. However, along came the Big C, which accelerated the shift to eCommerce and triggered a global leap into the online space.
So, now that we are here and have a growing digital footprint, we may need to rethink our processes and systems to accommodate this new way of doing business.
One factor that has come under scrutiny is that of stock control.
On the surface, one would think this is one of the more basic tasks associated with eCommerce success. Yet, it has proven problematic for many who are still finding their virtual feet online.
What is the Value of eCommerce Inventory Management?
Logic dictates that you need to know what you have available to be able to fulfil orders. In addition, having too much stock on hand can end up costing you money in storage fees or damages.
Stock control has always been seen as a job title or a dull task forced into every quarter. We want to change this to understand that controlling your stock, or stock management, is not a task as much as it is an essential business process.
Another factor to throw into the mix is how customers now engage online. Omni-channel marketing means that sales can come from several different platforms, and these need to tie seamlessly together.
With this in mind, the necessary steps to smart stock systems and effective inventory control systems become clearer.
Planning and Budgeting for Success
Effective stock management is not only about what you have in the storeroom. A critical element for business success lies in knowing what you have sold, over what period, and what is still gathering dust.
This takes us out of the realm of counting widgets and places us firmly in the world of knowing our customers and making smart purchasing decisions.
Anyone who has to balance the notoriously tricky task of planning and ordering stock with trying to accurately predict customer demand knows the struggle. Seasonal shopping habits are easier to predict after a year or two in business. But understanding buyer behaviour and how it relates to economic, political, and social elements is a science on its own.
Stock and Storage Costs
A warehouse or storage unit is a necessary part of eCommerce life but these costs can add up quietly over time. Carrying too much unnecessary inventory may eventually require a larger unit at higher costs, increasing security requirements, maintenance costs, and the added possibility of damages and theft.
If your products have a short shelf-life, such as fast-moving electronic goods, then you will find that the longer they sit in their boxes, the less valuable they become. This ongoing battle against depreciation is another matter that requires careful attention.
Finding the balance between storing what you need and having fast-moving stock readily available is key. And of course, this comes from analysing your eCommerce stats.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Our customers are more demanding now than ever before. They are more savvy and aware of the available technologies that keep the world turning. This means that they want it all, and they want it now, and there is very little wiggle room.
What does this look like as it relates to stock control and your eCommerce store?
Online shoppers are familiar with an Out of Stock sticker on a product. It’s frustrating, yes, but not a deal-breaker. Things tend to go south, though, when they place an order, pay for it, schedule delivery… and then get an email two days later saying that there is no stock. Now we’re dealing with refunds and trying to put out fires with an irate customer whose expectations weren’t met.
This is an excellent way to lose a customer.
It shows them that you are not on top of your business, that you aren’t aligned with your customers, and maybe erring on the side of unprofessional.
Poor inventory management can cost you sales and customers.
Effective Systems for Happy Customers
Having the correct stock procedures in place from the start of your eCommerce journey, and tying them into your CRM and accounting packages will save you so much time and significantly reduce your headaches. Automating essential systems just makes sense.
These systems do far more than just churning through the donkey work. Those of us who have had a brilliant online shopping experience know that what made us happy (besides the product itself) was that we were confident in the company.
Their website was professional and easy to navigate. Their checkout was simple and secure. Their communication was fast and accurate, and they kept us up to date with the entire order right up to delivery to our door. The complex array of automated inventory control linked into their accounting and banking system and integrated into their CRM tool, which all served to keep us apprised of our order.
Inventory Control Techniques for eCommerce
How can we best get a handle on the ebb and flow of our stock? As our eCommerce business starts to grow and we make use of different platforms and affiliates, how can we scale effectively so as not to drop the ball?
There are several techniques that you can choose from depending on your product. It’s worth exploring these to see what makes sense for you.
This inventory control technique focuses attention on understanding the value of your products as they relate to your business. While some items may be worth more than others in monetary terms if you only sell one every quarter. They aren’t as valuable to you as the faster moving low ticket items.
This technique is loosely based on the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule), which, in commerce, translates into 20% of your products accounting for 80% of your income. Analysing your products carefully will allow you to divide your entire stock into three main segments, highlighting which products affect your business the most.
This gives you the information you need to focus your attention on what needs constant restocking, what to keep a close eye on, and what you may want to discontinue.
Set Par Levels
Setting par levels is a simpler technique and is usually based on sales history. Essentially this system entails setting a minimum stock level for a particular product, at which point it needs reordering.
