Merriam-Webster defines inventory as the amount of goods or materials on hand. For any business that manufactures, distributes, or resells raw materials or finished goods, maintaining an accurate, real-time inventory is critical. So, it should come as no surprise that there’s an entire sub-niche within the software industry that's all about keeping track of inventory.
Inventory management software is used primarily to avoid both shortages and overstock situations. When implemented correctly, a sound inventory management system helps you track your inventory levels, incoming sales orders, and outgoing deliveries.
The foundation for modern inventory management began in the 1970s; retail grocery stores began adopting the Universal Product Code (UPC) to standardize barcode reader hardware throughout the United States and Canada. Widespread adoption of personal computers throughout the 1980s helped broaden the installed base of barcodes and first-generation inventory management.
More recently, cloud-based and mobile applications further increased adoption of inventory management systems -- allowing for more Integrations into accounting, point-of-sale (POS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and e-commerce software.
As the marketplace shifted to a digital-first and mobile-first world, most computer networks in manufacturing, distribution, and retail environments are primarily wireless. So it is even more critical than ever to make sure that your current WiFi network can support your inventory management system.
In this article, you'll learn how to make sure that your WiFi network is ready, how your WiFi can make or break your use of this business application, how to budget for the right WiFi network and managed services, and overall how your company benefits from an excellent Inventory management system.
Readying Your Wireless Network for Your New Inventory Management System
Regardless of the inventory management system that your company adopts, make sure that your wireless network can handle the additional traffic and overall application needs.
Why is this a potential problem?
Very often, your line of business managers will be the ones that decide what kind of software to purchase and even which devices to use for inventory management.
Many times, to simplify the purchase, save money, or lessen the need to worry about integration challenges, business managers will purchase new mobile devices that are bundled with the inventory management system.
This approach, however, can be problematic if the line of business manager purchasing the new devices doesn't take into account how those devices will perform on the existing WiFi network.
So the most critical thing that you can do, to make sure that your wireless network is ready for your new inventory management system, is to make sure that you involve the right people from your IT team or your enterprise WiFi service provider in these early planning decisions.
Contrary to popular belief, if your company does business at any scale, just going out and buying some random hardware, such as access points, installing them, and keeping your fingers crossed, is not a sound approach.
Wireless network engineering is complicated and takes a lot of skills and experience to get it done the right way.
Why Your WiFi Services Can Make or Break Your Business Application
Since choosing to install the right kinds of WiFi services can be a make-or-break for the success of your business application, make sure to take into account these four factors:
- Your Physical Environment -- While it can be exceedingly complicated to overcome the limitations of physical environments, facility construction most certainly impacts the performance of your business application -- such as your inventory management system -- on your wireless network. With proper WiFi planning and engineering, you’ll look at building materials, building blueprints, and the level of radio frequency (RF) interference that you'll need to contend with. Those who skip this step are setting themselves up for failure.
- Your Inventory Management System -- During the RF design phase, it's likely that your inventory management application may take center stage. However, it's also equally possible that inventory management is not your only business application that will be running on your WiFi network. So be sure to always remember that application usage drives infrastructure decisions.
- Your Mobile Devices -- In manufacturing, distribution, and retail environments that have an inventory management system, most devices now run on wireless connections rather than plugging in ethernet cables. So make sure that you have an accurate inventory of all of your different kinds of devices, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and various IoT-enabled devices. Your WiFi engineering plan and site survey will need to make sure that you have enough distributed coverage to support every device, taking into account your lowest power devices.
- Your End Users -- To make sure that your end users get the application performance and security that satisfies their needs, consider implementing role-based access control (RBAC) into your overall enterprise WiFi design. This way, you can see who is accessing your WiFi, assign appropriate roles, and enforce policies.
Budgeting for the Right WiFi Network and Managed Services
As mobile networks have become a lot more pervasive and mission-critical to most kinds of businesses, especially those that need to invest in inventory management systems, installing and supporting a WiFi network is no longer an endeavor that can be well tackled by amateurs or dabblers.
And this can be a big problem for a lot of small and medium-sized businesses.
If you're fortunate enough to have an in-house IT team, it still is exceptionally unusual for small IT teams to have advanced enterprise WiFi expertise. How does a generalist network engineer become a specialist in enterprise WiFi networking?
Ask that person: "how many large WiFi installations they are responsible for each year?".
If the number is underwhelming, perhaps just a handful a year or less, think twice about whether this is something you should be addressing in-house.In this kind of scenario, it is likely far more cost-effective to budget for managed services to support your WiFi network.
But what if you are already outsourcing your WiFi network to a value-added reseller (VAR), network integrator, or managed service provider (MSP)? Again, ask the same question: How many large WiFi installations is this company responsible for each year?
Then make your own decision about whether you want to entrust your wireless network to a generalist technology provider or seek out a specialist such as SecurEdge Networks.
(As a simple analogy: if you or a loved one needed open-heart surgery, and you had a few weeks to plan, would you choose an internal medicine doctor? Or a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon that performs dozens of procedures a year just like the one you're having?)
In terms of comparing apples to apples for budgeting, be sure to take into account:
- WiFi design and engineering
- Hardware such as your access points, controllers, switches, and firewalls
- Software for WiFi network monitoring and management
- Managed network services for 24/7 monitoring and tier 2 level support
How Your Company Benefits from Your Inventory Management System
If you are still researching your options for inventory management systems, there are quite a few very well-respected software companies to choose from.
For example, QuickBooks Enterprise from Intuit is very highly-rated and helps you stay organized with your bookkeeping, managing inventory, tracking sales activity, and processing your payroll.
Although not as well-known as Intuit, Cin7 also has excellent reviews and helps you keep tabs on both physical and online sales inventory, as well as order processing for better efficiency.
Netsuite Inventory Management brings together inventory management while tracking your manufacturing and purchasing activity. With a more comprehensive approach to your supply chain, you can lower your costs and improve your profitability.
Another option worth mentioning is Fishbowl, which adds pretty advanced inventory tracking features onto QuickBooks.
Evaluating If Your Current WiFi Network Can Support a New Inventory Management System
The world is changing fast. Today, every business is being forced to become a technology-centric business to meet the needs of the marketplace. Hyper-competition, globalization, automation, and widespread category disruption is forcing all kinds of companies, especially those that carry of inventory, to work smarter than ever before.
Investing in a mobile- and cloud-friendly modern inventory management system is no longer a luxury. Effective inventory management is now essential table stakes. However, many businesses make the mistake of assuming that their inventory management will function fine on their existing network infrastructure.
In this article, you've been introduced to four important considerations around your WiFi network readiness, how your WiFi performance, reliability, and security can make or break your use of critical business applications such as inventory management, some budgeting tips for your WiFi network and managed services, and why your company needs a great inventory management system in the first place.
If you're serious about making sure that you have the best-performing, most reliable, and most secure WiFi network to power your inventory management system, check out this quick and easy quoting tool.