Tracking Items in Your Plant with Printed Tags and More

October 9th 2018 15:00:00 PM



Whether you run a make-to-order (MTO) operation or a make-to-stock (MTS) company, your manufacturing business sure has a lot of items to track every day. If you track these items effectively using either a simple printed tag system or a more in-depth technological solution, you’ll be better prepared to ensure customer satisfaction, even in the most rushed of orders. However, if you’re ineffective in tracking these items, you risk falling behind your production schedule because you didn’t realize your stock levels were low.

Considering the high level of competition in today’s global manufacturing market, as well as the ease with which unhappy customers can publicly destroy your reputation and switch to purchasing from your competitors, you can’t afford to lose your customers to ineffective, inefficient inventory practices. It’s time to find a solution.

That why, in today’s article, we’ll be covering the top ways that SMB manufacturers track their inventory, including printed tags for barcodes, or RFID and NFC technologies.

Want to set up your inventory tracking system right now? Contact the manufacturing experts at Scanco to find out how easy it can be to implement the solution of your choice, so you can get on the path to greater customer satisfaction and long-term business success.

What Types of Manufacturers Need Accurate Inventory Tracking?

Inventory management is critical for success across all businesses competing in today’s speed-driven modern manufacturing landscape. Put another way, that means all manufacturers need effective inventory tracking methods. However, the solution each type of manufacturer needs may vary.

  1. MTO companies naturally have large amounts of raw materials they must store in inventory, in order to complete their orders as quickly as possible.

Depending on how customizable your MTO goods are, your company may stock thousands of items as your materials, and efficient production requires that you understand your inventory levels on each of those items at all times. If you work within tight production schedules, you’ll additionally need to know the status of each order as it’s being created.

  1. MTS companies in a JIT environment must manage both a constantly fluctuating inventory of raw materials and a growing collection of finished goods.

Depending on how an MTS company distributes its goods, finished items may be stored in an owned warehouse, in Amazon’s distribution centers, or within an on-demand warehouse or 3PL. Some companies use all three methods and have multiple plants as well, but, as a rule, the more manufacturing and distribution outlets a manufacturer has, the more complexity they face when it comes to tracking inventory.

How Can Manufacturers Address Inventory and Production Challenges?

Manufacturers looking to reduce stock complexity and increase productivity usually choose to track their inventory in one of three ways:

  1. Printed Tags

These solutions are certainly the most basic of the three solutions we’ll be discussing today, but they’re also the most widely used because they’re:

  • Simple to set up
  • Easy to train on and use
  • Extremely cost effective

In fact, the process of printing paper tags and sticking them on inventory shelves, items, or finished goods takes only a few seconds per tag and costs mere pennies. Scanning them with a barcode scanner takes only a fraction of a second longer, which is why printed tags and barcoding typically boasts a fast ROI.

Printed tags are great for tracking materials item by item, which can help you keep your inventory counts accurate even during the busiest of seasons.

  1. RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification)

Radio-frequency identification is admittedly less common than printed tags and barcodes, but that doesn’t mean this inventory and materials tracking method is less effective. RFID systems are tracking devices composed of a small antenna, a microchip, and sometimes a battery.

Not only can RFID give you an accurate, at-a-glance picture of your inventory levels without having to rely on slow counting, the little RFID chips can hold larger amounts of information than a standard barcode printed tag. This makes them extremely useful for storing detailed manufacturing notes as a product moves through the production process.

For example, an RFID chip in an MTO environment should be able to provide detailed supply-chain data on multiple inventory items that are assembled into a single product.

  1. NFC (Near Field Communication)

You’ve probably seen this inventory tracking method in action with employee badges or credit cards—it’s the technology that allows you to tap an NFC-enabled item (such as a credit card) against a reader (such as the grocery store’s point-of-sale terminal), so you can seamlessly and instantly transmit data (such as payment information) without having to rely on error-prone manual data entry.

This method is especially handy in situations where you need to track a constantly fluctuating inventory of materials quickly and easily. Since every smartphone is, by default, a highly effective NFC reader, you can easily create a setup in which each employee is empowered to “check out” high volumes of materials by simply tapping their smartphone against an NFC tag located on the item’s shelf. This keeps your inventory counts up to date yet doesn’t require your employees to scan every single barcode on every single product they use.

The Key to Tracking Materials and FGs on Your Shop Floor and Beyond

If you’re ready to improve second-by-second tracking on your shop floor and within your warehouses and gain clear insight into your purchasing needs and production or sales trends, you may want to consider an effective inventory tracking solution powered by modern technology.

Whether you choose printed tags for barcoding, or technologies such as RFID and NFC, you’ll want to make sure that the software and hardware you choose fully integrates with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

Only when you have complete, seamless integration between your systems, will you finally have the power to leverage data and grow your business by overcoming your inventory tracking challenges.

It all starts with understanding your options.

Get started when you contact the manufacturing inventory experts at Scanco, either through our online Contact page or by calling us up at (330) 645-9959.

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