Mobile Applications For Inventory Management, Data Collection And Workflow

Top Seven Applications Of Mobile Asset And Inventory Management

How mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) can help you control business assets and inventory, and in what situations using mobile devices for asset and inventory tracking makes most sense.

Using mobile devices for assets and inventory tracking is not new. Companies are utilizing mobile computers for decades to track assets and inventory on site, whether the items to track are on the store shelves, warehouse, in the field or remote job site. Inventory management systems involving mobile computers require significant investment though, and as such are usually not feasible for the small businesses. The recent new development in the inventory and asset management field is the use of regular smartphones or tablets with inventory / asset management mobile application installed to play a role of the mobile computers. This new development makes mobile inventory management and asset tracking systems affordable for businesses of all sizes.

Not all companies that have assets and inventory need mobile inventory management. In some situations, you can do perfectly well by using desktop computers to keep track of assets and inventory. There are situations, however where ability to track assets and inventory using mobile devices is absolutely essential and will significantly increase your business operations efficiency.
Below we describe seven business scenarios where mobile assets and inventory management, in our experience, makes most sense and provides significant benefits. If your business faces any of these scenarios, you will do yourself a big favor by learning more and implementing inventory / asset control system that uses smartphones in place of mobile computers to track assets and inventory.

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Managing Inventory Stock In The Field

stock and materials control

If you have out of office inventory, for example inventory on the job sites, on the client sites, in the service vans or any other out of the office places, it is critically important that your employees could track inventory use, restocking and relocation on-site. If you do not give your employees an opportunity to record inventory transactions in the field as they happen, there is a good chance that used or received inventory will never be accounted for. It is very unlikely that employees will inform an office each time they use or relocate inventory. This situation makes any desktop inventory management software obsolete. Whether you have it or not, you won't have an accurate inventory count and transaction history trail.

Smartphones, which each employee can easily fit in his / her pocket, are perfect tools for recording inventory transactions in the field. When an employee uses materials or inventory, he just needs to scan barcode or QR code on the item with a smartphone, record necessary data (for example job number or project), and submit inventory transaction. If an employee runs out of a particular inventory item (s)he can easily find out available stock and locations of the required part or material using a smartphone. In a connected cloud - smartphones system all authorized employees have access to the real time inventory stock and locations.

The good news are - employees can use their own smartphones, and inventory management software that allows you to implement multi-location inventory control with mobile devices is very affordable and simple to use. It makes perfect sense to try it out and make sure that your inventory is accounted for and under control.

Tracking Loaned Or Borrowed Assets

mobile asset tracking

If your employees borrow company's assets for a job (video equipment, work tools, etc.), or you have assets on the job sites (e.g. construction sites, oil rigs) and you do not have adequate tools to keep track of assets location and movements - you have a problem on your hands. Pretty soon you lose track of what is where. This, in turn, results in the lost or misplaced assets and significant expenses to replace them.

In order to keep track of the mobile assets you need to provide your employees an option to record any changes on the spot - whether they borrow or return an asset, re-locate it, or need to send it to repair or document damage. Smartphone is a perfect tool to perform this task.

With a smartphone, an employee can document everything that happens to an asset immediately, and the change becomes available to all authorized users in real time. Smartphone can be used to scan barcode or QR code on the asset to identify it (eliminating manual entries errors), enter all required information about the transaction, and even take photos of an asset to document its conditions. GPS location of an asset transaction can be recorded automatically by a smartphone, which allows you to see assets location at a glance on the map.

Mobile Data Access And Collection

mobile data collection

If installation and / or servicing equipment at customers' sites, whether residential or commercial, is a part of your business it is imperative that field technicians could access information on the equipment they are dealing with on site. Depending on the situation, the required information may include equipment specifications, installation instructions, drawings, emergency procedures, etc. The ability to access necessary information can prevent costly mistakes during installation, replacing or servicing equipment.

Taking into account how easy it is to implement mobile data collection and access system using smartphones and QR codes for equipment identifications, there is no reason not to provide your field technicians with this helpful tool. All they will need to do is scan QR code or barcode on the equipment with their smartphone to get immediate access to all required information.

Smartphones can be used to record information as well. If technician is required to fill out a paper form after the job is completed, let him fill a mobile form on his smartphone instead. This will eliminate data misplacement or loss, eliminate the need to retype / re-enter information and will allow you to easily search and locate service records.

