For any product-based business, running an organized, optimized warehouse is key to successful order management and fulfillment. But knowing what you have, where it’s located, and what it’s worth is easier said than done. So how can you achieve real-time inventory visibility? One of the most beneficial strategies for distributors is implementing serialized inventory.
As the name suggests, serialized inventory is an inventory management system that involves marking each individual item with a distinct serial number. Though similar, serial numbers differ from SKUs. While the latter identifies an item type, a serial number is unique to each individual item and can be used to track and trace each product, distinguishing it from its batch or lot.
Not only does serialized inventory afford businesses a high level of precision; this method is particularly beneficial in industries where product authenticity, traceability, and compliance are of the utmost importance. When properly applied, serial item numbers bring in a host of other advantages as well.
If having a clear, accurate view of all inventory is the goal, then serialized inventory is the way to get there. By granting each individual item in your warehouse a unique identifier, you’re doing your business a huge favor when it comes to tracking that product’s movement through the supply chain—from warehouse shelf to the customer’s door.
Combining serial numbers with barcoding packs a powerful punch as well. By assigning scannable images—or barcodes—to every piece of stock in your warehouse, you can say goodbye to clipboards and spreadsheets. The beauty of barcoding is that you can collect item data in seconds, and you’ll know instantly if the item in front of you is the correct one.
Furthermore, leveraging barcode scanners ensures that your team has real-time inventory visibility, because accessing and updating information is no longer a tedious, manual process. Prioritizing the automation of manual processes like serial numbers and barcoding will bring your team’s productivity levels to an all-time high.
Better inventory tracking, in turn, leads to better overall inventory management. Greater precision allows you to manage stock levels more efficiently, reduce excess inventory, and optimize reorder points based on actual usage and demand. With highly detailed inventory data you can rely on, your business is poised to make better-informed decisions in areas like demand forecasting.
The more detailed your inventory data, the more opportunities you have to run unique reports and track key metrics. There are virtually unlimited uses for your data when you can uniquely identify each individual item. Spend some time considering which metrics make the most sense for your current business goals. From turnover rate to lead time to stock levels, you have a lot of valuable data to choose from.
Be sure to capture transactional data as well, like receiving, shipping, transfers, and returns. From there, tailor your reports to reflect your goals. This could look like tracking the movement and location history of specific items, identifying trends in product sales, or tracking the performance of individual products.
Like anything else, you’ll need to continually refine and update your reporting strategies as necessary, and keep up with it over time to gain insight into trends and anomalies.
The improved tracing capabilities afforded by serialized inventory means you’ll also get a clear bird’s eye view of your entire supply chain. When you’re able to track every piece of stock at any point, you’ll have a much easier time identifying potential bottlenecks and inefficiencies in order fulfillment before they cost you money. Being able to prevent these challenges through preemptive corrective action is a game changer in supply chain management, and gives you an edge over your competition.
Though unfortunate, recalls and returns still happen despite distributors’ best efforts. So when they do, it’s important to have strategies in place that make the process as seamless as possible. With serialized inventory, you can easily track down items affected by a product recall with their unique identifier. Not only does this timeliness protect against any legal or financial consequences—your customers will undoubtedly appreciate it as well.
Most of the above benefits of serialized inventory inevitably have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, because these advantages ultimately help you run a better business. Another way that implementing serial numbers affects the customer experience is through accurate warranty and service management. With improved tracking abilities for each individual item, you can more accurately and efficiently process warranty claims and track warranty and service histories.
Quality control is also enhanced because you can better track individual items back to their source, so you can identify and rectify any quality issues that arise. In turn, you’re reducing the risk that a faulty product will reach your customers.
Finally, providing ultra-detailed information on each item, such as manufacturing date or origin, goes a long way in building up customer trust—especially if you’re operating in an industry that demands product authenticity.
It takes a lot of careful planning and intentional effort to optimize your warehouse. So implementing serialized inventory is a great step toward achieving high levels of efficiency and inventory visibility.
But adding serial numbers alone won’t instantly get your warehouse into shape. You also need the right tools and inventory management strategies to reach your highest goals.
Fail-proof your operations with SalesPad Inventory Manager: a powerful inventory tool that integrates with Microsoft Dynamics GP to ensure 100% accuracy in picking, packing, and transferring product. Eliminate mis-picks, get immediate inventory visibility, and automate your processes with ease.
Get in touch with one of our experts to learn more, and take your warehouse to the next level.