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Managing and Maintaining Inventory: Focus On Flexibility, Functionality, and Costs

Written by  Lisa Kopochinski

2010julyP23Keeping track of the inventory it takes to support a successful business is no easy task. But today’s progressive technology can make the job easier by providing automated ways to track the different products used and sold in your business. 

With inventory such a large cost in doing business, it can eat into your margins quickly if it’s not monitored correctly. An automated software tool can be invaluable in helping track all items used and sold. Not only does an inventory management system eliminate much paper and manual work, it provides powerful reporting and insight into your profitability at each account. 

Your time is valuable and having software that provides you with the ability to see what is in stock, know how much has been used, how long it has been on the shelf, and even send a request for more supplies, is vital in running an efficient operation.

At TEAM Financial Management System in Omaha, Neb., Jill Davie, vice president of marketing and sales, says its WinTeam’s inventory module includes a complete item master file where pricing from each vendor can be tracked, items can be grouped together in packages based on the needs of the service location, quantities on hand and reorder levels are monitored, resale pricing is stored and multiple warehouses are supported.

“WinTeam’s inventory module supports all of the functions surrounding inventory management, from drop shipments to the job site to integration with billing and job costing. Because WinTeam’s inventory module is tightly integrated with WinTeam’s accounting modules, it is a very flexible and complete system, eliminating the need for manual, paper-based systems.”

At Provo, Utah-based CleanTelligent, President Michael Jenkins says one way for automating inventory is through implementing a barcode system.

“CleanTelligent has Windows mobile professional-based PD A software that supports barcode scanners that are keyboard-wedge compliant. Once you have properly configured your device to work with a Bluetooth, compact flash, SD card, or integrated barcode scanner, CleanTelligent allows you to use this digital automation with your supply/asset management.”

The company even has barcode reports available that can print off labels to be attached in discreet locations throughout your buildings, on supplies, equipment and even on employee badges.

Additionally, CleanTelligent software offers BSCs the ability to scan supplies in and out of locations; perform inventory audits and make adjustments; track inventory usage by building and by employee; .create multiple levels of supply usage (i.e. case/roll); get notified when a supply is low and needs to be ordered; create an online supply catalog; order supplies from multiple vendors within CleanTelligent; and view supply usage reports that will help monitor expenses.

There are web-based software programs available that centralize this inventory information allowing access to the information not only from any computer, but on the go from a PDA or Smartphone, as well.

Adds Jenkins, “Companies can use CleanTelligent for their asset management to monitor where each piece of equipment is located, easily scan equipment in and out of locations, document reasons why equipment is moved, and easily document repairs and equipment available for use.”

Small vs. Large Companies It doesn’t matter whether you have a large or small cleaning company when it comes to managing and maintaining inventory. Although larger companies may benefit more from automating their inventory, small companies face the same challenges that large companies do.

TEAM has seen many smaller companies realize big success by utilizing technology and getting their processes in place early while they are growing. “By solidifying their best practices along the way, they are poised to address issues more efficiently and have the tools in place to compete with any company in the marketplace,” says Davie.

Smaller companies also have the ability to save in labor costs by automating their business processes.

At BearCom Building Services in Midvale, Utah, President Joseph Jenkins decided to automate its business processes and says, “With CleanTelligent, we were able to reduce our staff by two fulltime positions, providing a savings of $48,000 per year.”

What to Look For

When considering an inventory software product, BSCs need to focus on flexibility, functionality and cost. With the numerous changes BSCs are regularly faced with, it’s necessary to find a product/software and that can help them adjust and keep up with those changes.

“Each organization has its own needs and processes of how they want to monitor and manage their inventory,” explains CleanTelligent’s Jenkins. “Finding a product/software that can function in a way that doesn’t change the way a BSC does everything will increase efficiency. Any time a company invests in something, they need to consider the cost. It’s not always about the price of the product/software as much as the return on investment they will get from it. The more your clients feel you understand their needs, and are on top of things, the happier they will be.”

Adds TEAM’s Davie, “When looking at an inventory management system, make sure it addresses and supports all of your needs. Make a list of your inventory processes and then check that list against the system’s features.”

Another huge consideration is the system’s integration to your accounting processes. Ask how you can be sure that items that are resold are actually billed back to the client. And, is that process automated and easy, or is it manual?

Finally, one last item to look at is the inventory management program’s ability to provide job-costing information.

The ability to closely monitor profitability at each account is key to the success of any BSC,” says Davie. “Because inventory is such a large expense, it’s very important that transactional details carry over to the job costing program for a clear picture of account performance.”

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