Asset Audits

fixed assets audit

Any company with significant number of assets needs to conduct asset audits to verify that all assets are in place and accounted for, plus reveal any missing, damaged or obsolete assets. This task, if done with the paper and pencil, can be complicated enough even if all of your assets are located in a single office. It can become a nightmare when your assets are distributed between multiple locations, customer sites and employees.

Employees need to go around the office with a printed assets sheet and manually check off assets, making sure that they don't mix up serialized items, such as computers, hard drives, smartphones, etc. After this process is completed, someone will need to manually enter all collected data into computer. You will need to bring together collected data from different locations to identify misplaced assets. And at the end you still won't have a way to access data on missing assets from multiple locations / audits and identify a trend.

Now, when you can easily implement a software that uses smartphones for asset audits at a very affordable cost, there is no reason to continue doing this manually, waste countless employee-hours and still not being able to get an adequate results for your efforts.

By using a smartphone, employees can scan in assets in the audit location or in their possession and submit data to the server. That's all - no manual entries or re-entries or finding right asset on a printed list. Software will then do the job of comparing audit data with the assets "on the books" and producing a report, identifying missing and misplaced assets. The whole procedure will take just minutes instead of hours or days, and you will have accurate digital records of all performed audits.

Stocktaking And Physical Inventory Counts

stocktaking and inventory count

Taking physical inventory manually requires a lot of effort, employee-hours and money. Often businesses need to shut down operations for one or more days to do a complete inventory count. It is hard to tally all line items, possibly located in different areas of the warehouse, using just paper and pencil and not make a mistake, especially when multiple employees are involved in stocktaking. As a result, in spite of all the effort manual counts tend to be not very accurate, as mistakes are made during counting, data recorded with paper and pencil are lost, misplaced or are not entered to the computer properly.

Comparing data on the books with what is obtained by manual inventory count is not an easy task in itself - it is hard to immediately identify discrepancies just by looking at 2 printouts side-by-side.

Using physical inventory count software that utilizes smartphones to do the actual counting takes a lot of pain out of the process. Multiple employees can scan inventory in their designated areas, and submit data to the server for processing. No problems if the same line items are located in different warehouse areas - everything will be correctly summed up.

The possibility of an error is minimal, since there are no manual entries or misidentification of an item. The scanned batch is displayed on a smartphone screen, so employees can see what was scanned and correct any errors before submitting data. When all data are submitted, software automatically compares audit data with what should be in this location and produces discrepancy report.
You have access to detailed results of each audit, as well as trends and statistics.

Inventory Traceability & Quality Control

traceability quality control

Many industries (food, medical, etc.) require strict traceability of the products back to the source in case of defects or recalls. Usually such traceability is done by assigning a lot number, or batch number to the products produced in the similar conditions. In the case of a problem all items with the problem lot number need to be recalled or taken out of distribution.

Smartphones can help you achieve a more granulated traceability. Your employees can scan barcode or QR code on a product label with a smartphone and record necessary details of each stage the product is going through using mobile forms. For example, in the produce case, you can track a product from the field to the retail outlet by scanning QR code and recording all information at picking, packaging and storage - what field the produce was picked from, the date it was picked, where and when it was packaged and stored. You can then easily review an entire track record of each box of produce by scanning QR or barcode on the label with a smartphone and accessing recorded information.

If there is a problem, you can identify a trend (is there a problem with items picked from the same field? picked on a certain date? stored at a certain location?) and remove from the distribution these particular items. Check out more details on produce traceability using smartphones here.

Equipment Maintenance, Service & Inspections

mobile equipment maintenance

When a service technician performs equipment maintenance, service or inspection in the field, he needs to use a special form - and many small businesses are still using paper forms for this purpose. Paper forms have a lot of limitations - they can be damaged or lost, require re-entry to the computer and are not easily searchable. Previously, however, small businesses did not have much of a choice - computerized maintenance management systems utilizing mobile computers are quite expensive and are not very feasible.

Now, when these tasks can be performed using mobile forms and cloud software at a very affordable price, there is no reason to stick to the paper forms, spend more time on their processing and risk a loss of the valuable information.

By using a smartphone, a technician can:

  • identify equipment by scanning its QR code or barcode
  • access list of mobile forms valid for this equipment
  • fill out a form on his / her smartphone
  • if necessary, take photos with a smartphone and attach to the form
  • submitted data are sent to the cloud and securely stored there

As a result, you have accurate searchable digital records of all maintenance, service and inspections, that can be searched by multiple parameters to easily find required information.

If your business workflow includes any of the above scenarios, sign up for QR Inventory test drive and check out how QR Inventory will help you become more efficient.


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