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5 Key Aspects of Running An Effective Mobile Inventory Solution in Retail

Supply chain companies now face more challenges in tracking and expediting their inventory than ever, as the multichannel retail landscape shifts from “I-want-it-now” to “I-need-this-yesterday.” In order to stay competitive, retailers need to have an up-to-date knowledge of where things are, in what quantities, at all times. They need to be able to rebalance inventories, redirect shipments, and respond to whatever new demand arises immediately.

Among the most important trends for retail industry this year forecast by Vend, one of the industry experts, are three particularly important points:

  • Merging online and offline data collection and analysis. As consumers go through different paths to a purchase, retailers need to start analyzing online and offline data combined.
  • Single-view, cloud-based solutions. The modern retail strategy requires a unified view of the multiple channels of sales, inventory, and customer visibility. Cloud-based solutions enable retailers to scale quickly, work from anywhere and execute their multichannel initiatives with more efficiency as they get a timely insight into key aspects of their business. It is important to maintain an up-to-date item file, accurate inventory levels and pricing system across multiple channels. Several years ago, when many retailers went online, they maintained separate systems for online and offline sales, which became an important technical roadblock companies are now overcoming through the adoption of cloud-based IT solutions powered by rugged industrial tablets.
  • Adoption of Internet of Things throughout the supply chain. From barcodes to RFID beacons, retailers are leveraging the IoT in their warehouses and stores. IoT in retail is estimated to have an economic impact from $410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year by 2025. Forward-thinking retailers pioneer the adoption of the smart devices to streamline various business processes from inventory management to in-store shopping.

5 Key Aspects of Running An Effective Mobile Inventory Solution

  1. Desktop-to-Mobile Compatibility

    Inventory management software increases warehouse and shop staff efficiency when checking inventory, stocking shelves, transferring goods from the central warehouse & vendors. Most retailers have by now adopted an inventory management solution in their networks, and the primary software solution is deployed on Windows-powered desktop PCs. How do you scale that powerhouse of an application to mobile?Many software providers port their desktop programs to mobile operating systems, but that transition often comes at a cost of reduced functionality and crippled usability. So, why change operating systems?Windows-based industrial tablets are compatible with most desktop programs retailers run on their desktop systems, so users won’t run into any learning curves when switching to the mobile version. The functionality and usability are preserved while retailers run the full version of their preferred software on a mobile device.A fully-fledged mobile solution that is completely compatible with your enterprise resource planning system (ERP) cuts down the costs of deploying a third-party mobile inventory solution and integrating it with the ERP, an expensive and challenging process. It’s much easier to deploy solutions that are compatible with your existing ecosystem from day one rather than trying to bridge fundamentally different systems together.

  2. Barcodes and RFID

    Handheld barcode scanners and RFID devices are things of the past now that industrial tablets come integrated with these previously external peripherals. Standalone scanners and readers only capture some type of inventory data. It then needs to be synced with the main retail management program. Such devices tend to be expensive to program, integrate and maintain, and difficult to use.With the barcode reader and RFID scanner integrated into your rugged tablet, your employees collect, sync and create actionable reports on the go. This immediate data availability boosts the accuracy of inventory management.Through the use of RFID technology, your employee’s industrial tablet can be used to recognize where the employee is in the warehouse or in the store, and present the employee with the relevant options and information for the given location.RFID is also used in inventory management solutions to track inventory availability and alert the employees when a product is soon to be out of stock.

  3. BYOD vs Industrial Tablets

    Retailers widely adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy, assuming it’s cheaper and easier to deploy than providing corporate devices to the employees. However, BYOD & poor cybersecurity awareness of users is a part of the reason why the retail industry is plagued by cyber threats. The criminals are after financial data they can monetize, and retail is the industry to hit, with the large databases of vendors, consumers and employee banking data, Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information.BYOD devices add more work to your IT staff when scaling the system for a fleet of different devices running different OS’s, and having to look for a mobile solution that would be compatible with the variety of BYOD assets.Industrial tablets provide robust cybersecurity functionality complete with easy-to-use two-factor authentication with a biometric reader, CAC or smart card reader, full disk encryption, capability to encrypt data on external hard drives, capability to set up a tablet for multiple users with access controls, remote wiping and remote access for the ITs to update software of introduce timely changes.

  4. Ruggedness

    Inventory management requires your workers to be mobile and flexible. Hence, the mobile device has to be easy-to-operate and reliable. Rugged technology comes with a slew of advantages:

    • A carrying handle, strips and light weight simplify tablet handling.
    • Hot-swap batteries, a charging station for 24/7 uptime.
    • Military-grade components with the fail rate of less than 2% under constant use.
    • MIL-STD and IP65 drop protection, shock, vibration, temperature fluctuation and water protection for reliability in any out-of-the-office environment.
    • Integrated barcode, RFID, CAC or smart card reader paired with biometric reader increase the functionality of a single device.
    • Can be mounted on a wall, inside a vehicle, on a desktop.
    • Full disk encryption, capability to encrypt data on external drives.
    • Highly customizable OS, software and legacy ports.
    • Advanced wireless connectivity and support of the carrier of your choice.
    • Easy to deploy, cheap to maintain, low TCO if compared to that of consumer-grade mobile devices.
  5. Cost of Hardware

    Windows-powered industrial tablets do not require any intervention by your programmers, so the deployment cost is the cost of the hardware. When calculating the total cost of ownership of your industrial tablet, take into account:

    • integrated scanners and readers, which eliminate the need for bulky and expensive peripherals necessary to make IoT work;
    • it is rugged and durable, with 5+ years of continuous uptime;
    • hot-swap batteries, charging station for 24/7 uptime;
    • it is compatible with the inventory management software you run on your desktops;
    • failure rates of industrial tablets are normally 4% (it’s 2% with Cybernet’s devices) while the failure rates of consumer devices skyrocket 15%-30% when they are used intensively in working environments where they can fall, be exposed to humidity or fluctuating temperatures;
    • industrial tablets offer better security to maintain your corporate data protected from breaches whereas BYOD devices are looming with malware, spyware and ransomware stemming from poor user cybersecurity awareness and the lack of hardware-level in-built security functions.

