Features and benefits of inventory control systems in food and beverage manufacturing

In the fast-paced market of food and beverage (F&B) manufacturing, maintaining precise control over inventory is paramount to success. The ability to uphold stringent quality standards, while managing inventory expiration dates is challenging, to say the least.  

In addition to other aspects of operations, F&B companies must manage raw materials, track production processes, and ensure the timely delivery of finished products. Keeping close tabs on these activities helps facilitate profitability, as organizations strive to meet the ever-growing demands of consumers. 

To this end, a robust inventory control management system is a must so that food and beverage manufacturers can meet their targets while maintaining regulatory compliance.  

Let’s look at the key features and benefits of inventory control systems in food and beverage manufacturing. 

Key features of food and beverage inventory control software 

Lot and batch tracking 

For manufacturers in the food and beverage industry, inventory control systems provide robust lot and batch tracking capabilities. This allows manufacturers to trace ingredients and finished products throughout the production process, ensuring full visibility and accountability.  

In the event of quality issues or product recalls, precise lot and batch tracking facilitate swift identification and targeted responses. 

Tracking and monitoring expiration dates 

Inventory control systems for food manufacturers enable them to track the expiration dates of ingredients, raw materials, finished products, and more. This prevents them from using expired items, while helping reduce waste and maintaining product freshness and quality. 

Quality control parameters 

Be it establishing benchmarks for quality, monitoring production processes, or conducting quality checks at various stages, inventory control systems can be used to aid such endeavors. By maintaining strict quality standards, food and beverage manufacturers can consistently deliver products that meet customer expectations and comply with regulatory requirements. 

Real-time inventory visibility  

Advanced inventory control systems provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movement. Food and beverage manufacturers can accurately track stock, anticipate shortages or excesses, and make informed decisions about production and procurement.  

Compliance and regulatory support 

Inventory control systems offer features that assist in meeting regulatory obligations around labeling, and traceability. This ensures compliance and helps mitigate the risk of penalties.  

Benefits of inventory control systems in food and beverage manufacturing 

Enhanced product quality 

Manufacturers can enforce stringent quality control measures, ensuring the consistency, safety, and integrity of their products. Real-time monitoring of quality parameters and expiration dates reduces the risk of compromised products reaching consumers. This safeguards brand reputation. 

Reduced waste and costs  

Optimizing inventory levels and preventing excessive stock items from entering the production process naturally reduces waste and operational costs. Additionally, efficient expiration management reduces waste due to spoilage or obsolescence.  

Increased efficiency and productivity 

Streamlining aspects of inventory management, such as automated tracking, accurate forecasting, and timely replenishment, enhance operational efficiency. Manufacturers can optimize production cycles, reduce downtime, and allocate resources more effectively. This translates to increased productivity and faster time-to-market. 

Improved customer satisfaction 

Accurate inventory control ensures the production of fresh and high-quality products for customers. Also, fewer stockouts and better order fulfillment enhance customer satisfaction. This fosters customer loyalty and positive brand experiences. 

Data-driven decision-making 

Inventory management systems offer comprehensive analytics and reporting. Manufacturers can derive insights regarding demand patterns, production efficiency, and inventory performance. This enables data-driven decision-making, continuous process improvement, and strategic planning for future growth. 

Exploring inventory management solutions for businesses

Inefficient inventory management can result in higher storage costs, reduced sales, and lower customer satisfaction ratings. Shortages, overstocks, inaccurate inventory tracking, slow demand forecasting, and inefficient warehouse management reveal the importance of inventory management solutions that implement real-time data, automated management solutions, and up-to-date demand forecasting for any modern business. 

Below, we explore the features of an effective inventory management solution, as well as the benefits of employing one. With inventory distortion costing businesses $1.8 trillion in 2020 alone, the importance of optimized inventory management processes in reducing costs and improving customer service cannot be overstated. 

The true cost of inefficient inventory management 

Any business driven by inventory – including e-commerce retailers, brick-and-mortar stores, and any business that keeps an equipment inventory – can benefit from optimizing its management solutions. While small businesses often think of supply chain management and inventory management as the same process, inventory management presents unique challenges whose solutions could improve profits and increase customer satisfaction. 

By simply reducing stock outs and overstocks, businesses can experience a 10% drop in inventory costs. Additionally, state-controlled inventory taxes tie directly to inventory management, since unoptimized storage can lead to increased business property taxes for your whole operation. 

Benefits of optimized inventory management 

Post-pandemic changes to demand forecasting have caused approximately 90% of inventory-focused businesses to reevaluate their supply chains. But higher profits don’t only stem from reduced overages. Accurate inventory tracking can lead to streamlined purchasing and delivery processes that improve customer satisfaction. 

The more accurate the monitoring system, the fewer losses the business will suffer due to errors, stock outs, and inefficient storage. Inventory management solutions that address these issues should be personalized to the business’s existing infrastructure to improve processes, rather than merely automate inefficient ones. 

To do this, inventory management software should provide several key features that focus on how orders are stored, tracked, ordered, delivered, and reported. 

Key features of an effective inventory management solution 

Rebooting your inventory management with a tailored software solution requires the right features. Once the processes are in place, many modern solutions can automate the more labor-intensive aspects of management, while still responding to your new strategies. The right solution gives you the tools you need without taking away your control. 

