I Can See for Miles
A year ago, Ideals Publications (WWW.IDEALSPUBLICATIONS.COM)—a Nashville, Tenn.-based division of Guideposts that publishes 100+ titles annually for children and adults—was operating, as many publishers do, under a paper-based inventory management and distribution system that involved order-faxing and a returns-handling system that could sometimes take weeks. Last July, however, Ideals began working with a new distribution company that had a new warehouse management system in place, called IRMS, to automate inventory management and returns processing. Today, Ideals’ order- and returns-management process is paperless, and its inventory levels are more accurate and visible to them in real-time. Returns are in the door and back in active stock in a matter of minutes, not days or weeks.
The system is based on bar-code scanning, eliminating manual reporting and tracking. When inventory is scanned, its status is automatically recorded in the system. When orders are placed, the system searches existing inventory and determines whether stock is sufficient to fill an order. Outgoing orders are then removed from the available stock listing and tracked throughout the process.
For Brad Jones, Ideals Publications’ operations manager, one of the best parts about the system is that he can view the data anytime he wants, right from his desk, via an Internet site. “It really helps with tracking things down and reducing error. It gives us a better idea of what kind of inventory we have,” he says. “… They have a virtual warehouse on the Internet, and we can check their stock regularly and make sure that our records match, and we can track returns.”
Keith Shay, president of Ware-Pak (WWW.WARE-PAK.COM)—the University Park, Ill.-based book distribution and fulfillment company that Ideals works with—says the system benefits his publisher-clients by providing them with a virtual view into the warehouse, but it also saves his company significant time. “One of the things about the IRMS system that is pretty phenomenal is that its inventory system [is electronic]. Previously, we were on a paper system. So you had to create cards for every location, you had to write on the card, what the product was, you’d count it, and you’d have to key in all that information.”