The beauty of this process is that it provides a straightforward structure that anyone can follow when the need arises. There is no complex hierarchy; orders can be placed immediately on high-priority items by anyone in the organization without requiring them to adhere to an ordering procedure.
It’s wise to regularly re-evaluate this to ensure that your information is still current and relevant to your upcoming business goals.
What About Inventory Optimisers?
We love tech, and with the advent of AI, it seems that nothing is impossible. Several software tools are available to assist you in finding that elusive balance between over and understocking.
For example, certain systems will analyse your historical data, taking into account your lead times, budget, and safety stock levels. These insights allow it to spit out useful information on the best time to order products, volume suggestions, and seasonal factors.
Other enhancements could include discount recommendations based on time of year or stock levels. This information can aid in moving older stock before it depreciates and clearing our valuable warehouse space.
Now, wouldn’t that be useful to you?
The Simple Necessity of Stock Control Systems
The purpose of being in business is to make money and create a stable income that can withstand the economic pendulum of our current world. Growing your business is one thing, but ensuring that your stock control systems are up to the task of scaling with the rest of your business needs to come under the spotlight.
With the right inventory management plan, you will quickly see when you are understocked and cannot fulfil orders or when you’re overstocked and haemorrhaging money on storage and depreciation.
With the best automated systems, you are well on the way to a seamless and accurate system that allows you to keep your finger firmly on the pulse of your business and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
This plan, linked with your smart accounting and CRM systems, creates an eCommerce success story. Contact our team for more information.
What are Barcodes used for?
Barcodes are used in hundreds of different areas of modern life. Their ability to improve efficiency and reduce errors means their use improves cost-efficiency. Additionally, barcode labels are fairly inexpensive to produce so it is not surprising that increasingly barcodes are finding their way into many aspects of everyday life. Below are a few examples of the way in which barcodes are being used.
Almost all products now have a barcode that allows them to be tracked. This can range from just a simple stock code to more detailed information regarding shelf life and warranties. Barcodes on food products can now be scanned using a mobile app that provides detailed information on ingredients and nutritional value.
Barcodes have enabled huge companies such as Walmart and Amazon to streamline all aspects of their business from managing their supply chain through to sophisticated tracking of the delivery of goods to their customers.
Entertainment and Travel
Barcodes are now used on tickets to many entertainment events, such as cinemas or shows. The barcode is scanned which checks the validity of the ticket. Barcodes are used extensively by airlines on air tickets and boarding passes. Often boarding passes containing a barcode can be printed by the customer themselves, reducing costs to the airlines.
QR Codes at bus stops and railway stations can be used to provide up to date information about time tables and connections.
Many adverts in a large variety of media now contain a barcode in the form of a QR Code (a 2D barcode). The QR code can be scanned, typically by a mobile device, to provide more detailed information about the product or service being advertised. QR Codes can be used to also link to videos that provide marketing or technical information. They are often used to link customers to a film trailer. Some businesses use them on business cards which, when scanned on a mobile device, takes the person directly to the company website.
QR Codes on For Sale signs provide contact details for the agent as well as a link to more information on property for sale.
There are mobile apps that allow you to scan the barcode on the food you eat and the app will then use the information to track your food intake, thus providing a food diary.
In hospitals, barcodes control the inventory of medication and equipment as allowing access to patients and their families. The margin of error is greatly reduced and information is updated accessed quickly.
In certain countries, a unique national timber-tracking system has been implemented which means that every legally harvestable tree and every cut log carries a barcode. This means that it can then be tracked from its source to its final destination. End users can then be assured that the timber they buy is legally from a sustainable source.
Recycle Bins have been barcoded providing the ability to provide incentive-based recycling.
Barcodes on clothing tags can provide information on the material used, country of origin, and sustainable manufacturing processes.
Barcodes may well be a real help when used in the ongoing effort to ensure products are sustainably manufactured.
Libraries have used QR codes for quite a long time. However, in Austria, a city has built a public library with nothing but QR codes, NFC and stickers.
QR Codes next to paintings or sculptures in museums and galleries will provide information about the actual items being exhibited.
At the bottom of magazine articles leading the reader to more information on the subject.
Schools and universities use barcodes to control assets as well and
In certain countries such as China and India, QR codes are used to facilitate payments. The codes are used to store credit card or bank account information. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin use QR codes to store transaction information, payment addresses, and cryptographic keys to share with digital wallets and support payments.
Payment options such as Zapper use QR codes to facilitate the payment process. ERP software can embed QR Codes in invoices and quotes thereby providing easy options for payment.