The key features that will make management software effective in 2023 and beyond include: 

  • Real-time inventory costing and tracking 
  • Stock history reporting, including low stock alerts 
  • Digital labeling with barcode support 
  • Inventory syncing across multiple warehouses 
  • Centralized database management 
  • Integration with popular shopping apps, like Amazon and Shopify 
  • Automatic reordering 
  • Detailed reporting metrics, including customer behaviors and buying patterns 
  • Business performance tracking 
  • Shipment integration with popular providers 

Tips for successful inventory management 

Optimized inventory management solutions use these features to integrate with a business’s existing supply chain. 

  • Choose your control system. If your stock comes from your facility, the inventory should be controlled internally. Conversely, if you use a fulfillment center or drop shipper for inventory management, your software solution should integrate with their systems. 
  • Collect inventory data. This data can be a valuable tool, but only if you choose the right metrics to manage. An automated system can be set up to record product numbers, QOH, storage locations, product cost tracking (both wholesale and retail), and other supplier information. Integrated management solutions can track this information as spreadsheets to give you the tools you need to track your process and respond to changes. 
  • Organize physical storage areas. Grouping product areas in your storage facilities by items frequently bought together can reduce turnaround times and improve customer satisfaction. An internal SKU system, which many software solutions can manage, can unify your storage organization. 
  • Track inventory levels. Properly tracked inventories can save a business on yearly tax costs in addition to preventing shortages and overstocks. While most businesses do a manual count at least once per year, an automated solution can perform cycle counts of certain inventory sections, as well as spot checking for random stocking or storage errors. 

Many small businesses may think they can avoid inventory management, just as large businesses may believe their systems are as good as they need to be. However, businesses of any size can benefit from software solutions that track, record, and optimize this all-important step in their supply chain. 

Optimizing inventory management: Implementing an effective control system

To make the most profit from the lowest amount of stock investment while meeting customer demand, businesses need optimum inventory management. The basic definition entails tracking the amount of product in stock and optimizing how to move it. But a truly effective control system goes beyond simple functionality. 

When properly optimized with resource planning software, an inventory control system can unify a business’s entire supply chain. As no two businesses are alike, no single inventory management solution should be rolled out for multiple infrastructures. Supply chain management personalized for your business’s unique systems is the secret to success in an economy where only 21% of businesses believe they maintain satisfactory visibility in their supply chain management. 

How is inventory management optimized? 

The most profitable inventory control systems maintain visibility at every step of the supply chain, from the transport of stock to your warehouses to the storage management within them. 

Successfully managing inventory levels requires keeping stock optimized for your business’s supply and demand forecast. While storing too much inventory leads to unnecessary storage costs, storing too little leads to stock outs.  

Yet, inventory levels cannot be optimized without ordering and reordering systems that trigger when needed. This requires a system that tracks when stock levels near reorder points and when orders are placed, approved, shipped, and delivered, an even more significant investment in the era of online fulfillment. 

Your supply chain may not react quickly to changes in supply and demand without an effective control system. Numerous businesses learned this the hard way during the pandemic, when companies lost billions of dollars in 2020 alone due to missed sales on out-of-stock items whose demand forecast shifted too quickly for most companies to react. 

How does inventory control impact your business? 

Poor inventory control can lead to issues on both the corporate and customer side of your supply chain. In your warehouses, excess unsold stock is costly to house, and some products may spoil when businesses fail to coordinate their supply with their consumers’ demand. In 2022 alone, inventory oversupply cost businesses more than  $163 billion. 

On the customer side, out-of-stock items cause your business to lose a customer 43 percent of the time, according to the Harvard Business Review. This means out-of-stock items, due to low-visibility supply chain management, can not only ruin the current sale, but decrease your overall revenue and negatively impact your customer service profile. 

Actionable tips for improving inventory control 

In today’s fast-paced market, it’s tempting to automate inventory control with one-size-fits-all solutions. Unfortunately, basic inventory management software can only automate the processes already in place – they cannot refine the issues that cause your supply chain problems from the start. 

Optimum inventory management requires personalized control, using software solutions that can be customized for your business’s existing framework. This means reducing wasted space, improving your demand forecasting, renewing your relationships with vendors, maintaining critical stock, and using advanced analytics to consistently review and revise the processes that allow your supply chain to keep pace with your market are critical for your operational success. 

Software solutions that offer full visibility of your warehousing and manufacturing workflows can optimize your inventory control system from a single platform. From keeping accurate inventory counts to efficiently tracking and managing assets, an effective control system works within your infrastructure to personalize solutions to your warehousing strategies and react to demand changes when they happen. 

From chaos to control: Implementing an inventory control management system

Maintaining a firm grip on inventory control is a perpetual challenge many businesses face. From excessive stockpiles and frequent stockouts to financial losses and operational inefficiencies, the consequences of poor inventory management are far-reaching.  

It’s, therefore, a no-brainer as to why inventory management software are sought after for inventory control management. They provide businesses with the tools and insights necessary for optimizing inventory levels, streamlining operations, and maximizing profitability. 

