Inventory Management for Manufacturing 4.0
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published February 05, 2021
Inventory management has been a big challenge for manufacturers large and small in the past year. Traditional and older systems are proving inefficient as new demands arise, with delays in deliveries and supply availabilities often a mystery. Some of the biggest challenges in inventory management can be mitigated through simple communication, new technology, and sustaining that process for progressive manufacturing needs into the future.
Getting Inventory on Track
Every manufacturer needs quality, accuracy, speed, and efficiency to improve its bottom line. It’s also essential for reliable supply chain integration for industry 4.0. The state of the supply chain industry's future hinges on avoiding disruption and remaining competitive. After visibility and fluctuating consumer demand, inventory management is among the biggest challenges in the supply chain, according to Statista.com. Yet, data shows that 43% of small businesses do not track inventory or use a manual process, according to a 2017 small-business report by Wasp Barcode Technologies. How can a manufacturer expect those keys for a better bottom line to somehow fall into place without getting inventory management up to par?
“Making the inventory management process more effective for manufacturers requires pulling in complete operational data. That’s what an ERP (enterprise resource planning) is for,” said Striven Marketing Manager Scott Hammer. Striven is an all-in-one business software that provides industrial solutions for inventory, forecasting, accounting, and more.
An example of thorough and customized ERP can be seen in the food industry, Hammer said, where FDA compliance is crucial for public health and safety. Food processors need detailed records about where their inventory (ingredients, packaging materials, etc.) originates. Traceability from the processing facility back to the farm is essential in issuing a recall. A thorough inventory tracking system would hold data that could identify the source of a problem and make the recall quicker and efficient, he said.
“A company’s operations must be linked directly, and completely, with the way it manages inventory, or else it risks undercutting both process and results,” Hammer said. “Manufacturers with better information access can make more insightful decisions about how much of something they plan to produce. If you can capture that data and integrate that bigger picture with deft inventory management, you can begin to unlock new opportunities to drive efficiency and profitability.”
Inventory Management and Support
Manufacturing and inventory—now and in the future—need digital resources for inventory management, from raw materials and unfinished products to in-transit and cycle inventory. ERP is a digital partner in inventory reduction as well as Kanban. It also helps with forecasting and compliance, maintenance repair, and operations—essentially hurdling some of the top inventory management challenges, such as inconsistent tracking, quality control, and changing demand. Not all inventory needs are the same, so the software can be dynamic. This carries a manufacturer into the future for seamless transfer of data to shareholders as well as various parts of the supply chain.
There are four inventory tools that help with management now and in the future:
- Automation: Spend less time than when using manual inventory tools. Mobile and remote options are in use in hundreds of top-tier facilities.
- Accurate Reporting: Real-time and finite data is essential for quality production and averting inventory roadblocks.
- Barcoding Systems: Elevate the barcode game with industrial-grade tools and supplies for assignment, scanning, and managing inventory.
- Software Integration: Supply chain integration relies on software and processes that are dynamic and work seamlessly together for multiple facility tracking and collaboration.
Create an efficient end-to-end supply chain to support the growth of the business overall. Companies that have goals of becoming a next-gen link in the supply chain need adequate tools and support for success. Implementing technology and utilizing visual communication tools are a large part of digital transformation that can progress and keep up with the times, potentially avoiding disruption. Signs and labels are an excellent accessory to maximize digital inventory management for overall safety and efficiency from start to finish in manufacturing. QR codes can help make tracking consistent, with uniform data to increase accuracy, visibility, and master modern supply chain complexities.
Companies that want to scale will need a more robust option. Hammer says the future of inventory management will involve more machine and human interface in software. “Just look at the way inventory management happens now versus 10 years ago,” he said. “Back then, you never would have given an employee in your warehouse a hand-held device that essentially does everything. We’re only headed more in that direction. Software development really works when you have a talented, agile, and flexible development team that’s informed by market demands, proper R&D, and confident leadership. I suppose that describes the formula for any successful technology, but I have to stress how important the people and company culture are to the process.”