QR Codes can be used to provide discount vouchers or special offers.
Just from the few examples provided above, it is obvious that the use of barcodes is widespread. With the rapid increase in technology and the advent of IoT (Internet of Things), their use will continue to increase.
What is Inventory?
Inventory (also referred to as stock) can be defined as the products or items which are sold by a business or used to manufacture products that are then sold.
In a manufacturing business, inventory falls into three main categories: raw materials, finished goods and work in progress (WIP). Raw Materials are the items that will be used to manufacture finished goods. Finished goods are items that are the result of the manufacturing process. Work in Progress refers to the raw materials which are currently being used in the manufacturing process.
In a retail or wholesale business, there is normally simply just inventory or stock which is purchased and then resold.
There are two main aspects of Inventory Management. The first aspect is to ensure that there is enough stock to fulfil customer orders as well as any manufacturing processes which might be needed to fulfil these orders. The second aspect is to ensure that the stock holding is not excessive, too expensive or unnecessary. A key stock holding level to aim for is an optimum level.
In summary, inventory control is the processes utilised to maximize a business’s use of inventory. The goal of inventory control is to generate the maximum profit from the least amount of inventory investment without intruding upon customer satisfaction levels.
Inventory is classified as an asset in a business and as such, needs to be carefully managed. A major part of a business’s cash resources can be tied up in its stock holding.
Ensuring that the products that a business sells are available without being overstocked are critical. Being unable to fulfil a customer’s order results in lost revenue and often in a lost customer. On the other hand, having too much stock ties up cash resources, can result in issues with warehouse space and, depending on the product, may risk stock write-offs due to expiry dates being reached.
Inventory purchases should be carefully managed. Buying in bulk or from a single supplier can reduce delivery costs and attract volume discounts. However, the cost of the purchases, as well as delivery lead times, need to be taken into account as suppliers have different prices and lead times.
Stock shrinkage or wastage should also be carefully monitored as this is effectively an asset write off and impacts the profitability of a business.
In a business that has a large stock holding, it is important that stock is easily located and obtained to ensure that customers’ orders are quickly and efficiently picked. Warehouse space is expensive and efficient storage is essential to maximise space usage.
Knowing exactly what the cost is of the inventory a business sells is critical to determine what the selling price should be in order for the business to be profitable. It is rarely as simple as just putting a mark-up on a cost price.
How can Inventory Control software help?
Unless a business is able to track inventory at every stage: procurement, storage, work in progress and sales, it is impossible to effectively manage all the different aspects of Inventory Control. All of these areas are interdependent and inefficiencies in any area will cause problems in all the other areas.
Most of the problems listed below will be solved by having an Inventory Management software system that is part of an ERP solution.
Inventory Control software helps to ensure data is entered once into the system and then all aspects of controlling inventory are updated. For example, capturing customer sales orders results in stock levels being checked and shortages highlighted. Once supplier purchase orders are captured, this information is reflected as being stock that is on order. With all of this information and having minimum and optimum stock levels per product, suggested purchase orders can be extracted and production schedules can be worked out. In a manufacturing environment Material Planning Requirement (MRP) reports and information can be extracted. Using costs on supplier invoices, costs prices are kept up to date, ensuring that Gross profit (GP) margins are correct. Using historical information, slow-moving and bestselling products are identified. This is a basic example of some of the advantages of an Inventory Control system.
Multiple Sales Channels
In today’s world, many businesses have multiple sales channels. Orders may be received from the business website (Ecommerce), telephonically, EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), email and Point of Sale (POS) just to mention the common channels. Trying to manage all of these different channels without an Inventory Control system is extremely difficult if not impossible. It becomes vitally important to handle these different sales channels in an integrated manner.
High-value products and products carrying warranties will be tracked with a unique serial number. Most of these serial numbers are barcoded. Trying to manage these types of inventory products without an Inventory Control system would be extremely difficult. Many products have batch or lot numbers, often with expiry dates. Furthermore, raw materials are tracked with these batch or lot numbers. In many sectors, such as retail, food and beverage, manufacturing, health care and more, it is a requirement to track the batch numbers of raw materials which were used in the manufacture of a product. An Inventory Control system will manage serial and batch number tracking, giving full control and the ability to track all raw materials and finished goods.
“The goal is not to improve one measurement in isolation. The goal is to reduce operational expenses AND reduce inventories and increase throughput simultaneously” – Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Omni Accounts offers inventory control functionality which is fully integrated. Omni Accounts offers a flexible and scalable inventory control solution that is suitable for businesses of all types and sizes.
