Inventory Management Software Features
Inventory Management Software Features
1. Why You Need Inventory Management
- Reduce Inventory Errors
- Reduce Carrying Costs
- Reduce Out of Stock Inventory
- Increase Supply Chain Accuracy
- Improve Planning/Forecasting
- Optimize Fulfillment
- Streamline Production
3. Inventory Management Software Features
- Number of Users
- Offline Access
- Cloud Based
- Order Management
- Sales Processing
- Customer and Supplier Data
- Barcoding & Scanning
- Real-Time Metrics
- Improved Warehousing
4. Inventory Management Integrations
- Warehouse Management System (WMS)
- Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
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3. Inventory Management Software Features
Today’s clothing inventory management solutions generally come with out-of-the-box functionality. They don’t take a lot of time to import data from your legacy systems so your team can get up-and-running quickly. There are often customization features to meet your unique needs.
What do these clothing inventory management systems come with? Let’s look at standard features, one at a time:
Number of Users
A good inventory management system means nothing if the right people don’t have access. Before you begin discussions with vendors, think about how many users will need access to the system. When thinking about how many employees need access to inventory management software, include anyone handling inventory. Someone in finance and accounting will most likely be using it as well.
Keep in mind for many of the features below, additional users come at a cost. Cloud-based solutions typically charge a monthly fee based on the number of users and level of functionality desired.
Tracking your inventory is tedious, slow and difficult if you’re doing it manually. As your business takes you to new places, you’ll open up new warehouses or new sales channels. Apparel manufacturers and retailers who want to scale quickly need tools to help automate data and make this growth possible.
Clothing inventory management software should adapt to the needs of an expanding organization. You may choose licensed software purchase or a subscription-based, hosted SaaS solution. Make sure you select one that doesn’t have to be reconfigured every time your business needs evolve and your sales increase.
Powerful inventory management tools allow your warehouse employees and field technicians to manage supply, track and control orders and stock at all times. “In the cloud” apps and mobile devices make this possible. However, cloud computing leaves businesses at the mercy of their Internet connection.
Unreliable cell phone and Internet service in large warehouses and off-the-grid locations shouldn’t hurt productivity. Don’t let dead spots impact production efficiency or inventory turnover; make sure your inventory management solution has an “offline” mode that allows offline changes and updates. Once a Wi-Fi or cellular network becomes available, the data should sync to your online/cloud database and update across all locations.
Today, business systems that once existed only on “on-premesis” computers are now offered as cloud-based services.
“The cloud,” in case you’ve not been paying attention, refers to databases, servers and processes that are accessed over the Internet. Cloud servers can be located in data centers all over the world. This means businesses don’t have to manage physical servers or run software applications on their own machines.
If your apparel business includes multiple locations/business units, moving inventory management processes to the cloud may make sense. It will give you the power to access your data anywhere, track inventory levels in real-time, and let your team manage sales and orders from one online interface.
Cloud-based system backups and software updates involve fewer in-house IT resources. However, if proper security precautions aren’t undertaken, your business data could be at risk if a data breach occurs.
Fashion inventory is constantly changing, as sellers replace last year’s hot items with this season’s “must have” items. Your inventory’s product mix is always changing, and it takes a modern order management system to keep up.
Deciding how much to reorder and deciding when to reorder are where things get tricky. Since new products make up much (or most) of the typical apparel company’s catalog, there’s no sales history. This makes accurate presales forecasts difficult. If there’s no way to generate a forecast using the SKU sales history, what do you do?
Apparel merchandise usually has short product life cycles. You don’t have much of a chance to correct for errors once you start accumulating a sales history.
You need real-time visibility into inventory as soon as the sales season starts. With anywhere, anytime access to critical information, you can have full insight into ordering . You can track orders from sales reps in the field. You can manually adjust orders before they are shipped.
Barcodes, RFID tags, and serial numbers are used to update information on a schedule that you determine.
Aligning order management across customer sales channels is vital to giving consumers the experience they want. Today’s order management solutions come with everything from basic barcode applications to complicated RFID implementation involving hundreds of fixed readers.
A customer clicks “buy” on an ecommerce platform. Or he or she picks up the phone to place an order. Or they walk into your store, select a shirt, a coat or a pair of shoes, and they head for the register.
What happens next?
The sequence of actions that a business follows to fulfill a customer purchase is critical. Errors, out-of-stock items and slow cash flow can all hurt your performance. Technology can keep everything from billing to production and logistics running properly, ensuring frictionless sales order processing and keeping your customers coming back again and again.