Let’s explore the critical steps, benefits, and key considerations for implementing an inventory control management system 

Benefits of implementing an inventory control management system 

Implementing an inventory control management system brings forth numerous benefits for organizations. These include: 

Enhanced inventory visibility 

An inventory management system allows real-time visibility into stock levels, locations, and movement. This enables accurate tracking, improves inventory accuracy, and minimizes the risk of stockouts or overstocking. 

Improved demand forecasting 

By leveraging historical data and advanced analytics, an inventory control management system assists in forecasting future demand patterns. This enables businesses to optimize stock levels and reduce carrying costs. 

Streamlined operations 

An inventory control management system streamlines various operational processes, such as procurement, warehousing, and order fulfillment. It enables automated workflows, reduces manual effort, and increases overall efficiency within the supply chain. 

Cost reduction  

Effective inventory control translates to cost savings by eliminating excess inventory, reducing carrying costs, and minimizing the likelihood of obsolete or expired stock. It also results in lower storage and handling expenses. 

Enhanced customer satisfaction  

Accurate inventory control ensures that products are readily available to meet customer demand. This reduces backorders, improves order fulfillment speed, and enhances customer satisfaction 

Critical steps in implementing an inventory control management system 

Here are the key steps for a streamlined implementation of an inventory control management system:  

Assess current inventory processes 

Begin by thoroughly assessing existing inventory processes, including stock management, tracking methods, and data collection. Identify pain points, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement. 

Define inventory control goals 

Establish clear goals and objectives for your inventory control management system implementation. This can be, say, reducing stockouts, improving accuracy, or optimizing inventory turnover. 

Select suitable inventory control software 

Research and evaluate inventory control software solutions based on your organization’s requirements. Consider scalability, integration capabilities, implementation timeline, user-friendliness, change-management requirements, and reporting features.  Fishbowl ticks all these checkboxes and more.  

Data migration and system integration 

Ensure a smooth transition by migrating existing inventory data into the new system. Integrate the inventory control management system with other relevant systems. 

Staff training and change management 

Provide comprehensive training to employees using the inventory control management system. Emphasize the benefits and importance of the new system and address any concerns or resistance to change. Ensure each user of the inventory control management system understands how to use specific features for their roles and how the new process and software will positively impact the organization. 

Key considerations for implementing an inventory control management system 

Here’s what you’d need to consider when choosing an inventory control management system. 


Choose a system that can accommodate your organization’s growth and evolving inventory needs. Does it have the ability to add on more robust feature sets or add additional end user credentials? Will it allow you to modify inventory as your capacity increases? Ensure the inventory control management system is flexible and adapts to changing business requirements. 

Integration with existing systems 

Consider the compatibility and seamless integration of the inventory control management system with other existing systems within your organization, like accounting software. This facilitates data sharing and process automation and allows your staff to minimize data entry and the need to manage disparate systems. 

Continuous monitoring and improvement 

Implementing and tweaking an inventory control management system is an ongoing process. Continuously monitor key performance indicators, analyze data, and make adjustments to optimize inventory control strategies. 

Stakeholder collaboration 

Involve key stakeholders from various departments, such as purchasing, sales, and finance, in the implementation process. Collaboration and communication are vital to ensure alignment, gather valuable insights, and drive successful outcomes.

Fishbowls brand transformation led by CMO, Morgan Gardner

An interview with Morgan Gardner, CMO of Fishbowl.

Morgan Gardner CMO of Fishbowl Inventory sitting on a gray couch smiling at the camera

In July 2022, Fishbowl brought on Morgan Gardner as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to build and lead a rockstar team in transforming the company’s brand. As a seasoned leader with a customer-centric, data-driven approach to marketing strategy, Morgan is helping Fishbowl deliver and serve its customers at the highest levels. 

We had the pleasure of interviewing Morgan on her career experience as well as her journey as Fishbowl’s CMO. This is part one of a two -part series with Morgan, as she will not only talk about her expertise, but also the importance of having a high-performing team to lead a brand transformation, strategic advice for small to mid-sized business (SMB) leaders, and industry trends she sees unfolding in 2023 and the years to come.  

Thank you so much for doing this! Before we dig in, can you give us a glimpse of what you love about the culture at Fishbowl?  

Fishbowl loves a good office prank – I’ve had the privilege of being on both the pranking and receiving end of these pranks. I can personally attest to picking up 25,000 pennies spread across my office floor.  

I’ve never worked in an office with more access to snacks and food. We joke that working at Fishbowl comes with a salary and a meal plan. It’s a regular struggle to not wander into one of the office kitchens and walk out with a handful of sour patch kids. 

The people at Fishbowl are truly incredible – when I walked in on my first day, and really every day since, I have felt genuinely loved and cared for by my co-workers. It’s an incredibly rare culture filled with compassion, empathy, laughter, and fun, alongside some powerhouse business partners and mentors. 

Fishbowl has brought you in as the CMO to build up a brand-new marketing team and implement a brand-new strategy. How’s that process been for you? 

It’s been extremely challenging, but also very rewarding. It was a clean slate for the Fishbowl Marketing team. Once we had restructured and built out the team, had our optimal technology stack in place, and our data properly tracking and providing visibility into channel performance and funnel conversion, we were able to really set the vision for how we would scale our efforts, where we would invest our spend, and how we would measure success. 

