The Inventory Mentor

Jul 07, 2020


What to consider when choosing an inventory or warehouse solution

What to consider when choosing an inventory or warehouse solution

Warehouse and inventory management are two crucial functions found in most supply chain companies. The competitive landscape is fierce, so it should be every business owner's desire and ambition to get these two functions as streamlined and automated as possible. 

Whats in this article?

Identifying the need

Product research and investigation

Finding the right partner

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Warehouse and inventory management are two crucial functions found in most supply chain companies. The competitive landscape is fierce, so it should be every business owner's desire and ambition to get these two functions as streamlined and automated as possible. 

In a recent article, we provided much food for thought on using solutions like spreadsheets to manage your inventory and warehouse. We explained why this is not sustainable or scalable for any business that intends to grow. We’ve collaborated on this article with Warehouse Management experts Cquential where we unpack symptoms that could indicate it's time to look for a fit for purpose system in your warehouse and inventory divisions. This article will explore factors to take into consideration when investigating the vast number of tools and applications that are available so that you can make the right choice for your business.

Identifying need

Let's start by looking at your current systems and processes. 

At NETSTOCK we suggest that by answering the questions below in relation to what your existing inventory solution does or doesn't provide, will determine whether you have a need that is currently not being met.

WMS1

Now that you have a better understanding of your inventory management needs, let’s move on to look at your current warehouse management systems and see if they meet the mark.

Warehouse management experts, Cquential , provides some useful questions that you should be asking to help identify whether you have a need for a fit for purpose warehouse management solution.

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At this stage you have most likely identified the need for one or both solutions - where to from here? There is a massive selection of available products, so it's imperative that you have a solid plan in place before you begin. It's critical to involve all the heads of your divisions, not only your warehouse and inventory management. Sales and marketing will have useful contributions to make, especially on the inventory management system requirements. Collaboration and communication are key.

Product research and investigation

Integration and technology

Your ERP system is the foundation of your finance and operations and should be factored in. Of course, if you are not satisfied with your existing ERP, that is an entirely different scenario, but if you are, you would ultimately want to choose solutions that already have an integration to your ERP. Even if your ERP is an on-premise ERP, it's wise to consider cloud-based tools when managing your warehouse and inventory. Cloud-based systems not only cut down on your IT expenses, but they give your staff 24/7 access to your operations. As we have all seen with the COVID19 pandemic, being able to carry on business functions remotely is of utmost importance. 

Product selection

You have narrowed down your choice of platform to cloud-based solutions and identified the players in the market for these solutions, now you can go deeper into product features, functionality, and capabilities. 

By answering the questions below, you should be able to eliminate some products from your list and be left with a few to investigate further.

wms2

Finding the right Solution Partner

By now, you probably have one of two possible product offerings that fit your requirements and budget. The next step is to select a Partner that you can work with to provide the implementation, training, and ongoing service and support.  

Many product vendors deal directly with the end customer, but if they don't and instead use a partner network, they should be able to make recommendations. They know their partners' strengths and weaknesses and can recommend ones they feel would be a good fit for you in your industry and your company culture. If this is not an option, get online and research partners for yourself.

Most partners will have online demos, but consider asking for a personal demo either online or physical if time and location permits. Keep your requirements gathering simple at this stage. A full-blown set of system specifications takes a significant amount of time, effort, and skill to put together. You can delve into the detail later when you have narrowed down your list of options. 

Take the following into account and rate them accordingly:

wms4

The way the demonstration is handled pre, during, and post, will be a direct representation of what you can expect if you were to select them as your partner. Although this is not a necessity, it will help if your chosen partner has the same outlook towards running a business that you do. How do they approach customers? Are they proactive? How do they communicate? How agile or rigid are they? Do your business objectives align with theirs?

The final step is to firm up on your full set of system specifications. Make sure that these are thoroughly identified and agreed upon and that the partner can deliver on them. Select an employee that will be dedicated to managing the full project. Not only from the implementation and sign off but also from the entire change management process with users and all relevant stakeholders. If you put the right steps in place, with a well-thought-out project plan, there should be few disruptions to your business. 

Once your users have settled into the new systems, and you start to see the dramatic improvements in efficiencies as well as the financial ROI and time savings, you will wonder how you ever operated without your new tools and technology.

Unsure of where to start or what solution you might need?  Book a discovery call with one of our inventory experts and let's investigate your options together!

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