Agility and performance in retail inventory management can be leveraged to their full extent when the dedicated software runs on a powerful, secure and reliable hardware such as rugged industrial tablets.

5 Benefits of Using a Tablet with an Integrated Barcode Scanner for Inventory Management

Let’s be honest, inventory control and management is not a glamorous part of the business, but it is the most important factor when it comes to maximizing your company’s profitability. When sales drop and the budget gets tight, businesses begin to desperately seek out ways to cut costs and the options are not always attractive. Cutting employees is usually the first line of fire, but actually there is a less painful, more beneficial way to maintain control of the budget…with inventory.

Considering how much money your business can tied up in inventory, if there isn’t accurate inventory management, it can have a significant impact on the budget. Fortunately, Cybernet has a developed a tablet with an integrated barcode scanner that is the solution for maintaining an accurate inventory management system.

Here are 5 ways your business can benefit from using a tablet with a barcode scanner for inventory management:

Save Time

It only takes a few minutes to scan each barcode, so time spent doing inventory checks are minimized. Using a barcode scanner for your inventory will make the inventory process more efficient by eliminating the need to physically hand enter every item in your inventory.

Decrease Labor Costs

Training employees to manually input inventory data can take weeks, even months, but with a barcode scanner, it usually only takes a few minutes for employees to learn how to use it. This allows your employees to focus their energy on more critical tasks, so it improves productivity, saving your company time and money.

Reduce Errors

Using a barcode scanner significantly reduces the rate of human error. When employees are manually entering data, the possibility of errors is to be expected. When a barcode scanner is used for inventory management, it is not uncommon to notice a significant increase in the accuracy of your inventory.

Better Control Your Inventory

Once a barcode is scanned and added to a specific database, you will have valuable insight into the correct status of your inventory, including quantity, shipping and receiving. This will help you reduce inventory carrying cost by knowing which stock is not moving, and eliminating unused stock will free up space for more desirable stock.

Improve Customer Service

A barcode scanner allows you to know exactly what stock you have available, so you can immediately provide your customers with the items they want as well as let them know ahead of time that an item is out-of-stock. Your employees will no longer have to rely on memory to know where an item is located, what the cost is or how many of the items you have in stock.

Inventory management is good practice for any business. If you do not have a watchful eye on your inventory, you are setting yourself and your business up for potential inventory errors and challenges. The appropriate inventory management can really make or break your business. The use of barcode scanners for inventory management can help to drastically improve the efficiency and productivity of your business.

How Returning a Rental Car Inspired the Use of Barcode Scanners at a VA Facility

Chris Tucker, RPh, Director of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), recently explained that the facility received its inspiration for developing a bar-coding system of its own after one of the nurses returned a rental car. The nurse observed one of the employees of the rental car company using a handheld electronic device to scan a barcode that was located in the rental car’s trunk. This observation gave the nurse the idea to use the same type of application to identify patients and medications.

The Department of Veterans Affairs afforded a start-up fee of $50,000 for the development of a barcode system to help the facility administer medications more efficiently and improve the overall safety of the facility’s patients. The prototype that resulted from these efforts was wireless, real-time, POC technology designed with an integrated barcode scanner to be utilized at twenty-two nursing units inside the VA’s Eastern Kansas Health Care System.

This prototype became the VHA’s catalyst for the creation of a system that could be utilized at every VHA medical center throughout the nation. Its resulting Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA) system was created for validating medications, as well as electronically documenting the administration of the medications. The BCMA was specifically designed so that nurses could scan the barcode of any ordered medication and tell:

  • Whether a particular patient received the right medications
  • Whether or not the dosage was correct
  • The scheduled time of the medication’s administration
  • The actual time each patient is given the medications

The BCMA system was integrated into the pre-existing nursing and pharmacy software programs that were currently in use by the facility staff. Historically, these two separate facility departments had not worked together cohesively in addressing patient drug administration and/or delivery problems. Being able to standardize drug order guidelines effectively facilitated a more efficiently coordinated process for ordering and delivering medications.

A pharmacist consultant for the VHA, Ron Schneider, said that a multidisciplinary team made up of pharmacy, nursing and information management specialists was a critical factor in the installation of the BCMA system. He noted that fully understanding everyone’s working conditions, coupled with collaborative efforts, is what improved the implementation process of the BCMA system.

Presently, all VA medical centers are now reaping the benefits of using BCMA. Between 1993 and 2001, there has been a considerable reduction in dosing, patient, timing and medication errors. In 2002, BCMA Version 2.0 was released, which featured a series of checks and balances for IV therapy.

The BCMA project has future goals of interaction with other clinical software systems that contain information on nutrition, vital signs, and lab results.

And to think, it all started with a nurse returning a rental car.