Back to the Basics- What is logistics?

Logistics are important for any business to function well, especially those working with package tracking systems. The many facets of logistics affect the overall goal of ensuring that everything related to a business is in the right place at the right time.

Chain of Supply
Logistics refer to the cycle of a product from manufacture to sale, and everywhere in between. For a business to effectively meet the demands of the customer in a timely manner, the logistics must be calculated exactly. The science behind logistics ensure the efficient transport of a product as quickly as possible. The quicker goods can be brought to market, the quicker a business can turn a profit.

Inventory Management
Once the goods reach a business, the science of logistics dictates how to effectively manage the stock. The handling and transport of items once they are in a company’s possession are part of inventory management. The goal is to reduce waste, taking the best care of stock while it is with the company. Computer software aids in keeping detailed information on items in stock, making inventory management a key way for companies to reduce loss.

Inventory Control
Organizing and maintaining a large stock of goods in no easy task. Inventory control plays a large part in logistics because of the sheer number of goods involved. Poorly managing goods can lead to loss, which is poisonous to the success of any company. Mapping out the proper control of goods adds to efficiency and increases profit margins.

Off Site Logistics
A growing number of companies are contracting specialists to management logistics. “3PL”, as it referred to in the industry, are third part companies that specialize in managing the logistics -everything from start to finish- of a company. The needs of each company will vary, and contracting a 3PL company has pros and cons.

Vital To Business Success
The importance of efficient logistics can not be stressed enough. For any business that deals with physical goods, logistics are vital to the continued success of the enterprise. Logistics track the condition and location of goods to ensure that the customer receives the product on time, every time. This in turn will generate more business. Companies invest large amounts of money into improving logistics because of the importance of a satisfied customer.

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Difference Between Asset Tracking and Inventory Management

There is close association between asset tracking and inventory management but they do not mean the same thing as many people assume. This is especially true for brick and mortar firms that operate both on location and online. However, they both can benefit from an inventory control system, but in order to know the difference between the two, it is important to know what asset and inventory mean.

Assets are economic resources representing ownership of value. They can be tangible things like vehicles or intangible ones such as software. On the other hand, an inventory is a compiled list of assets used for a particular purpose such as sale. An asset is meant for long-term use while an inventory is meant for consumption. In other words, assets are the things that a company owns while inventory refers to what the company sells. The two are tracked in different ways.

Tracking assets is not done in a group but individually. The tracking process requires specific details on particular assets, including location, age and even maintenance details. The system involves the management of necessary tools for running business processes.

Inventory management may involve a combination of data of identical items. For example, a book store would want to determine the number of a particular book in stock. Inventory management concerns the way a business manages the products it sells to keep operating.

Companies that tend to use materials instead of selling products will focus more on asset tracking than inventory management. They use special systems that help them in tracking assets.

Although libraries buy and sell some items from time to time, they are more concerned with maintaining the assets they already have, which may include books and CDs. The bar coded assets are usually scanned as they are lent out and returned.

Businesses that are more concerned with selling products rely on inventory management. For example, a book store will be shipping, stocking and selling products regularly. They must ensure they always stock products in high demand and avoid the ones that may remain on the bookshelves for long periods. This is where inventory management comes in handy.

Both asset tracking and inventory management systems use special inventory management software to automate the processes but they work in different ways. The former handles the internal resources of a company while the latter handles the products that companies sell. While vehicles may be one company’s assets, they will feature in the inventory of a company that sells them.

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Asset Tracking 101- Learn The Basics

When companies move their goods from one location to another, it is important for them to have an effective way of ensuring the assets reach their intended destinations safely. This is especially necessary if assets are shipped over long distances. Some would agree that working with packing tracking systems can prove to be very effective.

Introduction to Asset Tracking

Asset tracking systems are designed for outdoor use to help companies keep track of both tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets include things like vehicles, furniture, mobile phones, computers and other machines while the intangible assets include service contracts, patents, software licenses and grants. Tracking of assets allows companies to have a full picture of all their assets and manage their movements well.

The systems help in tracking assets automatically and providing real time data. This enables companies to manage their assets without relying on physical inventories. They usually have batteries that can operate for several years without recharging. Some portable systems can function for up to six months without maintenance.

How do the Systems Work?

