Inventory tracking isn’t a “sexy” industry, but it’s a necessary one for almost any business involved in manufacturing or shipping tangible goods. You need some way to track how much you’re producing, how many raw materials you’re consuming, where those products are going, and how much money you’re making.
Old-school tracking systems relied on unreliable, time-consuming manual processes to make counts and organize data, but advanced modern-day systems are starting to reshape how quickly and efficiently we can track our inventory. According to SystemID, “advancements in [the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, smart manufacturing, and mobile device management (MDM)] are literally changing how companies operate.”
Currently, most of us are still using variations of barcode scanning software to help us organize our inventory, but what does the near future hold for this software?
Predictions for Inventory Tracking Development
1. Real-time is becoming the new normal. Older tracking methods generally relied on a dedicated period of time to catch up on inventory, such as taking counts at the end of the day or the end of the week. Today, scanning technology and more advanced systems are making it possible to keep track of inventory in real-time. That means your system is updated anytime a product makes a move, whether that’s getting shipped out to a different facility or placed on the line for the first time. This leads to faster, more accurate insights, and leaves less wiggle room for potential mistakes and confusion.
2. Retail and fulfillment are blurring. With the dawn and boom of ecommerce, many physical retail stores are being forced to get into online sales, whether they like it or not. Attempting to preserve the best of both worlds, being an online and physical retailer at once, many brands have opted for a hybrid model. They’re enabling customers to place orders online but ship them from retail stores, rather than warehouses or fulfillment centers, or even opting for in-store pickup. This demands a new approach to inventory management—one that’s more intuitive and accessible, and one that accommodates a new model of retail.
3. Big data is leading to more advanced insights. Big data is a general advancement in technology that’s making operations for most companies radically different, both on the inside and outside. In the inventory management space, this means companies are gathering more specific insights about their products and operations than ever before, and they’re using them to form more impactful conclusions about how their businesses operate. Companies are learning more about what processes are most efficient and which ones need to change, and they’re getting more helpful data about who their customers are and what they need from their brand. Ultimately, this leads to a more complicated data system to manage, but a more effective and beneficial one.
4. Companies are demanding more information. Despite this influx of new information, companies are still hungry for more. Now that managers and business owners have gotten the chance to glean more insights and draw more data from their operations, they’ve become obsessed with the idea of getting more. This demand, in turn, is affecting how inventory management software companies develop and present their products; these companies are doing more to offer flexible, customizable solutions that can fit almost any business need, and they’re trying to draw in more data points from more areas of business to make more comprehensive and in-depth software packages. As long as people keep seeking it, software companies will keep upping the stakes.
5. Solutions are becoming diversified. New software companies are constantly looking to emerge, and existing consumers are making more scrutinizing decisions about what types of software to choose. The end result here is that there’s a greater—and growing—diversity of software options available to the average inventory manager. There are specific systems available for a variety of different industries and niches, and more companies have popped up to provide fully custom-built software from the ground up. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s probably a solution out there for you.
Looking to the Future
Like with any realm of technology, it’s impossible to say for sure how inventory management systems will develop. However, due to the demand of the industry, the room for growth available, and the monetary incentives of developing the next great breakthrough, it’s certain that tech companies everywhere are already pushing to make purely speculated software iterations a reality.
The best thing you can do is remain open to these new possibilities and keep your organization running as smoothly as possible.