When it comes to inventory management, there has been a significant shift in the way warehouses operate today and the future holds even greater changes. It is certainly an exciting time for inventory management as the evolution is rapidly changing.
Manual inventory management
In most warehouses, the days of pens, paper and spreadsheets are coming to a close. Manual data entry is arduous and subject to human error. Doing a stock take with manual mechanisms took a substantial amount of time. Very few processes were automated and sharing information was difficult. Version control was risky because different spreadsheets got saved in different locations and old data could fall into a team member’s hands. Looking back, it seems primitive and laborious. Now with the technology available, these processes are antiquated.
Read about the 10 ways spreadsheets let you down.
The introduction of the barcode
Inventory management has seen a shift towards more automation during stock take procedures. Barcode scanning and tracking is a swift and efficient way of tracing products and has helped change the way a business managed the stock take process in a warehouse. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive and easy for businesses, small and large, to adopt into their processes. Barcode scanning made inventory tracking more streamlined. However, the information from the barcode was still entered into computers manually for quite some time.
Adoption of radio frequency identification
Radio frequency identification (RFID) came into the inventory management game in the early 2000s. RFID uses a microchip to send information about a specific product. It sends data about the product type, which manufacturer it came from, and the serial number code. The data collected from an RFID gets sent to a data collection centre. It eliminated the need for manual input from staff. The data lives in a live data centre where products can be tracked in real-time. This lets warehouse managers can ensure that products are available. This technology also makes for a more accurate stock take in the warehouse.
Leveraging the cloud
The cloud has provided an entirely new platform for inventory management. Not only can data be accessed in real-time, but it can be accessed from any location, on any device, with internet. Team members can readily access more information and communication across departments is enhanced with the cloud. Online inventory management has optimised data management and helped maintain inventory levels. Since the stock can be tracked in real-time, the computers can identify when stock levels are low and place automatic orders to suppliers. This keeps systems running smoothly and prevents delays.
Drones and robots
The era of automation and optimisation is just beginning. Drones and robots in the warehouse are starting to conduct basic warehouse tasks. This is a rapidly changing sector of inventory management and it will likely be adopted and become mainstream over the coming years. Drones and robots can do the monotonous work that were previously delegated to humans. They can locate products, conduct a stock take and send data directly to the online inventory management system. The applications of drones and robots will certainly evolve with the rest of the inventory management industry.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.