Asset tracking systems make use of software, Quick Response or QR codes and transceivers to keep track of assets. The software is loaded onto a computer to keep records of barcode scanned assets (Click here for information about how a barcode scanner works).

QR codes are popular two-dimensional codes that allow fast downloading of enclosed information. They are mostly placed on automobile parts and used in tracking assets.

A transceiver transmits and receives information, which helps to maintain communication between the computer and assets being tracked. As a result, the software provides real time updates of the assets in transit.

Why Track Assets?

Tracking of assets helps to save time that would otherwise be used in conducting asset inventories and searching for misplaced goods because it prevents loss in the first place. The system also helps companies know exactly what they own and the location of their assets.

Here are some statistics to help put things in better perspective:

  • 64 percent of businesses conduct at least one manual search a day to locate assets or inventory
  • 64 percent of searches take at least 30 minutes
  • 60 percent of organizations do not know exactly what they own and where all assets are located
  • Annual asset and inventory losses amount to $437,000

On the other hand, tracking assets provides several benefits, including:

  • Reducing total cost of ownership by between 10 and 30 percent
  • Saving four hours per week with a staff of 500. This translates to $6 million within one year
  • Saving costs by 20 percent per managed asset in nine months
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Barcode Scanners Accelerate Business Success

Almost every item purchased today from grocery stores, mass merchandisers and department stores is marked with a UPC bar code. These codes help merchants keep track of inventory and have proven successful for retail products in all areas. The numbers originate when the product is manufactured and the manufacturer applies to the Uniform Code Council for permission to enter the Universal Product Code system. Every item a manufacturer sells requires a different item code. These barcodes consist of a series of black and white stripes stamped onto a product or imprinted on a label. In order to be read, they require an electronic reader that translates the stripes as numbers.

There are basically four types of scanners used to translate the barcodes. Each type consists of three basic parts including a sensor, illumination system and a decoder. The height, width and spacing of each code differ with each strip representing a number, letter or character. The sensor sends out an electrical impulse as a digital signal while the decoder checks the signal and changes it into a readable format. Barcode scanners use software that converts electrical pulse into readable text in a mere matter of seconds.

Handheld pen-type scanners read a barcode when the pen is moved across the bars at a uniform speed. It operates by measuring the intensity of the light as it passes over each bar and space in the code. The dark bars absorb light while the light spaces reflect light thus creating a waveform that can be interpreted. With a stationary scanner that mounted on a table or wall, the user passes the item under or beside the scanner which reads the barcode. CCD or charge-coupled device scanners use an electronic lens that measures the light emitted by the barcode and operated much like a digital camera. Laser scanners operate much like a pen-type scanner by measured light intensity by passing a laser beam back and forth across the barcode.

Retailers use barcode scanners and readers at all points of sale and check-out terminals to record prices and give customers a bill. Businesses find that barcode systems enable them to maintain a more accurate record of inventory and help in generating replacement orders. Almost any business or industry derives benefits by using barcode systems. They work well in businesses where items need to be correctly identified and recorded.

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How Does a Barcode Work?

Barcodes are an integral part of our everyday lives, but how do they work? Setting aside the various types of barcode scanners that have been introduced over the years, we’ll take a look at the standard UPC type with which most of us are familiar.

Though the lines on a barcode may seem to vary in thickness, they’re actually made up of 95 separate columns of equal width. When a barcode system scans these lines, it reads them as 95 pieces of information which we can think of as zeroes and ones. This pattern of zeroes and ones gives the barcode software all the information it needs.

These 95 columns are broken up into 15 sections: 12 sections to represent the numbers that we see below the lines, and three “guard” sections that tell the computer where the sequence begins and ends, as well as where its center is. Using this information, the barcode software can then determine each of the 12 digits in the number.

But wait, what happens if the code is scanned upside-down? Wouldn’t it read the number backwards? The folks behind this system have actually come up with a pretty clever solution to this problem. The 12 digits are actually split by the center guard into two groups of six, and these two halves are decoded in different ways. This allows the computer to determine if a barcode is being read backwards, upside-down, you name it.

