Automated inventory management solutions can be vital in helping companies improve accuracy and output. Businesses that produce or distribute controlled substances or products in exceptionally high demand need them to reduce inventory errors and keep things operating smoothly. However, some decision-makers initially balk at having employees use inventory management software.
Many resist change and find it difficult to see why doing things differently could bring major advantages. As a case in point, a 2020 survey found only 6% of respondents had fully digitized production sites. That’s probably because business leaders don’t always realize automating parts of the workflow could be easier than they think.
Statistics suggest employees spend more than 30% of their work hours reviewing documents. However, that task is usually easy to automate. People can typically input desired parameters into specialized software. The program flags the responsible parties for further review if a digital document doesn’t meet them.
Here’s a closer look at why today’s business leaders often choose products to help their companies pursue automated inventory management.
Automated Inventory Management Increases Business Competitiveness
Various things may cause business leaders to give automated inventory management tools a try. However, the desire to stay or become more competitive is typically at the heart of their intentions. Committing to reducing inventory errors can have far-reaching and long-lasting effects.
Inventory accuracy means minimizing the difference between recorded and actual amounts. Many sources recommend companies aim for at least 97% inventory accuracy. Achieving percentages of more or less than that benchmark can have a corresponding effect on profits. However, the impacts don’t end there.
Consider if a company makes a major inventory-tracking mistake that requires customers to wait weeks for items to ship when they’re accustomed to receiving them in a few days. Some affected clients might stick around, but many would likely start looking elsewhere for more-dependable options.
Inventory management software can also minimize unnecessary resource reliance. Manual counts are generally extremely time-intensive. They may require temporary business shutdowns, paying people overtime, or hiring more short-term employees to get the job done. However, software with automated features can often dramatically shorten the time it takes to do the job well.
Poor inventory management can also mean a company’s workforce does not spend its time optimally. Warehouse team members might use hours or minutes to look for inventory that the system shows as available. If they can’t find it, they’ll probably contact supervisors, pulling other workers away from their duties. Such inventory errors may also involve customer service agents contacting the affected parties. They’ll need to explain why the items will arrive late or not at all.
Efforts to Reduce Inventory Errors Help Companies Run Smoothly
Many people don’t initially grasp how inventory mistakes span beyond blunders such as counting items twice or overlooking them, resulting in inaccurate numbers. It’s essential to build precautions into the workflow to minimize problems.
That might mean having all workers refresh their training at specific intervals and ensuring the company’s onboarding process is robust and applicable. Implementing inventory forecasting is also necessary, especially since it can help company leaders spot trends and respond to them appropriately before it’s too late.
Some people also forget that using the wrong warehouse-picking method for the task at hand can result in more errors. Thus, changing current processes may help manage mistakes, pinpointing where and why things go wrong.
However, business leaders often find investing in automated platforms is one of the most substantial things they can do to keep inventory counts accurate. That’s because most of these technological solutions provide real-time updates. Warehouse management systems (WMS) support automation efforts, too. One footwear company achieved a 70% inventory accuracy rise by using one.
Users can also set reorder triggers through automated inventory management products. That way, if a particular product gets down to a predefined level, stock replenishment can happen automatically with little or no human input. That’s vital, especially with so many employees managing increasingly heavy workloads. Even the most conscientious humans make mistakes. Automation is not foolproof but can reduce inventory errors by providing critical preventive measures.
Automated Inventory Management Software Can Help Power Robots
Decision-makers are increasingly interested in inventory management software options that support their robotics deployments. Home improvement retailer Lowe’s was an early adopter of this strategy when it unveiled the LoweBot in 2016. The machine roamed store aisles to help monitor inventory levels and assisted customers by helping them find specific products. The robot’s concept emerged when brand representatives envisioned a future where items are always in stock and ready for purchase.
Other companies have followed Lowe’s lead. Busy Beaver Building Centers Inc. has 25 home improvement stores across three states. Following a successful pilot, the company recently brought inventory-management robots to more of its stores.
