How to manage inventory effectively using the power of automation.

Your company is forward focused, meaning you're ahead of the game when it comes to using advanced technology and resources that drive success. And you know the warehouse is where the magic happens — particularly when warehouse systems remain efficient, functional, and well maintained. Companies like yours understand how to manage inventory effectively and seek the right investments in technology and projects to stay ahead.

One way to tackle warehouse management efficiency is with automation. A custom, automated inventory management system helps drive success in several key areas, including:

Simpler processes that make it easier to run your business.

Improved accuracy to help avoid wasted time and higher costs.

Better inventory forecasting to increase your profit and keep customers happy.

These types of improvements grow more critical by the day. Warehouses are under immense strain due to the ecommerce boom in 2020, when businesses saw a 146% increase in online orders.* Ecommerce growth also means more product returns. According to a CBRE report, as much as 400 million square feet of additional warehouse space could be needed in the next 5 years just to process returns.†

For many warehouse operators, automation can be the answer. Let's look at how to create an inventory system with automation — using a low-code platform like Claris FileMaker — to unlock what's possible for your business.

How to create an inventory system that sets you up for success.

When it comes to inventory management, sellers know there's work to be done. When asked about their biggest day-to-day challenge, 43% of retailers ranked inventory management as their top concern.‡ Small businesses may have even more work to do: 43% of small businesses say they don’t track their inventory at all.

So, where do you start? A great first step is to look at your processes and systems, then determine which areas need updating. Consider these 3 primary categories of inventory management:

Inventory operations.

An inventory management system must track all products, parts, and items that a company has in stock. Companies should seek a system to assist with:

  • Purchasing new items and receiving the items with all the relevant information.
  • Tracking where the items are stored and how they should be shipped.
  • Managing inventory across other warehouse locations.
  • Determining turnover.
  • Assisting with reordering.

To ensure successful operations, warehouse managers should establish designated stock areas, set procedures for counting inventory, and ensure proper training for employees. Keep in mind that no matter what type of software or system you use, good inventory management practices must first be in place to allow the software to work as intended.

Inventory accuracy. 

Inventory accuracy is always the goal – what exactly does this entail? Generally, accuracy relates to item count (items counted equals number expected) and dollar amount (the expected dollar amount matches the cost of the available items). An example of accurate inventory is when an employee searches for something, they find it in the right place with the correct description. 

Inventory forecasting.

Inventory forecasting can be tricky. If you overestimate, you end up with too much product, and if you underestimate, you’re unable to fulfill orders. Without the right inventory, your revenue and customer satisfaction can take a big hit. One study found that 70% of shoppers would shop for an item at a competitor rather than wait any length of time for a back-ordered item.§

The process of calculating future inventory requires solid data about your business and the industry climate. Leverage a system that factors in historic sales numbers, upcoming promotions, and other variables to be as accurate as possible.

Determine what type of inventory tracking system to use.

To improve inventory management, organizations typically use software-based management systems — ranging from basic, manual systems to complex, high-priced software.

What works best for small business owners?

Small business owners typically rely on manual processes and systems. They often use a spreadsheet to capture how they order materials and sell products. However, maintaining data integrity is difficult when numbers are input manually, and the potential for human error is high.

You can solve these issues by implementing an intuitive inventory tracking system that’s simpler in scope. Look for an option that’s easy to implement but customizable to solve your company's unique issues.

What works best for larger organizations?

Larger organizations require a more robust system, such as software with barcode technology, instant feedback, automatic ordering, automated correspondence, and advanced reporting and analytics. Companies can choose from on-premise options that run on their server or cloud-based software packages.

How to create an inventory system with automation.

Many applications and systems help keep track of products without a large investment of manpower. Inventory tracking apps — like those created with FileMaker — make it easy for you to track inventory items visually and intuitively across multiple locations. Apps often have easy customization and integration, and provide the ability to work seamlessly among PC, tablet, and mobile (as well as on premise or the cloud).

Creating an inventory database allows you to organize any data related to your files or products. The database can be as basic as a list or a collection of items, or as complex as an invoicing or inventory system. You can create files from scratch, generate them from a template, or produce new files with data from another application. With a platform like FileMaker, no pro coding experience is necessary.

For example, label creation is a time-consuming task that can be automated leveraging an app built with FileMaker. In fact, you can search on the Claris Marketplace for ready-made apps and add-ons, like creating shipping labels with Shippo.

Label creation sounds simple enough, but this task is often performed using basic, manual methods in Microsoft Excel or Word. Copying and pasting introduces errors, is painstakingly tedious, and no longer efficient for most organizations.

Companies can simplify label creation and modification processes — plus, save on the costs of software development — by leveraging the FileMaker platform. Smart scripting allows a team to autogenerate the appropriate number of labels, with all the details that need to be included. With FileMaker, you can make labels without using separate software.

The top benefits of automated inventory management.

Overall, an automated inventory tracking system can help you deal with inaccuracies and improve the production cycle. More specifically, you can benefit from:

  • Redirecting your resources to high-value tasks that can make a greater impact on your business (with automation, you've got simple tasks covered).
  • Reduced vulnerability and risk due to human error.
  • The ability to scale quickly and add more products that your customers will love.
  • Quick access to the data you need to deliver great customer service and make better business decisions.
  • Less stress on your team, helping them work proactively to address potential issues.

Recommended Video: Watch how Shock Therapy transformed its warehouse operations using FileMaker: "Now when I walk into the shop, I see everybody on their iPads, and they know exactly what to do…We're able to work in an agile format…and over time, we're able to streamline the whole business.”

Key takeaway — an automated inventory system is within your reach.

The need for warehouse efficiency is greater than ever before. Operators must be able to work fast, execute with accuracy, and make informed predictions to keep up with customer demand.

Thankfully, it's also easier than ever to achieve these goals — with the right approach.

By assessing your current processes, determining what type of inventory management system you need, implementing best practices, and developing an effective tracking system with automation, you'll have what you need to make warehouse magic and boost your bottom line.

To get more information on how FileMaker drives change in warehouse and manufacturing, download our inventory management ebook, or start a free 45-day FileMaker trial, simply visit the inventory management page.