You’ve probably also noticed that the 12 digits are separated rather unusually. There’s one by itself, followed by five, then another five, and finally one more. These numbers serve a purpose all their own. The first digit lets the computer know what type of code is being read: standard, weighed items, coupons, etc. The next five indicate the manufacturer, meaning all Doritos products will share this portion of the code. The second group of five represents the product itself; nacho cheese, cool ranch and so on.

The final number is a bit special. Its job is to serve as a fail-safe, letting the system know when it reads the code incorrectly. The first 11 digits are put through a complicated calculation, and the answer should always be the final digit. If the barcode system comes up with a different answer, it knows something was read incorrectly, and raises a red flag.

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Best Practices for Inventory Control

Inventory control isn’t the abstract quagmire that some people make it out to be. Although there are quite a few factors to keep track of simultaneously, people who use technology to their advantage find that inventory management becomes simple. Here are some top cross-industry logistics practices designed to keep your inventory accessible and under control no matter what.

Reduce Manual Labor
First off, implement automated package tracking systems in your warehouses. For instance, RFID package or asset tags and readers that automatically update stock databases the instant packages slide by on a conveyor belt allow you to increase the speed and accuracy of your operations without increasing the workload.

Even implementing simple barcoding labeling procedures and marking standards for office assets can drastically improve how much work goes into tracking them. These data tools are usually easy to install and customize, so you can extend your supply chain as needed without reworking the your entire operating procedure.

Integrate Inventory Management Systems
One of the best things you can do for a warehousing or a supply chain system is integrate it with the rest of your computer networks. If you can instantaneously view a snapshot of where all your assets are at any given moment via your mobile phone, you’ll be a lot better informed when it comes time to use those resources.

Integrated systems also increase your level of control. For instance, having the ability to check in with a phone or remote desktop computer allows you to direct human resources far more efficiently. In process-oriented manufacturing situations, it’s essential to be intimately familiar with your current output capacity. Integrating your inventory management and office systems is the best way to stay abreast of how well things are going and how much leeway you’ve got for adjustment.

Implement Metric Data
Finally, the most important inventory control practice you can implement is establishing some kind of metric system. Common metrics include data like shipment transportation rates, checkpoint efficiency and order fulfillment accuracy. If you followed the advice about integrating your systems and relying more on technological tools, you’ll be able to gather such data without crunching any numbers in your head because the machines will do it for you.

Learning more about your inventory system is essential to improving it. If you do nothing else, make sure you implement an accurate metric system and incorporate regular evaluations of the data it generates into your management routine.

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Asset Tracking Tips- Keep Valuable Items Close

A business can’t survive without its assets, yet many business owners and managers lose track through poor asset management. Valuable income-producing property can be misplaced, stored improperly, become outdated, and sit idle unnecessarily.

Some simple guidelines can help a business utilize the full value of assets and improve the bottom line.

  1. Get an asset-tracking system. This package tracking software can streamline asset management by telling managers where their assets are, how much useful life they have in them, and what their production capacity is. This can be particularly helpful if assets are scattered among several locations. With one click of the keyboard, the asset manager can find the location of an asset and determine where it could best be used
  2. Use barcodes. Astute business owners have employees place barcodes on the front of each asset, not the back. This allows staff to find and retrieve the asset quickly. The time a business spends getting barcodes in place will save countless hours of searching. Asset tracking through barcodes makes a business much more efficient.
  3. Check useful life. Each asset has a lifespan, and a business can depreciate that asset for its full lifespan. If an asset sits idle in a warehouse or hidden location, the business does not get the full income-producing capacity. By getting the best income and taking deductions, a business can improve its bottom line dramatically.
  4. Record purchases and sales. Once a business knows where its assets are, it can reduce confusion by entering the purchase of new assets into its tracking database. This saves time searching for the new asset later. Similarly, the sale of an asset needs to go into the database. This will signal accounting to stop depreciating the item, and employees will not waste time looking for an asset the company no longer owns.
  5. Count inventory as an asset. Wise managers apply asset tracking methods to inventory, even if that inventory moves quickly. This can tell managers the exact cost of each item, so that when they apply mark-ups or discounts, they have a cost basis. Tracking inventory also tell the warehouse manager or floor manager when to purchase replacement inventory. In addition, the company can document inventory damage or loss through a thorough tracking system. The write-offs of lost inventory can improve the profitability of a company by showing increased expenses.
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