If you are anything like us, you believe that losing inventory due to theft, expiration, or temperature excursion is unacceptable. Even worse if that loss costs you revenue, leads to regulatory violations or wasted time searching for and eventually replacing the lost inventory. You’ve done your best to solve these problems with the tools at your disposal: training, process enforcement, retraining, manual or barcode auditing, some more training. But your business is competing in the 21st century, and it’s time to utilize a smart inventory management system that does more than tell you where someone last “took inventory”. Real-time inventory information that enables a solution to all the problems mentioned above exists. You may already know of many devices that help to manage inventory, but it’s behind the scenes that really matters when trying to track high-value inventory. It’s the unsung hero of inventory that truly allows you to know now—the software.
You’ve learned about the benefits of RFID devices from Terso Solutions for providing cost-effective, real-time inventory information that enables a solution to all of the problems mentioned above, with little to no potential for human error. Now it’s time to make use of the real-time data in a software solution that truly enables you and your team to Know Now.
For example, while controlling and getting the data from Terso RFID devices is easy thanks to Jetstream, that data will only be useful outside of your IT department if you integrate it into a secure, easy-to-use, responsive software solution. Like many decisions in life, the option boils down to this: build or buy? The good news is that there are no wrong answers! In a future blog post, we’ll explore why building a custom solution with assistance from our Systems Integration team may be the best option for you.
Buying a software solution may be the better option if the following benefits sound appealing:
- No development and testing costs
- No waiting for internal or 3rd party IT resources
- Exciting updates and needed maintenance are included in the license or subscription
- Leverage a software provider’s years of investment and expertise
What should I look for?
While all the above benefits are generally available when buying any inventory management software solution, not all solutions for sale are created equal. When you buy a cloud-based web application, whether via “one-time” license or monthly subscription, you are really buying into a partnership with that company, not just a product. So how do you make sure you are picking the right partner? There are some obvious things to look for: do they have the features you need? Can they provide successful case studies? – But there are several more subtle factors that may have a great impact on the usefulness of the software solution. Switching software providers can be a lengthy and frustrating process, so you want to make sure you are buying into a product with a solid history, a strong present product, and most importantly: a bright future. These leading indicators of software quality include:
Can you communicate with their support team easily, via your preferred method? Do they supplement live support with self-service tools? Even better, are they proactively ensuring your success?
Ease of Use
It doesn’t matter what the features of a software solution are if it is difficult or unpleasant to use. Good design isn’t a perk, it’s a requirement for use. Also, mobile compatibility matters.
Understanding of Workflow
Most software looks the same these days, so why doesn’t every company use the same inventory management solution? The answer is workflow expertise. Choose a system that understands how you do things, or better yet, helps you reinvent the way you do things, for the better.
Update and Maintenance Frequency
The power of SaaS is that it “just works”, and works better over time, with no effort on your part! The effort, of course, must be supplied by the software provider. Make sure they are regularly (at least quarterly) maintaining and upgrading their servers and code.
Security is more than bragging about how many bits of encryption you use. How easy is it to ensure authenticated users can only do what they are authorized for? How do they protect their internal IT systems from abuse by their own current (or former) employees? Security is a never-ending journey, not a destination, so make sure your software provider is willing to go the distance to keep you safe.
Automated Data Capture
Inventory management systems have historically looked a lot like a spreadsheet. You plugged in the data by hand, or via barcode, and out came a formula for what to do. In the future, inventory management solutions will increasingly depend on Internet of Things (IoT) devices to supplement and even replace manual intervention in your inventory supply chain, so pick a provider who is invested in making these capabilities available to you.
Where do I buy?
No matter what you need, be sure to look for a software solution with you at the center. Be wary of those tied to solely selling their software solution as a quick, easy-fix approach because your company is unique and that means your inventory challenges are unique as well.
Terso works with a large number of the top software vendors in the hospital inventory management and loaner kit tracking industries. These partners all offer RFID device support out-of-the-box. In areas where Terso has not been able to locate a partner, we leveraged our expertise to design, build, and maintain our own world-class software solutions. Smart Stockroom with chemical tracking is specially designed for laboratory inventory management. Stratosphere is a web application purpose-built for medical device manufacturers and distributors wishing to manage their field inventory while also offering a convenient portal for customers and employees.
