Six Steps to Inventory Improvement

 OP DURABLE 01By Mechele McNary

Keeping up with inventory is a necessary part of the manufacturing process, but it can be a struggle for many companies. There are times the wrong products are mailed at the wrong quantities and this is frustrating for both the company and the customer.

I work at Alliance Rubber Company, the largest rubber band manufacturer in the United States, and we have experienced the same struggles. When we first decided to implement a new inventory tracking system, we knew it would be a long process, but we have definitely learned some things. Prior to this system, we did all of our inventory tracking manually, which allows for more errors. Using an inventory tracking system has cut our errors down significantly.

Here are some tips and suggestions for any manufacturers considering implementing a new inventory tracking system.

Evaluate your Process

Review your inventory process from start to finish and see where things can be improved. Where are the majority of errors made? Ask your employees what areas of this process are the most difficult for you? Take that information and let it inform your decision when it comes to which system to purchase and implement.

Do your Research

Test out many different systems, hardware and suppliers. What is the best fit for the people on the floor? We put together a team encompassing all levels of the company, from executives to mid-level managers to floor staff. We knew this project needed support from all levels so we put this team together to make sure everyone was on the same page and working toward the same goal.

Review Your IT

Will your current IT infrastructure support a new tracking system? Dependable, good wi-fi is an absolute must. On that note, it’s important to also make sure the technology of the new system will integrate with your current equipment and system. If your IT is outdated, you will have to upgrade to integrate.

Select Your Team

When you begin the implementation process, make sure the team is in place to handle it. You need everybody’s buy-in. It is very easy for team members to resist change, but it is vital that they be on-board.

Be Flexible

During our implementation process, we saw that some of our team members were struggling with the bulky computers we were using. We tweaked the process a bit and now use rigged tablets that are easier for the team to use and maneuver around the floor.

This new system needs to work for your company and your team, so if you see a part of the program that isn’t working for you - speak up and make the change. Changes will occur and know that those are part of the process. Keep you eye on the end goal, which is less errors.

Take your Time

After all of this planning, it can be tempting to rush the implementation process, but it’s vital that you don’t. Implementation takes a while and it’s of the utmost importance that you address any problems that may arise during the implementation period.

The software we are using was originally written to scan every single box that left the factory floor, which was incredibly time-consuming for our staff members. We evaluated the problem and talked with our team. What they needed was simple: A way to enter an entire order rather than scan each and every box. The solution eventually added a step to the process, but it saves our team hours.

This implementation process hasn’t been easy, but it’s absolutely been worth it. When we were still in the testing phase, one of our forklift drivers pulled the wrong product and it was only caught through the new system. It was a good, eye-opening moment for all of us. No one is perfect and errors will happen, but implementing the inventory tracking system will cut down on those.

Mechele McNary began working at Alliance Rubber Company 19 years ago, first in the production and extrusion department. She now serves as IT manager for the company. In that role, she oversees the entire IT infrastructure for the company.

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