How can we streamline our ordering process of inventory items?
We currently have a very cumbersome process when it comes to ordering items for stock, special-order, or in-house use. We have 3 different programs in play - QuoteWerks, AutoTask, Quickbooks - to tie in the quoting, ordering, invoicing, and inventory processes. We would like recommendations on how to simplify and streamline this process to make it more efficient and less time-consuming.
Daniel, I've been implementing ERP (once upon a time MRP) systems for over 30 years. The simplest answer is to simplify! If you aren't using an integrated system to begin with, you are destined to suffer additional inter-system handling processes... and errors.
Even if you could automate the interfaces between your separate system, you will still suffer issues related to planning and execution due to visibility.
Remember, each "interface" becomes its own system so, in this case, you wind up with at least 5 systems that must be understood, maintained, and managed.
You probably need an Open-To-Buy system which is a financial budget for retail merchandise structured to assist retailers manage and replenish their most significant asset, their inventory investment., and improve your bottom line.
It takes a bit of planning to set up, but once it's running it's fairly easy to manage and will help improve profits. The calculation is simple:
OTB = Planned Sales + Planned Markdowns + Planned Inventory - Actual Inventory - On Order - Actual Sales
I wrote a white paper on Open-To-Buy which you can find here: http://gapent.com/media/whitepapers/Open-To-Buy.pdf
Consolidate your data in one database and then base any 3rd party forecasting and scheduling activity on that database.
To use your present applications, determine which all applications are ODBC (or OLEDB) compatible, and develop ETL functionalities, if necessary, to synch the data.
Note that Access is a great program to develop customized applications.
Daniel, as David has mentioned it is important to simplify your process as otherwise you spend more time on maintaining systems than the actual business.
However before you decide how and what to use you need to write down your process and according to that you need to purchase the ideal solution.
I'm going to go to the first step for you as others are describing more end results. To "simplify" or "streamline" a process you must first document the existing process. I use a methodology called Rapid Process Analysis in my consulting where I help clients document workflows at consistent levels of detail, do an impact analysis on each potential change/deletion and end up with a support methodology to make process change stick. This is a business problem first and an ordering processes problem second.
Thanks for everyone's feedback so far - very prompt and helpful! We absolutely need to simplify!
We currently use QuoteWerks to integrate with our distributors to identify quantity they have in stock, SKUs, generate Quickbooks POs, and to place the order with the distributors. QuoteWerks doesn't have a ticketing system we're aware of, so we use our PSA (Autotask) to track special order purchases for clients, to know when their hardware has been received, and to assist with charges associated with installation & configuration time. AT doesn't have a billing feature that allows for everything we do, so we use QuickBooks for Purchase Orders, paying our vendors, and invoicing our clients. We have configured these 3 programs to integrate with each other as far as they can (Part Numbers, Client Info, etc), but as you can see they each have their shortcomings. I guess our biggest need is 1-time "special order" purchases by clients, instead of inventory and retail management for our showroom. We
Does anyone have any recommendations for a tool that could go from "Open to Buy" and remove the need for 3 separate tools? Or perhaps a recommendation for a consultant who might be able to examine our current methodology and suggest improvements?
Finding the right software solution can be tough. Have you ever considered using SaaS like Zoho as a viable option? These systems are highly customizable and bring all your workflows under one roof, including purchasing and inventory management. As a side benefit, there is a reduced need for in-house hosting and server maintenance, and compatibility across multiple platforms and devices including mobile.
I don't work for Zoho or any other SaaS company, but I have been a long term user of SaaS services. It allow me to run my business wherever and whenever I choose.
Daniel, how do you currently control stock levels? Do you rely on minimum stock and then simply reorder or do you maintain a rolling stock level (ideal for seasonal items) and then reorder? You use QuoteWerks for quoting - do you take quote forecasting into account when reordering?
Sorry for all the question but I'll need a bit of background first.
Have a look at a tool called TaskCentre by Orbis Software. This is a workflow and data integration tool and could be configured to synchronise data between the different systems. It also has an alerting and notification element, so as an example as stock runs low, it would alert you. It's extremely flexible.
If you are manually interfacing the 3 different systems you may want to look at automating this.
If my assumption is wrong please tell me more.
In fact if some time is spent I am sure that we could find an Open Source system that would do all that you require in one system.
What worries me with what you presently have id 3 databases/file systems that must be kept in synch. I in 30plus years in computers have never seen anyone manage to keep two databases perfectly in synch, don't worry about 3.