Welcome to Ecommerce Camp, where today’s topic is Inventory Management & Fulfillment.
A little bit about what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to start by just telling you about ERP and what it is.
Then look at operating in multiple markets and how using these systems can help streamline the whole system.
Then, look at warehouse control, follow along with inventory management control automation, then onto order rules, drop shipping, how we can eliminate human error using these systems, forecasting, and reporting.
And then finally, there’ll be some final thoughts from myself on avoiding common mistakes.
Firstly, what is an ERP (enterprise resource planning)?
Inventory Management: ERP
It’s the type of software system that helps organisations automate and manage core business processes for optimal performance.
So, we’re looking at some software that will integrate pretty much every aspect of the company, from fulfilment to inventory management to HR to all the reporting. You’ll get your sales in there, and you also attach your finance if you’re using finance and stuff like zero, that kind of QuickBooks stuff like that, and it ties it all together in one complete system.
Standalone versus the ERP
Now, all-in-one ERP versus individual software.
You can choose to go for individual software. You can look at inventory software, warehouse management systems, and finance control systems and just have separate ones all running by themselves.
It is not necessarily advocating one over the other; it’s completely dependent on your new company’s needs.
In terms of the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), one of the big benefits is the seamless communication between the different sectors of the company.
Everything talks to everything, and with all being controlled in one hub, it makes it much easier for that communication to be passed around and therefore moves lots more efficiently. Ease of implementation, when we’ve got this core system, we only essentially need very, very minimal numbers of integrations there.
As soon as it’s connected up to the site, then you can start implementing across the board and moving outwards, rather than having to make sure everything speaks to everything and integrates together.
When everything is connected up, you can use one area that will do reports on everything, and it will all tie in together. So, you can really dive into specific reports that are far more specific than if they were separate systems. Only one connection again, very, very simple to set up. There’s only one connection you need into your store, and then you’re up and running. One account manager to streamline any issue resolution.
Now, this one’s quite important, and I’ll go into it in a bit more depth later on, but if you do have some functionality errors, it can be a nightmare to figure out the source of the problem when you’re having to talk to lots and lots of different account managers to see who’s going to take charge and who’s going to take responsibility for the issue. But when you’ve got one system, there’s only one person who can then dive deep and take all the responsibility. In terms of individual software, you do tend to find specialized software is holistically functioning better.
When one large system is involved in doing everything, it tends to be watered down a little bit, whereas specialized software normally functions much, much better. There’s an increased likelihood of discovering processes that are more efficient if I’m looking specifically at inventory management, for example, and I have specific software just for that rather than an ERP. They will show you certain ways and certain processes that they’ve actually already put into place in their system that might be something that you’ve never thought of, and then it’s much more efficient for you.
System development will happen more regularly as opposed to the ERP. You tend to find that they have because they’re having to tackle so many different jobs and so many different aspects of development, tend to have to wait quite a while before it gets sent to something that pertains to you, whereas if you’re looking at specific specialized software, it’s a little bit more common, a little bit more common, and happens a bit more regularly.
It’s also much cheaper. It’s not always the case, but it tends to be much cheaper for individual software than the bigger ERP. That’s important because you will find that, depending on your business size, you will tend to find that ERPs will have certain processes and certain things in play that you don’t need. It doesn’t; it’s not suitable for your company. You are paying for that even though you’re never using it, okay, whereas with individual software, you can choose only the aspects that you need, and therefore the cost is much less.
Individual Software: Examples
A few examples are here.
Nowadays, there are thousands out there; I’ve only put a few here.
Certainly, these are all ones that I’ve worked with, and a lot of my knowledge has come from trial and error using some of these—what works well, what hasn’t worked so well with them—but you can see there is a huge amount of choice.
You type in warehouse management software and Google, and you will see pages and pages—so many to choose from. It’s not necessarily that one is better than the other.
Some are certainly bigger, and some do different things. They’re not all the same, but there’s certainly not one size fits all; there’s not one that is better than the other; it’s about what’s right for you and your company.
Now, the big benefit of using these is that you can operate multiple marketplaces. If you have a Magento site, a WooCommerce site, or a Shopify site, you can also link to the likes of Amazon and eBay.
Now, this is important because if you’re just starting up and you are currently operating on Amazon, it’s quite a small business. You don’t want to start looking at actually creating a site for yourself; you can create an ecommerce platform and tie it all in and control it in one hub, which makes things so much more efficient. Even in smaller aspects where you add products, if I’m adding five new product locations, so you don’t end up with some stock on one side of the warehouse when it actually should be with the rest of it, you could transfer stock between warehouses or stores.
And this is all done electronically, and you can automate it as well, but it means that if one warehouse is running low but you’re just fulfilling the same product in two separate warehouses, you can transfer very easily, and it’s all done.
That’s all recorded as well, so you can make sure that everything is controlled by you now. With this, you can set up custom processes for each location.
If I have a Warehouse A and I need it to operate in a certain way based on the goods that are coming in, I need the goods to come in, and they need to be booked in in a certain way and put straight out in a certain way You can set up flows and processes specific to that warehouse, whereas in Warehouse B, you might have some completely different types of products that they need to operate in a slightly different way, and you want certain processes custom built for that, all done using proper warehouse management software.
It just takes all the guesswork out of inventory control.
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