What are barcodes?
Wikipedia defines barcodes as ‘A barcode (also bar code) is an optical, machine-readable, representation of data; the data usually describes something about the object that carries the barcode. Traditional barcodes systematically represent data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines. Barcodes are also known as UPC codes.
Barcodes are typically applied to items to enable them to be quickly identified when read by a barcode reader or scanner. The software also enables devices such as smartphones to read barcodes.
Why use Barcodes?
Barcodes speed up the process of manually entering codes into software applications. Barcodes also greatly reduce the error factor that is inherent in any manual capture of data. They provide the ability for greater automation in many areas of commerce and manufacturing. Some of the areas that barcodes are extensively used are in Point of Sale software systems, where they improve speed and accuracy at the till point.
What can Barcodes be used for?
Barcodes are used in an ever-increasing variety of areas in everyday life. Some of the most common uses are:
Some other areas where barcodes are used are:
Types of Barcodes
There are different kinds of barcodes for different purposes and these are called symbologies. These are standards that define the format of the barcode and how the barcode will be read by scanning devices. Some linear barcode symbologies are:
There are also industry standards, for which there may be a few symbologies. Some examples of the standards are:
Barcodes on stock items
Each barcode on a stock item should be unique to that item. In order to control this, barcodes are governed by GS1 which is an organisation that has multiple member organisations globally. These GS1 Barcodes members allocate barcodes to companies and these are usually paid for with an annual subscription.
Implementing Barcodes in your business
There are a few very important questions that initially need to be answered. The answers will define the type of bar code you use and also what devices you will require.
- Are the barcodes on the products you purchase from your supplier?
- Are the barcodes for products you manufacture in order to sell?
- Do you wish to use barcodes for internal codes and stock tracking?
You may have a scenario of more than one of these requirements.
Barcodes on purchased items
If you need to be able to read barcodes on products you purchase, then you will need barcode scanners that handle barcodes for the type of products you are purchasing. In most cases, these will be the EAN-13 type barcodes. You may use barcodes to speed up handling deliveries from your suppliers as well as using them when selling to your customers. You may wish to print shelf teaser labels that contain the items’ barcodes, in which can you will need a printer capable of printing this kind of label.
Barcodes on manufactured products for resale
In this case, you will need to purchase the barcodes from a GS1 member organisation. This will ensure that your barcodes are totally unique. The type of barcode you chose will depend on the type of products that you are manufacturing. You will need barcode printers, to print your labels, taking into consideration the size of the label and environment (for example, does it need to be waterproof). You will also need scanners to read your barcode labels. The most common barcode symbology used is EAN-13.
Barcodes for internal use
If the barcodes are solely for internal use and will not be read outside of your organisation, then you do not need to purchase barcodes from a GS1 member organisation. You can set up your own coding structure and codes and use a symbology such as Code 39. You will need scanners and printers which can read these barcode types.
Barcodes for external and internal use
If you use a combination of barcode symbologies in your business (for example EAN-13 and Code 39), then you must ensure that your scanners can read all the different types of barcode labels. You optimally want to be able to use the same scanners to scan all items. In the same way, you need to be able to print all the different barcode labels.
The type of scanner you require will depend on the environment and the application. Some scanners are not suited to heavy-duty or dirty conditions. The size of the barcode is also a consideration, not all scanners can read very small barcode labels. Scanners are often connected to a keyboard or USB port and there are also scanners for doing stock takes, for example, which are not connected to anything and once all the scanning is completed, the data is uploaded to a computer via a USB connection.
The type of printer will depend on the type of barcode label being printed. Some printers are not capable of printing very small barcode labels that are readable by a scanner. The print quality also needs to be good enough to be read by a scanner. Sometimes special barcode printers must be used, especially if the label has to be weatherproof. In these cases, thermal printers are often recommended. It’s very important to check that the barcode labels you print can be read by your barcode scanners.
Barcodes can improve the efficiency of your business but adequate time needs to be spent considering all the requirements, researching and sourcing the hardware you will require and planning your barcode codes and types. Making hasty ill-informed decisions may end up costing you time and money and compromising the success of the use of barcodes in your business. This article is not intended as an in-depth guide but rather as an overview of what is, a fairly complex subject.
Omni Accounts handles barcodes on stock, allowing the uses of barcode scanning in all areas where stock transactions are processed. The ability to print barcodes is also available, but bear in mind that for certain types of barcodes and printers special fonts may be required.