Customer and Supplier Data
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system maintains your customer, service provider and supplier data, giving you a single view into each customer’s orders and history. CRM software can be used by marketing, sales, and customer service departments to personalize a customer’s experience and keep track of information about individual customers, including notes, correspondence, and transaction records.
Businesses are required to protect customer and supplier data from loss or theft to adhere to regulatory compliance requirements. Making sure documents are protected and only accessible by the proper people takes a secure CRM solution.
Everyone from retailers to wholesalers to manufacturers is faced with long lead times. This means you have to place production/purchasing orders weeks or months before the sales happen. In a sense, you have to be able to predict the future.
Stockouts mean lost sales and reduced customer satisfaction. When you don’t have what your customers are looking for, they feel let down. If you can avoid backorders for out of stock products, you’ll see increased customer satisfaction and more repeat business.
Overstocks, on the other hand, mean markdowns, and your “clearance bins” aren’t going to make you any money. Apparel and footwear retailers lose $300 billion annually thanks to markdowns.
Forecasting errors create serious headache, usually in the form of stockouts and overstocks.
Avoiding these headaches means accurately forecasting the product life-cycle. A balancing act between stockouts and overstocking requires technology. You need to find the optimal service levels. You need to target days of stock/purchasing frequency for each SKUs and estimate (in real-time) your stock needs.
Today’s best-in-class inventory management solutions include robust demand forecasting capabilities. Accurate forecasting increases allows you to better meet customer demand while lowering overall operational costs. It also allows businesses in the apparel industry to avoid stockouts and overstocking.
Demand planning in the apparel industry means predicting what consumers want. It means keeping ahead of the demand curve. This requires tracking sales histories and monitoring product movement during certain times of the year.
Today, artificial intelligence/machine learning leverages customer demographics, sale prices, seasonal promotions and more to predict customer actions and optimize sales orders with far more accuracy than elementary or manual methods.
Why manually input data to generate a forecast when an automated, algorithms-based approach can do the job? For example, you can estimate the demand for a new item by analyzing existing SKUs, collections, item attributes, product categories and other data.
As we said, modern clothing inventory management solutions generally come with out-of-the-box functionality. Even the most comprehensive systems can often be successfully implemented without customization.
Still, customization/configurability is something you will probably want from your inventory management software. What good are inventory and asset tracking features if they don’t bring personalized value to your company? This includes flexibility for controlling different types of hardware or interfaces. It includes configuring user roles to allow for various levels of access to sensitive data and system changes.
Say, for example, your work involves finishing or decorating apparel products you receive from the manufacturer. Do you perform custom work in-house or do you send garments to a third party to have them embellished? Dedicated modules are available that allow you to track your work orders from start to finish and make sure your decoration work order has all the custom embellishments your end clients expect.
You should be able to select only the features necessary to achieve your business and operational goals and leave the rest “turned off.”
Barcoding & Scanning
Barcodes help apparel companies track inventory in and out of the warehouse.
A handheld barcode scanner is simply a hardware input device that lets you do a stocktake (inventory count) and automatically adjust the quantity of the product scanned in your warehouse inventory. A quick scan tells you everything you need to know about an inventory item. Barcoding minimizes human error and eliminates excess stock.
Barcode scanning itself only goes so far; true operational efficiency improvement comes with warehouse management system (WMS) integration. Barcoding and scanning, along with WMS gives you better directed workflows for picking, putaway and much more.
Rather than manually updating inventory at regularly-scheduled inventory counts), today’s real-time inventory management systems record purchases and outbound orders and all associated costs in real-time. Up-to-date metrics mean fewer mis-pick errors and recording errors to throw your inventory levels out of balance.
Accurate inventory tracking, from the time you receive it to the minute you deliver (or sell) it, means lower inventory costs. When employees aren’t manually counting items or keeping records of your inventory, things move more smoothly.
Once an article of clothing leaves the garment factory it will head to a distribution warehouse. Some companies use massive distribution warehouses outfitted with cutting-edge RF tracking technology to organize and move their products.
Electronically tracking inventory means knowing inventory levels in multiple bin locations for a single SKU. You can integrate an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with a warehouse management system to separately process full case and piece picks and decide which items should be placed in a box.
Accounting for warehouse and logistics equipment (everything from forklift and conveyors to automated sorters and picking systems) means knowing who used it last, knowing when it was last repaired or calibrated, where it is stored and what condition it is in. Asset tracking systems help apparel companies save on labor costs and safeguard against. unnecessary equipment losses.
Asset tracking is also focused on computers and other IT assets and important documents. Losing important business records could have serious legal or financial consequences. That’s why reliable asset tracking is as important as quality control in warehousing operations.