 Now a year later, we have learned so much, and are excited about the road ahead. 

 Can you walk us through your first steps in building a brand strategy from scratch and what key areas you focus on?  

While each company I’ve worked with has been unique, the first few steps are usually the same in the onboarding process and transformational marketing work. 

The first step is really centered around learning and asking questions. This step is imperative and often overlooked by leaders in new roles who are eager to create immediate and measurable value to the business.  

From there, I like to create a strategy for how we will approach the key operational components:  
People: Who do I have on the team, what roles do I need on the team? How junior or senior is the talent, are they coachable, are they in the right role to maximize their potential?  

Systems: Do we have the right systems in place to optimize our work efforts, communication, and data tracking?  If we do, what clean-up work is needed to make sure we can track the data we need, and if we don’t, what systems do we need to consider ensuring we can operate with complete visibility and efficiency? 

Process: Do we have a clearly defined and fully operational process for how we manage our strategy work, tactics, team collaboration, roles, and responsibilities?   

Metrics: What can we measure today? Is it accurate? Do we trust it? Can we take action against it?  What do we need to be able to measure and how do we optimize our people, process, and systems to produce better performance outcomes as shown by the metrics? 

SMBs navigate through a complex and ever-changing business landscape, and the role of a CMO is becoming more pivotal to a company’s success. Can you tell us how you view this role and talk a little bit about the main responsibilities of a CMO at an SMB? 

The need to have a defined marketing strategy and a deep understanding of your customers and competitive landscape is what matters most.  

While business landscapes will change and marketing tactics will become more advanced, knowing your customer and how your product fits their unique needs, compared to your competitors, is truly the foundation of a marketing strategy.  
As a CMO at a growth-focused SaaS SMB, my core responsibilities over the last year have been: 

  1. Building a high-preforming marketing team; hiring the right people with the right skills to help prepare us for scaled growth.
  2. Understanding the business holistically and how each department supports an ideal customer journey.
  3. Evaluating the potential strategy for global expansion into new markets.
  4. Understanding our customers, our competitors, and how we position ourselves correctly in the market to be the best fit product for our ideal customers.  

From strategic product direction, sales growth, brand awareness, and attracting investments. What do you think is the most critical role of a CMO? 

 Product Positioning. If your product is not positioned correctly, your marketing will not be as impactful, or even successful, and your sales team will struggle to sell the value of the product to your customers.

For the last few questions of the interview, I wanted to get a little bit more personal and get Morgan’s take on female leadership, personal challenges, and advice for other current and future CMOs.  

The average age of a CMO is 39 years old. Can you share with us what it’s like to be a young executive and the challenges you’ve had to overcome along the way? 

It’s amazing how much your age plays a factor in how people perceive you and your intelligence.  

Many people assume that because you are younger, you likely don’t have the necessary experience needed to fit the bill. During my first year as a CMO, I’ve had a number of video calls and face-to-face interactions where I can tell that people are surprised when this younger CMO is addressing them, and candidly, I love it.  

For most of my life, I have been intrinsically motivated to prove people wrong when they doubt me or my abilities. I am extremely competitive and there is something that fuels me when I get the sense that someone thinks I am not capable of doing something.  

When it comes to marketing, and being a younger than average CMO, I believe my work speaks for itself, and the data shows the success of the work outputs. While I cannot control what people might think of me or my age and how that correlates to my ability to successfully do the role, I can control how I respond, how I build and motivate my team, how I foster my continued personal growth. 

According to demographics and statistics only 32% of all CMOs are women, what advice would you give to other women in tech looking to grow as leaders?  

Being a woman in leadership is extremely attainable and something women should never count themselves out for. No matter what your career aspirations are, it’s important that women know that when you have a seat at the table, you should never question if you deserve to be there.  

Ask the hard questions, challenge the status quo, and don’t be afraid to push back on things that feel wrong or strategically off course. And if you are still fighting for your seat at the leadership or strategy table, keep pushing.  

Hard work rarely goes unnoticed by great leaders. Align yourself with mentors who believe in your abilities and can help you grow and learn, so that when the opportunity presents itself, you are ready.  

 In your opinion, what specific traits make a successful CMO? How do you work to inspire this new marketing team that you have built at Fishbowl? 

I think this is a great question for my marketing team to answer. But I will do my best to answer this one. 

 When it comes to the marketing team we have built at Fishbowl, I have truly never had more fun or been prouder to lead a collective group of amazing and deeply talented people.  

When I took the job at Fishbowl, I wanted the team we built to never dread coming to work on Monday. 

One of our core values at Fishbowl is centered around leading with truth and love, and I deeply believe that you cannot have one without the other.  

As leaders, we sometimes forget that while we are trying to hit our numbers, drive revenue, manage budgets, prepare for board meetings, and motivate a team, our employees have lives, families, hobbies, passions, and sometimes, unfortunately, health issues.  

No matter if you are the CMO, or a Marketing Specialist just starting out, I think leading with empathy, and remembering that we are all just people doing the best we can each day really helps keep things in perspective, while also driving desired results. 

What advice would you give a new CMO stepping into a team embarking on a full marketing and brand rebuild?  

