Regardless of the type of inventory stocked, a large problem facing many managers is keeping just the right items in the proper quantity ready at all times.
For our clients transportation division, it was a serious concern. They needed to reduce the amount of capital tied up in their repair parts inventory, especially in obscure and infrequently used parts. They also wanted to ensure that they never run out of their frequently used parts. Further, they felt that the time and cost of conducting a monthly physical inventory was restrictive, yet they needed the accuracy of a daily accounting. While they recognized the value of automation, their work environment seemed to make it impossible. They knew they could not afford to have top notch mechanics spending their time doing one-finger (hunt and peck) PC keyboard based data entry.
Current Directions designed a system that gives complete inventory control, while at the same requiring almost no typing or computer skills by the users. It provides for both physical and perpetual inventories using Intermec 9445 hand-held, portable computers with integrated bar-code scanners. The system also maintains vendor profiles, historical repair data for all vehicles, and provides various vehicle maintenance reports.
The Intermec 4400 bar code printer produces all three types of bar code labels required by this system; employee identification labels, vehicle labels and part labels. Recording parts used is as simple as scanning one of each of the above labels. At the end of the day, all scanned information is uploaded into a Novell based server. Using readily located bar codes, replacement parts are entered into the reader as they are replaced. Inventory parts that are new to the system are easily added to the PC and appropriate bar codes are automatically printed.
The solution acheived the goal of allowing them to better control inventory overhead without impairing their operations. Indeed, they discovered it actually reduced manhours per job by eliminating the time-consuming and potentially inaccurate method of handwritten notes, and manual counting. The vehicle information helps them determine which vehicles are due for preventive maintenance. All information is available for reports and queries at any given time.
In addition, when it came time to do a physical inventory, the greater level of organization and automation made executing the task swift and accurate.