Yes, most any enterprise software designed for product-centric companies will offer strong inventory management functionality.
From within your four walls, this functionality can be brought to bear in a cohesive fashion to ensure that inventory transactions are recorded in the inventory module where the data can then be accessed as needed throughout the organization. Inventory consumed can be recorded and replenished as needed. Returns are logged and taken back into inventory or dealt with accordingly. Services delivered are recorded and billed. Business that takes place outside of your four walls becomes more challenging to manage, however. Even if you have a modern barcode scanning solution for inventory control, that solution may or may not do an adequate job in a remote situation like route sales, and the underlying system must be configured to treat each truck as its own site with appropriate replenishment triggers. Those replenishment triggers are only as effective as systems in place to record inventory consumption, so barcode scanning for inventory management, optimized for field use, is a key success factor.
What are some of the barriers to overcome to achieve true inventory optimization in the field? One barrier may be a siloed approach to enterprise computing, where software used in the field is separate and distinct from the rest of the enterprise. Oftentimes, a business will run a centralized enterprise resource planning (ERP) product with its own very sophisticated inventory functionality. And then they may run a separate software product for field sales with its own functionality for inventory management. How well these systems are integrated may vary from one situation to the next. But we contend that extending the inventory functionality of the underlying ERP or accounting system to mobile handhelds designed for field sales will be a more cost-effective and elegant way to manage inventory in the field.
One other common barrier is that many barcode inventory management systems fail to perform without a reliable connection to the servers where the underlying enterprise software is run. But while you can generally control the quality of your network at your own site, all bets are off once you leave the building. So it is obvious that you’ll need to plan for spotty network coverage. Any number of barriers can prevent wireless communication between a handheld barcode scanner and your instance of ERP. Structures, gaps in cell service and other barriers can leave your staff cut off from your servers. At Panatrack, our inventory management offering for Dynamics GP will tolerate interruptions in service. But we know that for field sales, you need a solution that will perform well in a fully offline environment, recording inventory transactions to the handheld and re-sync with Dynamics GP when the opportunity presents itself.
There are plenty of things you can’t control in a field sales environment. Ensuring your route sales drivers or technicians have the correct inventory on hand–you can control that. Using the right technology you can also improve customer interaction and communication and take advantage of cross-selling opportunities. But you can’t control whether or not your technician can get good connectivity at a customer site surrounded by heavy equipment, or delivering materials to a rural customer between cell towers. But you can anticipate that difficulty and overcome it!
These are just some of the field sales-related insights you’ll find in