Start with the data and talk to your customers. I cannot stress these two things enough, as they have helped us more than any playbook or strategy ever could.  

The data is the truth behind how things are actually going from an operational standpoint and creates a roadmap of changes that have to occur to unlock the next phases of growth. Talking to your customers tells you the truth about how they perceive you, how they feel about your brand, and how well the product actually delivers the value you are marketing.  

I have been so lucky to get to spend time with some of our customers in their warehouses, and their truthful feedback and amazing business stories are motivating and help remind me of the “why” behind it all. 

Thank you for this fantastic interview, Morgan. We look forward to spending time with you soon for part 2 of this series.

8 common costing methods for manufacturers

woman and man looking at a tablet while in a small warehouse aisle with the man holding a box

Learn about eight common costing methods to calculate how much something will cost.

Methods of cost accounting or simply “costing methods” are crucial for calculating how much something like a product or service costs. Manufacturers can then use this information to price products for profit, track expenses to see where money is going, and make smart cost-control decisions.

But what exactly is a costing method? This short guide defines what it is and includes nine common costing methods manufacturers use. 

What is a costing method?

A costing method is simply a way of calculating how much a product, service, activity, production process, or any other cost object costs. There are many different types of costing methods, ranging from first in, first out, and average weighted cost to process and standard costing.

What are the different costing methods?

Different industries and businesses will use different methods of cost accounting. The choice of costing method will also differ based on the size of the company, the complexity of operations, industry norms, and other personal preferences. Here are nine costing methods commonly used in manufacturing across two broad categories: inventory and production costing.

Inventory costing

Inventory costing refers to the costing methods used to assign costs to a specific product. Four common inventory costing methods include:

  1. First in, first out (FIFO). FIFO assumes products purchased first are sold first. In this costing method, the cost of the oldest product is applied to newer copies of that product, even if it’s not the same. FIFO is one of the most popular costing methods because it provides a more accurate representation of costs, better aligns with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and conforms with the flow of products in most industries.
  2. Last in, first out (LIFO). LIFO is the opposite of FIFO and assumes most recently purchased products are sold first. With LIFO, the cost of the most recent product is applied to every other copy, no matter when it was purchased.
  3. Average weighted cost. Instead of using the amount you spent to produce a particular item, you calculate the average cost per unit. Take the total cost of all items produced and divide it by the total number of items.
  4. Actual cost. As the name implies, actual costing refers to calculating the true cost of an item by recording the actual costs to manufacture it, like materials, labor, and overhead related.

Production costing

Production costing refers to the cost accounting method of assigning direct and indirect costs to the production process. Direct costs are specific costs, like direct materials or labor, tied to a product. In contrast, indirect costs are running costs like rent or support labor (HR, accounting, etc.) not explicitly tied to a product. 

Four common production costing methods used in manufacturing include:

  1. Job costing. Costs are calculated per batch or job where products are made to order. Direct labor, direct materials, and other overhead costs are all considered.
  2. Process costing. Costs are calculated for each manufacturing stage by taking into account the direct and indirect costs. These total costs are then divided by the number of items produced in that production stage to arrive at an item cost. This costing method is used in industries where products are produced in a continuous flow and go through multiple production stages or processes, e.g., cloth production. 
  3. Standard costing. Manufacturers set pre-determined costs for specific elements like parts, labor, etc. They then add up all these costs to arrive at a final cost for each product. Standard costs act as benchmarks to compare actual costs against. Manufacturers can use it to identify cost variances and then take the necessary action to control costs.
  4. Activity-based costing (ABC). ABC is a more sophisticated form of job costing where costs are assigned to a product or service based on the cost of specific activities involved in the production process. 

The bottom line on costing methods

Costing methods help you calculate how much something will cost—whether a product or production process. You can then use this information for accounting, pricing products, and making other important decisions. The most important thing isn’t necessarily which method you use but that you consistently use it.

Want to learn how Fishbowl can help with costing? Book a demo today.

How to implement a barcode system for inventory

Make inventory management quicker and more efficient 

hand holding phone in warehouse aisle phone showing barcode scaner info

A barcode system helps improve inventory control, boosts efficiency, and enhances data visibility for your business. 

But what precisely is a barcode system? And how do you implement one for your inventory? 

What is a barcode inventory system?

A barcode inventory system tracks and manages information around inventory using barcodes, barcode labels, barcode scanners (hardware), and barcoding software. 

Let’s take a look at these elements:

  1. Barcodes: machine-readable codes that contain information about a product, like weight or price. The two most common types of barcodes are 1D and 2D barcodes. One-dimensional barcodes are what people typically picture when they think of barcodes. They’re made of a bunch of vertical black lines stretched out horizontally. Two-dimensional barcodes can encode data vertically and horizontally, storing much more information than 1D barcodes. 
  2. Barcode labels: the labels on which the barcodes are printed. They typically appear on the product or packaging.
  3. Barcode scanners: a piece of hardware used to scan barcodes. 
  4. Barcoding software: software that captures and processes the barcoding data and can assist with scanning and printing barcodes.

Here’s how this all typically works together in your warehouse: You scan the barcode found on the label with a warehouse barcode scanner. This data is then sent to a central database (software) for tracking, monitoring, and analysis.

Why are barcode inventory systems important?