Before company leaders began using them, team members spent more than 80 hours every week doing manual inventory checks. It’s easy to see why the switch to robots should reduce inventory errors and give people more time to engage in other duties. Now, the high-tech machines scan all shelves and planograms each night. They create associated reports that only take people 30-40 minutes to study.
Sam’s Club is another brand that recently increased its usage of inventory management software through robotic deployment. The company has used automatic floor-cleaning machines at its locations since 2020. It gave the floor cleaners a second job by mounting inventory scanners to them.
The scanners collect data about stock levels, price accuracy, and whether items occupy the correct shelf spaces. It compiles that information and sends it to supervisors. Company leaders anticipate this change will give employees more time to focus on customers while ensuring stores keep items in stock as much as possible.
Automated Inventory Management Can Improve Employee Workflows and Morale
Company leaders that decide to purchase automated inventory management software often find it directly affects employee motivation and satisfaction. Incorrect inventory counts can make it hard for workers to stay productive, making them feel like they’re wasting their time and never getting into a smooth flow with their efforts.
Automated inventory management is critical for tracking tightly controlled substances, such as in healthcare settings. One recently announced a cloud-based product that can automatically identify and follow the locations of individual syringes of propofol. It’s a drug often used in sedation and general anesthesia. The offering relies on prefilled syringes of propofol plus RFID tags.
The company founder said that while in the hospital ICU department with his daughter, he watched medical professionals administer anesthesia medications with hand-labeled syringes. That made him wonder if there was a better way. This option makes clinicians’ jobs easier because they no longer have to use syringes to pull the drug from vials. That’s a tricky and ergonomically unfriendly task.
The data from this solution goes beyond inventory counts and the locations of individual syringes. It can also help pharmacy staff members tell if any doses are out of date or about to expire. That feature boosts patient safety and gives healthcare providers more time to focus on direct care of the people under their supervision rather than getting tied up in the intricacies of medication management.
Most Warehouse Employees Say Automation Helps Them
Automation can be a touchy subject. It’s often initially hard for people to see how it may help them and is not necessarily an automatic threat to their jobs. In 2022, researchers interviewed warehouse workers and supervisors in multiple countries. Employees answered three questions, while supervisors responded to two. The goal was to determine how people felt about automation and how they believed it impacted their work.
Sentiment analysis showed that attitudes toward automation were about 60% positive, and 40% had negative feelings about it. People felt hopeful about automation making them more productive, able to do higher-quality work, and safer. However, workers feared that automation would make them lose their jobs and livelihoods.
Those worries are understandable, especially for people in relatively low-skilled roles. Automation solutions typically excel in repetitive tasks. That’s why it makes sense for many decision-makers to invest in automated inventory management options. Tasks like counting and reviewing stock levels can quickly become monotonous, making it easier for people to lose focus or become bored.
Bringing automation into the work can fix some of those issues. Still, managers should take time to clarify what the technology will and won’t do. It’s also helpful if they call attention to how automation may help people enjoy their work more or reduce their risk of injuries and fatigue.
It often takes leaders time to decide they’ll invest in automation software. Similarly, the workers affected by that choice need the space, support, and encouragement to realize that switching to automation for some parts of the workflow could be great.
Automated Inventory Management Products Raise Accuracy Levels
People that recognize the need to reduce inventory errors don’t always understand how those mistakes can happen due to various shortcomings. Sometimes, employees don’t have enough training or deal with overly heavy workloads. In other cases, inefficient processes exist within unrelated parts of company operations, and the adverse effects eventually spread to inventory counts.
Automated inventory management software is often user-friendly and customizable. Many products are also scalable, making them suitable as business requirements evolve.
Automated inventory management products are not immediate or all-encompassing fixes for these realities. However, they’re worth exploring, especially since so many of the leading options are purpose-built to meet the needs of modern companies.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Kampus Production; Pexels; Thank you!
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