Maintaining tight control over inventory is crucial for manufacturers operating in modern manufacturing environments where stock is kept at a minimum and orders are filled just in time (JIT). Manufacturing inventory software, sometimes referred to as manufacturing inventory control software, is one of the more traditional manufacturing applications. For this reason, there are more than 100 vendors that offer some form of manufacturing inventory management software.
This buyer’s guide, along with our manufacturing inventory software reviews, cover the essential information needed to make a purchase. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Inventory management software helps optimize supply levels so manufacturers always have what they need as orders are placed, without tying up capital in excess parts or ingredients. The systems allow manufacturers to instantly determine on-hand inventory balances, which is useful for financial planning. In addition to tracking raw materials and stocked items, the system also records work-in-progress (WIP) items, finished products and more.
Most inventory systems will track purchased material and stocked items by lot number and/or serial number. Inventory management solutions use these numbers to track and locate in-stock items and produce picking information for item retrieval. Many systems have barcode, or radio frequency identification (RFID), functionality to scan items that are received, picked or transferred. Inventory management systems can also track purchase orders and other value information that is helpful for accounting.
Before deciding on which system best fits your needs, it’s important to determine what type of buyer you are. More than 90 percent of buyers typically fall into one of these three categories:
Full-suite buyers. These buyers appreciate the integration that a solution from a single provider offers. Having a single system control all manufacturing functions improves information sharing between applications. For instance, a full-suite system can manage inventory picking, product assembly and invoicing from a single source.
Multi-location manufacturers. Operating multiple facilities adds a layer of complexity to the software requirements. These buyers need to track inventory for multiple facilities and balance levels across a geographic region. For manufacturers with international operations, the system should include multi-currency and multi-language support.
Small manufacturers. These buyers have straightforward requirements and need a system to improve data entry and inventory tracking. Small manufacturers are typically transferring over from pen and paper to a more automated system and only need basic inventory control functions such as order processing and lot/serial tracking.
In order to remain competitive in today’s global economy, manufacturers need to reduce excess inventory and have the capability to manage stock levels with an automated system. Here are a few of the benefits and potential issues that accompany a manufacturing inventory management system.
Time savings. An inventory system will reduce the amount of time spent processing and recording. It also enables manufacturers to immediately find the location of an in-stock item and check availability in real time.
Improved inventory accuracy. Fewer manual entry mistakes, such as logging the same inventory item twice, are made using an an electronic system. Getting a better grip on inventory management will also help reduce potentially costly manual recording errors.
Implementation difficulties. Implementing a comprehensive inventory management solution can be expensive and time consuming. Furthermore, manufacturers have to start from a clean physical inventory so the system can work off a well-organized inventory from the beginning. This can be very labor intensive.
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