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The Best Enterprise Inventory Management System

Derrick Weiss
October 30, 2018

What's’ the best best inventory management system for the enterprise?

If only there was a simple answer, I’d never have written this article.

The answer, of course, is that it depends. I know, I know - not what you wanted to hear. But I’d be doing you a disservice if I spun it any other way.

What’s best for you might not be best for another organization with similar factors. There are so many variables for enterprise businesses that it has spawned a myriad of vendors in this space.

And if you’re looking for a fully customizable solution, look no further than SkuNexus.

There’s a lot to cover, so buckle in and let’s do this.

Our Approach to Finding the Best Enterprise Inventory Management System

You and me, we're in this together. Here's the approach we're going to take to finding the best system for inventory management:

  1. It needs to cover the basics, or we can’t even consider it.
  2. It has to connect to the rest of the technology stack.
  3. We have to be able to establish clear boundaries between it and other systems.
  4. And it has to cover ALL of our edge cases.

The Basics of Inventory Management

Without covering these basics, we can’t consider any new inventory management system.

These are simple, it needs to:

  • Track inventory across multiple locations, channels, and stages
  • Connect to ecommerce platforms and marketplaces
  • Forecast inventory needs for the future
  • Let us know when we’re running low on stock
  • Show a clear trail of activity
  • Assign locations to inventory - both physical and relative

These basics are expected - without them we’re barking up the wrong tree.

Connectivity to the Stack

Ah yes, the tech stack. These aren’t just for software startups in Silicon Valley anymore - they apply to virtually all businesses.

Many enterprise businesses use hundreds of tools across all departments. According to a report from Netskope in early 2017, enterprises use over 1,000 total cloud services.

That’s a staggeringly huge number - but not every system will need to connect with the system that manages your inventory, there will be a few that definitely will.

These are all related to commerce operations - shipping, orders, warehouse, etc. By connecting these items directly to your inventory management system, teams are able to focus on a single process or task or function, without having to switch between systems for the latest information.

Additional functionality (and efficiency) is gained by using a single system for many of these core functions.

Having a single system for inventory, orders, shipping, etc allows users to look at a different view or facet to see the information they need to complete their job function quickly and without errors.

This is the main reason that many enterprises rely on tried and true solutions that have been around for decades. These systems - though severely outdated - will work. They will do exactly as the enterprise requires, and fit like a glove.

The downside is that they are expensive, slow to implement, difficult to maintain and upgrade, and are built on platforms from decades prior. They need to be customized for every single new customer - which increases the cost.

Get a full comparison here.

In the machinations of a large organization, these costs aren’t as large a factor in the business’ success as in smaller businesses, so they go ahead with little trouble.

Finding Balance

With so many technologies layering out the technology stack, how much of the functionality needed for logistics should remain in the inventory management system?

That’s a good question - and again, it doesn’t have a simple answer.

Finding the balance between different software systems is a key component of choosing the best inventory management system for the enterprise.

But where is the magic cutoff point that has been recommended by market leaders? How can one system do it all? Where is the benchmarked statistic to help skyrocket productivity without sacrificing anything else?

There isn’t one. It all depends!

For instance - if you manufacture your own goods - some inventory systems may have functionality that makes it easy to trade raw and finished goods, but some won’t.

You’ll need either a specialized system for manufacturing, or a larger system that can do it all.

But what if your system managed your orders, warehouse, inventory, and fulfillment - and connected to your ERP without any issues? Wouldn’t that be ideal?

This is something you’ll need to figure out on your own. But it needs to be driven by some desired change. What are you hoping to accomplish with your commerce operations that you haven’t been able to do so far?

Define these two states:

  • Current state: how things are run today, the systems you use for inventory, orders, and fulfillment, and how processes intertwine between them.
  • Future state: how you’d like things to be in the future, some measurable change.

The answer is somewhere between those two. Be sure to use KPIs around inventory or warehouse management to benchmark your current state, and define your future state.

What systems or processes do you need to bridge the gap? Work backwards from your goals to determine effective change across the business.

Figure out what you need for your enterprise inventory management system, than get out there and get after it.

And if you’re looking for a system with complete functionality and full customizability, look no further than SkuNexus.

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