Here are four key advantages of implementing a barcode system for inventory:

  1. Better inventory management. Barcodes let you track inventory levels and locations in real time, easily update stock information, and optimize stock replenishment so you can maintain optimal inventory levels.
  2. Improved efficiency and accuracy. Barcoding eliminates the need for manual data entry by automating the data entry process. This, in turn, reduces human errors like misreads or typos, which improves data accuracy.
  3. Enhanced data visibility. Barcode systems help you capture important data that you can monitor and analyze. Use it to get insights into inventory levels, identify trends, and make better stock replenishment and optimization decisions.
  4. Improved customer experience. Warehouse barcode systems aid with faster and more accurate order processing, which improves customer satisfaction.

So, how do you implement a barcode system for inventory?

Implementing a barcode system starts with proper planning upfront. Here are five steps to get going:

   1. Decide what warehouse barcode system you need based on your needs

Do you just want to create and print barcode labels without the need for advanced inventory management functionality? Or do you need additional inventory management capabilities? 

If it’s the former, then a simple system with basic software and a scanner to create and print labels will likely be suitable. If it’s the latter, you may want a more robust barcode system. Either way, a good barcode system should offer the ability to:

  • Print and scan barcodes
  • Ship, receive, and count inventory
  • Handle order management
  • Track parts across multiple locations
  • Integrate with your accounting system

   2. Choose your hardware

Invest in a barcode scanner and printer, and consider how it will work with your existing tech stack. A few commonly used scanners include the Zebra barcode reader LI2208 and Honeywell Eclipse 5145.

   3. Select your software

You typically get dedicated barcoding software that integrates with existing inventory management systems (IMS) and IMS systems with strong barcoding functionality built-in, meaning you only need one platform for all your inventory requirements. Make sure the software aligns with your needs (see step one).

   4. Set up the system by choosing barcode types

While the exact setup depends on the choice of hardware and software, all businesses implementing a barcode system will need to create barcodes for their products. 

So, select the type of barcodes you want to use based on your needs and industry standards and print them as needed. UPC codes, a type of 1D code, are among the most common in the United States.

   5. Train staff on how to use the system and monitor performance

Training is crucial for proper implementation, utilization, and adoption. The more complex the system is, the more ongoing training will be needed. Be sure to also monitor system performance and make adjustments as needed.

Implement a warehouse barcode system today

There’s no denying that barcode systems are crucial in helping improve inventory management, boost efficiency, and enhance decision-making.  

Just ensure you’re setting them up correctly by following certain key steps, including considering your needs, choosing the right hardware and software, selecting your barcodes, and bringing it all together with proper training and constant monitoring.

Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to implementing a successful barcode system.

Lot vs. Serial Numbers: What’s the Difference?

a collage of barcodes

Controlling inventory can be challenging, with thousands of products entering and leaving your production facility daily. How do you keep track of what’s coming and going?

With tracking indicators, like lot and serial numbers, weight, creation date, batch numbers, and expiration date. This post will focus on two of the most common–lot and serial numbers.

Read on to learn what they are, how they’re different, and how they can help with inventory management.

What is a lot number?

Lot numbers are a combination of digits that a manufacturer assigns to a group of products manufactured using the same materials, equipment, and processes. You can find these digits on the product’s packaging.

When to use: For products created in specific batches or groups through a process known as batch processing.

What is a serial number?

Serial numbers are identification numbers that a manufacturer assigns to a single product. No two items, even if they were manufactured at the same time, will have the same serial number.

When to use: For products requiring after-sales service or support, like smartphones, fridges, and washing machines. They allow manufacturers and service centers to easily identify products for warranty claims.

Take note: Many manufacturers will use manufacturing management software to track lot and serial numbers.

How do lot and serial numbers help with inventory management?

Lot and serial numbers help with inventory management in several ways:

Inventory identification and tracking
Lot numbers allow you to trace products back to specific batches, providing information about materials used and other important details. Serial numbers allow you to track products through their entire lifecycle, from manufacture to sale to after-sales support.

Quality control
Because a lot number lets you trace products back to a specific lot, you can more easily identify the cause of any defect (.e.g., the production process) and determine what control measures to implement to maintain product quality.

Legal compliance
Some industries require that you provide serial and lot numbers for all manufactured products to help identify products, keep customers safe, and assist with product recall. These include companies that sell medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, fireworks, and other highly regulated products.

Recall management
If the need for product recalls arise, lot and serial numbers help identify which products must be recalled. Lot numbers, for instance, allow you to isolate defective batches and identify the responsible components. You can then let consumers know so they can check if their products need to be returned.

After-sales support
Serial numbers allow you to accurately track and manage warranty information and service history to help streamline after-sales support. Simply pull up the serial number to identify the warranty status and full repair history.

Start tracking inventory with lot and serial numbers

Lot numbers help pinpoint products manufactured in the same batch, where serial numbers are unique to a single product.

While both are different, these two tracking indicators are equally valuable in helping you manage inventory, from easy product identification and quality control to legal compliance and after-sales support.

Want to learn how to track inventory by just about any tracking indicator? Book a demo with Fishbowl today.

What you need to know about consignment inventory

a person holding a light bulb with various icons surrounding it, such as a computer, a phone, and a tablet

What is consignment inventory, and is it the right model for you. 