Any one of these software solutions can help you create your very own smart inventory management system with less time and money than building your own. Additionally, when you choose the right partner, you are also gaining an expert who will continuously improve the software solution for you. Whether you have decided buying is the right choice for you and your team to finally have the 21st century inventory management solution of your dreams, or you are still considering building a totally custom solution, Terso is here to equip you with the knowledge and expertise you and your business deserve.
If you are anything like us, losing inventory due to theft, expiration, or temperature excursion is unacceptable. You’ve done your best to solve these problems with the tools at your disposal: training, process enforcement, retraining, manual or barcode auditing, and some more training. The good news is that real-time inventory management solutions do exist, they just require an approach that takes the burden off your people.
Let’s assume you’ve learned about the benefits of RFID devices from Terso Solutions for providing real-time inventory information that solves all the problems mentioned above, with little to no potential for human error. Now it’s time to turn that real-time data into action with a software solution that enables you and your team to Know Now.
Like many decisions in life, the choice boils down to this: build or buy? The good news is that there isn’t a wrong answer! Above we explored why buying a carefully selected inventory management software solution may be the best choice for you. But we are also familiar with customers that bring their own software to the RFID party, enabling smart inventory management in an incredible variety of forms.
Building a software solution may be the better choice if the following benefits sound appealing:
- Build and edit features and workflows to form-fit your company’s unique processes
- Completely control data (Personally ensure confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility)
- Leverage your existing internal software solutions and expertise
- Resell or license your software solution to others
What Should I Build?
The benefits listed above are a given when building any custom inventory solution. Although, those benefits alone do not define a successful solution. Whether you set out to build a sprawling enterprise application, a niche lightweight mobile app, or a custom ERP integration, you are committing to a managed rollout, continued user support, feature enhancements, bug fixes, and eventual sunsetting of the software. With that long road ahead, how do you make sure you are building something worth the effort?
Some requirements are obvious. Does it have the features all internal and external stakeholders need? Can you build it in time and on budget? But there are several less obvious factors that can affect the quality of the software solution you craft. You want to make sure you are building a product with a firm foundation, a strong ROI, and a bright future. With that in mind, some leading indicators of software quality include:
When a user has a question, where will they turn? Once the initial software project ends, who will document, prioritize, and implement bug fixes or feature requests? Is the software of high enough quality that the code base is supportable for years to come?
Ease of Use
It doesn’t matter what the features of a software solution are if it is difficult or unpleasant to use. Good design isn’t a want, it’s a need. Also, mobile compatibility matters.
Understanding of Workflow
One of the core benefits of building your own solution is ensuring a custom fit to your workflows. Do first-hand research and involve prospective users in design reviews and testing. Understand, or better yet, improve the way your users work, based on their input.
Update and Maintenance Frequency
Software is not a perpetual motion machine. It requires maintenance to keep working as designed, much less improve over time. You’ll need experienced and committed people to support the code base, the hosting servers, and any 3rd party integrations.
Security is more than encryption, restricting server access, or requiring impossible complex passwords. How easy is it to ensure users can only do what they should in the software? How do you protect your internal systems from abuse by current (or former) employees? Security is a never-ending journey, not a destination. Make sure you are ready to commit to security over the entire software life cycle.
Automated Data Capture
Inventory management systems still look a lot like a spreadsheet. You enter the data by hand, or via barcode, and out comes a formula for what to do. Modern inventory management solutions are increasingly dependent on Internet of Things (IoT) devices to supplement and even replace manual intervention in your inventory supply chain. Find a technology partner who invests in making these capabilities available to you, right in your software solution.
How to Build It?
Building great software takes time, effort, and expertise. There may be no shortcuts to writing great code, but there are shortcuts to great software solutions: leverage 3rd-party libraries and APIs. Even the largest tech companies don’t write every line of code in their products, and neither should you. With a few weeks of integration work, you can benefit from the years of research, experience, and testing provided by a 3rd-party toolset.
The API ecosystem has never been more robust, with a solution for virtually any use case. The best API providers continuously improve the quality and variety of features their API enables, strengthening your software solution with minimal effort on your part.
It’s never been easier to build your very own smart inventory management system. Building doesn’t mean you have to sweat over every line of code. Leverage the “blocks” provided by trusted software partners. Whether you build a custom software solution or buy a solution with out-of-the-box Jetstream integration, Terso Solutions is here to equip you with the knowledge and expertise you and your business deserves.