Keith Thompson is a senior software architect at Epicor Software. He spoke to Aftermarket Business World about inventory management technology.
How can technology address some of the inventory management challenges we see in the aftermarket?
Barcode scanning is important for managing inventory and purchase receipts. Integration capabilities are also important, and we have that in our Vision suite. We can take data warehouse information lumped together by group, and in Epicor we make that available so we can consume the data into Vision and utilize that for forecasting, setting up reorder points using vehicles in operation and repair rates, and other things of that nature. That helps you decide what you should stock.
For example, if you are talking about an acceleration or decline in sales, you want to move things out of inventory as quickly as you can. We have tools in our toolbox that will accomplish hat – everything from setting up models to determining the stock methodology you want to use for a given line. You can set that differently between locations and between lines. That can be configured to run monthly or every day, or you can run it manually on demand. You can keep up with increasing demand on inventory more quickly than if you had to manually find it or pull spreadsheets from a data analytics tool.
How is e-commerce affecting inventory management challenges in the aftermarket?
If you go after the e-commerce business and are successful, that puts strains on your ability to make sure you are keeping up with what should conceivably be an increase in sales. That happens if you make a concentrated effort to go after a new market segment, too. It’s not just e-commerce. It makes it harder to manage the on-hand inventory accurately.
Do you see any emerging technology that you think will have a big effect on the aftermarket supply chain?
I don’t see anything I would call revolutionary coming down the pike.
Auto parts is a difficult challenge in terms of inventory management. It’s all about the trade off between width and depth of SKUs. There’s no perfect world there short of companies putting together different deals with vendors to help support those efforts.
The tools we have now are good at determining lead times, what you should stock based on the number of days you have to define, and other elements that are going to help generate an accurate purchase order.
We also have some stock transfer functionality and balance transfer processes in place that can be implemented, so if you are overstocked in one location and have demand in another location, you can move stock between them.