Picture this:

You’re a manufacturer that produces high-end audio equipment, like speakers and headphones. You recently launched a new product line with innovative features. 

While you know the technology works and provides value, you’re unsure about the market reception, and so remain reluctant to mass produce this product.

What do you do? You enter into a consignment inventory agreement to test the market.

But, what exactly is consignment inventory?

Consignment inventory is a supply chain approach or business arrangement where a consignor (e.g., manufacturer) provides stock to a consignee (e.g., retailer) without receiving payment upfront. 

The consignor keeps legal ownership of the goods. At the same time, the consignee agrees to promote and sell the product, effectively handling the sales process. 

The retailer pays for the stock only when it’s sold and typically receives a commission or percentage of the selling price as compensation. This business arrangement is usually governed by a detailed consignment agreement that both parties must sign.

Are there any pros and cons of consignment stock?

Yes, the consignment model has benefits and drawbacks for both consignees and consignors. Let’s take a look.

Benefits of consignment inventory for consignors

  1. Market expansion. Manufacturers can expand their reach and distribution network without having to set up physical locations, as they can piggyback off existing retailers.
  2. Market testing. Manufacturers can test interest in their products in different markets. This allows them to gather feedback, iron out any kinks, and assess the potential for success before mass production.
  3. Supply chain efficiency. Manufacturers don’t need to allocate warehouse space to store stock, so they can control inventory carrying costs.

Disadvantages of consignment stock for consignors 

  1. No upfront payment. Payment is only received from consignees when goods are sold, which can potentially create cash flow problems.
  2. Great financial risk. If the products don’t sell, the manufacturer carries the losses.
  3. Sales dependency. The sales are dependent on the efforts and marketing capabilities of the retailer.
  4. Complex inventory management. Consigned stock needs to be tracked separately from other inventory for operational clarity and easier financial reporting. This can be an extra administrative and logistical burden.

Benefits of consignment inventory for consignees

  1. Reduced financial risk. Retailers don’t have to pay for stock upfront and don’t incur losses of unsold inventory.
  2. Greater product variety. There’s an incentive to offer a broader product variety, because there isn’t a financial commitment to one product.
  3. Competitive advantage. The improved product variety can be a differentiator for retailers.
  4. Better cash flow. Capital is freed up, because cash is not tied up in inventory.

Disadvantages of consignment stock for consignees

  1. Lack of control. Retailers don’t own the product, which can limit independent decision making around business areas, like pricing and promotion. 
  2. Limited product margin. Retailers earn a commission or percentage of the selling price for products sold, representing a lower margin than can be achieved with their own inventory.
  3. Pressure to meet targets. Small commissions can put unnecessary pressure on retailers to meet sales targets.
  4. Complex inventory management. As with consignors, there’s an extra administrative and logistical burden of tracking and managing consigned inventory alongside owned stock.

How to effectively manage consignment inventory

Given the complexity around managing consignment stock, you’re probably wondering: How do I effectively manage it? Here are two ways:

   1. Detailed consignment agreement. 

The success of a business relationship depends on a mutually beneficial agreement that clearly establishes expectations. While the exact details will differ between agreements, you generally want to:

  • Identify both parties with legal names and contact information.
  • Describe the goods being consigned.
  • State that ownership remains with the consignor until goods are sold.
  • Establish the pricing: Will the consignee receive a fixed amount, commission, or percentage of the selling price?
  • Specify the consignment period.
  • Detail the consignee’s role in promotion and selling.
  • Include details about dispute resolution and confidentiality.

   2. Invest in a robust inventory management system (IMS). 

An IMS is software that lets you manage and optimize inventory levels from a centralized platform. Use it to automate everything from inventory counts to stock replenishment and access real-time reporting to make better financial decisions. 

While basic software exists for managing simple operations, more advanced IMS solutions can handle the complexities of inventory management, like that of managing consignment inventory. 

For instance, Fishbowl provides the following features to help you manage consignment inventory:

  • Separate consignment inventory tracking for operational clarity and easy reporting (side note: you can assign stock to certain consignees and locations)
  • Consignment revenue and purchase tracking to track sales orders and invoices
  • Consignment agreement management, so you can store and easily access any agreement and related documents
  • Consignment stock replenishment abilities that let you set up automatic reorder points and create purchase orders
  • Reporting abilities to analyze consignment inventory performance, sales trends, and other key metrics
  • Integrations with essential business apps, like Shopify, QuickBooks, and Salesforce

So, is a consignment model right for you?

There’s no right or wrong answer. The consignment model has pros and cons, and you’ll need to weigh these up when making a decision while also considering your unique situation. 

Does your current cash flow situation allow you to withstand payment delays from retailers? Is expanding market reach and testing new products a main priority? Are you comfortable with the financial risk of unsold inventory?

Just know that if you decide to use this model, it’s probably wise to diversify: use the consignment model as one way to get your product into customers’ hands. 

Also, don’t forget to invest in the right software to make managing consignment inventory a breeze. Learn more about how Fishbowl can help by booking a demo today.

8 Effective Ways to Reduce Manufacturing Waste

large industrial factory with many machines and equipment

In this article, we’ll take a look at what manufacturing waste is and how you can reduce it.

