Our good friend Peter Green comes up with some really interesting articles that he publishes in his monthly newsletters. This current one covers Peter’s thoughts on what it might really mean when a customer wants a barcode system.
Inventory Tracking Systems
by Dr. Peter Green
We get lots of inquiries from people looking for “barcode inventory tracking systems”. We find that these inquiries fall into four main categories:
1. Tracking how many widgets of each type are in a stock room or warehouse
2. Optimizing operations in high volume retail warehouses
3. Capturing tracking and traceability data to meet Government or customer mandates.
4. Needing a tracking system to solve a specific business problem, such as preventing mistakes .
While all of these might be labeled “barcode inventory tracking systems”, we find that the implementation of each of these types of system require a different approach:
1. For simple tracking applications, there are many simple low-cost inventory tracking packages on the marketplace. Also most ERP and accounting systems have inventory tracking modules. However, none of these can be easily (if at all) be customized to meet the specific needs of each business situation. Nor are they expandable to handle more complex tracking and traceability requirements, such as tracking materials through production or processing operations. So, if all you will ever need to do is to count widgets in a small warehouse or stock-room then we recommend that you buy a low-cost packaged software or add-on an inventory tracking module to your existing ERP or accounting system. But if you need a system that is expansible and customizable to meet your specific business needs or you need to collect data in multiple physical locations then it might be much more economical to consider a system such as BellHawk.
2. For high volume retail warehouses, there are a number of excellent warehouse management systems. These are expensive but can rapidly pay for themselves in increased efficiency. But we find that many organizations, who were initially looking for warehouse management systems, were able to save themselves a lot of money by using a warehouse tracking system, such as BellHawk, as it provided all the capabilities they needed.
3. Capturing tracking and traceability data to meet Government or customer mandates. This is a specialized area that requires the use of techniques such as “license-plate” tracking and nested container tracking to electronically record the pedigree of each lot, container and serialized item. Here you really need to work with specialists, such as my team at BellHawk Systems, who really understand the issues and nuances in implementing this class of system.
4. It might seem that the simplest way of implementing a custom tracking solution would be to hire a team of programmers and design and develop a new system. But this typically comes at high cost and high risk and takes much longer than anyone anticipates. A much simpler, quicker, lower cost, lower risk approach is to start with a set of software modules, such as BellHawk, which provide over 95% of the needed lines of code working “out of the box” and then to customize these to meet the specific requirements of the business problem to be solved, which is the BellHawk Systems’ approach.
There is also the issue of systems integration to consider. Obviously buying packaged software that has a pre-built interface you the specific version of your ERP or accounting system or buying a plug-in module makes the task of integration easy. But, if these packages or modules do not truly meet your needs “out of the box”, then the cost and difficulty of customizing these add-ons can be very costly. BellHawk Systems has invested in the development of a set of software tools that enables the rapid integration of its BellHawk software modules with a wide range of ERP, accounting and CRM systems. This seems to be a much better approach in most cases (considering that there are over a thousand different ERP and accounting system versions in popular use in the USA) as it enables us to rapidly provide up-to-date mobile data collection device support for all of these systems in all their many different versions.
Finally there is the issue of capturing and integrating data from mobile workers at a variety of geographically distributed location or in the field. This is a complex subject that will be discussed in a future newsletter. But, just to let you know that despite the economic downturn, BellHawk Systems is continuing to invest in the development of its store and forward systems-integration-technology, which enables the rapid and cost-effective implementation of these more complex systems.
So, in conclusion:
1. If you all you are ever looking for is a “barcode inventory tracking” solution to track widgets in a single room then there are probably lower-cost solutions than BellHawk.
2. If you have a large, high volume retail distribution warehouse, then there are better solutions than BellHawk to manage the operations of such a warehouse.
3. But, if you need an inventory tracking solution that that can be tailored to your specific business need, or you have a mandated tracking and traceability requirement, or you need to capture data in multiple locations, or you simply need to add barcode inventory tracking capability to an older ERP or accounting system then you should call me at (508)-865-8070 x301 for a free consultation about how we might be able to help you.
Dr. Peter Green is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of BellHawk Systems Corporation.
Peter is a leader in the barcode industry and his thoughts are especially important at a time when we all want to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. Check out Peter’s site, www.bellhawk.com.