Producing some manufacturing waste is part and parcel of the manufacturing process. 

But if left unchecked, it can quickly accumulate to unsustainable levels, leading to environmental damage, costing your company money and potentially damaging its reputation.

Need help getting it under control? Here’s what you need to know.

What is manufacturing waste?

Manufacturing waste refers to any materials discarded during the manufacturing process that doesn’t form part of the final product, as well as unnecessary production steps that don’t add any value to the end item. Examples include scrap material, excess inventory, defective products, redundant inspections, unnecessary transportation, waiting times, and overproduction.

With the introduction of lean manufacturing, organizations have become more aware of wasteful practices and their implications—leading to the development of a company culture that values waste-reduction initiatives.

So, how can you reduce manufacturing waste?

Waste reduction strategies will typically differ between industries, because different manufacturers will generate different types of waste at different stages of the production process. 

That’s why, before even considering what strategies to use, it’s wise to map out your waste streams by conducting a complete waste audit. 

From there, you can dive into specific strategies to keep waste under control. Here are eight of the most effective ways to do so. 

   1. Manage inventory more efficiently

Better inventory management helps maintain optimal inventory levels to meet production demand without carrying excess stock that can tie up resources, use unnecessary warehouse space, and increase the risk of spoilage. 

A few ways to improve inventory management and minimize wastage include:

  • Adopting a just-in-time approach to managing inventory, where you order materials and components just in time for production.
  • Investing in inventory management software to help track inventory in real-time, automate manual processes, like stock counts, and gain visibility into stock across locations, so you always know exactly how much stock you have.

   2. Reduce packaging materials

Redesign the product packaging so that it uses less materials. You could eliminate unnecessary components, reduce their size, switch to more sustainable and efficient materials, or incorporate reusable or recyclable packaging content, like air packs or corn-based packing peanuts that are non-toxic and decompose in water.

   3. Recover, reuse, resort

Recover as much waste as you can from on and offsite locations using techniques like electrolysis, filtration, reverse osmosis, centrifugation, and a popular one—recycling. 

Recycle materials, like paper, plastic, and metal, regularly and avoid recycling hazardous materials, as it rarely has any environmental benefits.

Industrial shredders are crucial in this process, as you can use them to reduce waste by condensing asphalt, wood, rubber, and plastics to a fraction of their original size. Sorting the waste into bins ensures recyclable items are getting to the right place. 

Just make sure that you assign someone the responsibility of monitoring the bins, that there’s a standard documented recycling procedure, and that everyone is trained on and understands the recycling protocols. 

This ensures your recycling process remains efficient and environmentally compliant at all times and that you’re maximizing your cost savings.

   4. Follow waste volume reduction techniques

Waste-volume reduction refers to waste techniques that reduce the overall quantity and cost of waste generated. Volume reduction can be broadly divided into 2 categories—waste concentration and source segregation. 

Waste concentration involves techniques that reduce the concentration of waste, like dehydration and evaporation. This helps minimize transportation and disposal costs while increasing the chances of reusing or recycling materials.

Source segregation, however, involves separating different types of materials for easy treatment and handling. This helps recover any valuable resources from waste, like valuable metals.

   5. Establish a preventative maintenance schedule

General wear and tear may be normal in any manufacturing process. But if you don’t perform regular maintenance, you’ll waste time and money on expensive, last-minute repairs. Preventative maintenance (PM) helps reduce waste by:

  • Minimizing downtime, which leads to production interruptions, unnecessary overtime, and increased shipping costs.
  • Improving equipment efficiency to avoid energy wastage.
  • Optimizing material usage for accurate handling and processing.
  • Minimizing defective product output caused by malfunctioning equipment.

To set a PM schedule, create an inventory of all your assets, set the maintenance cadence (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.), and work with the right vendors.

   6. Label and organize the warehouse properly

Clearly mark the locations for all tools, supplies, and assets necessary to manufacturing processes in your warehouses. This makes it easy to find items and identify hazardous materials.

Over time, the markings may get faded, non-existent, or outdated. While this may not hinder longtime employees, new hires may have difficulty navigating a warehouse that isn’t properly marked and organized. 

This can lead to incorrect products being shipped, or more time spent searching for the right tool for an urgent repair. So, replace the faded tags and repaint the floor lines regularly.

   7. Adopt a closed-loop manufacturing process

Green chemistry is an excellent technique to reduce waste generated by various processes. But if it isn’t viable for you, consider a closed-loop manufacturing system: a process where used products are recovered and fed back into the system to be reused, recycled, or remanufactured. Closed-loop systems help improve resource efficiency to create more sustainable production processes. 

   8. Minimize water usage

Industrial sludge and wastewater make up a significant portion of manufacturing waste. You can reduce these elements by minimizing water usage through chemical drying agents, reverse osmosis, dry machining, or membrane biological reactors. 

The bottom line

An amount of manufacturing waste will always be unavoidable, but you can keep it under control with proper waste management strategies. 

We explored several, from managing inventory more efficiently and reducing packaging materials to establishing a preventative maintenance schedule and minimizing water usage. 

The only thing left to do—if you haven’t already—is to start implementing these strategies as part of your efforts to control manufacturing waste.