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A Guide to Inventory Control for Manufacturing

In a recent post, we dug into Industry 4.0 and how manufacturing leaders can leverage their workers to inspire digital transformation in their organizations. Now, let’s explore how the principles behind Industry 4.0 are already contributing to one central aspect of manufacturing: inventory control. In the simplest terms, inventory control in manufacturing maintains the equilibrium of parts, equipment, and raw materials which go into the production of final products. Effective inventory control reduces manufacturing carrying costs, eliminates waste and delays, and increases worker and plant productivity. The practice also extends to the transportation of materials and final products between vendors, warehouse, and final customers. Clearly, inventory control makes up the nuts and bolts of manufacturing. Considering the vast number of moving parts and processes involved, precise inventory control requires superhuman attention to detail. Enter smart technology. Digital transformation and inventory control Digital transformation has already impacted key areas of manufacturing inventory management. Let’s explore how technology can help professionals optimize and control three central types of manufacturing inventory: direct materials, works-in-progress, and finished goods. Direct materials Also known as raw materials, direct materials are everything that goes into the manufacturing of a product. A textile manufacturer, for example, uses wool, cotton, or hemp fibers to produce a final product. Before computers, manufacturers relied on periodic inventory methods, which required workers to track materials by hand. Needless to say, this approach was error-prone and time-consuming. Nowadays, perpetual inventory tracking systems handle this work on a — you guessed it — perpetual basis. Inventory tracking apps and software integrate with barcode and optical character recognition (OCR) scanners (often available through a field worker’s mobile phone), cloud databases, and data visualization to track raw materials in real-time. This way, managers and workers alike can always know exact inventory levels on hand, information that’s invaluable when it comes to order planning, maintenance, budgeting, and revenue projections. Copy and customize AppSheet’s Manufacturing Inventory sample app which tracks raw materials and auto-calculates inventory levels to reflect sales and production data. Works-in-progress There are numerous points in any manufacturing process where a product remains incomplete. The tracking of these work-in-progress assets is crucial for successful manufacturing inventory control. Aside from keeping track of a company’s physical assets and capital at a given moment, work-in-progress inventory control provides valuable information on the efficacy of processes and managers. Use inventory control software that's compatible with barcode scanners to record work-in-progress inventory over time. The accumulated data can be used for cost-benefit analyses, workforce optimization, and people management. Try out AppSheet’s barcode scanning feature for yourself with our Scan and Search sample app. Finished goods Final goods and products are ready for sale or distribution, but still count as inventory to the manufacturing company. Tons of nuance applies to finished good inventory. Various considerations apply to inventory that’s yet to be sold to customers, as opposed to inventory that’s already been sold. For example, some customers only own goods once they have been delivered. Other goods are owned as soon as they leave the manufacturer’s loading dock. It’s unwise — or even impossible — to track finished goods inventory without the help of dynamic delivery tracking. Explore and customize AppSheet’s Package Delivery Management app to fit your inventory needs. Conclusion All the factors that go into manufacturing inventory control can make a person’s head spin. In addition, no two manufacturing companies have the same processes or use the same materials. Thankfully, technology is rising to meet these complexities. This push includes the resounding progress in the arena of apps in the workplace, which are both customizable and powerful. Let us know your questions and strategies around inventory control in the comments. We’re excited to hear from you.

What is Industry 4.0?

The Industrial Revolution conjures images of smoggy London skies and Dickensian toil. A lot has changed since the 18th century and the initial transition of manufacturing from hand methods to mass production. In fact, there have been two additional industrial revolutions in the meantime. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred around the turn of the 20th century thanks to technological advancements such as the railroad, electrical power, and the widespread use of machinery. Then came the Third Industrial Revolution, or the Digital Revolution, which kicked off in the middle of the 20th century. This stage marked a shift from production via analogue machines to a digital infrastructure including computers, microprocessors, and the Internet. Now that our history lesson’s out of the way, let’s talk about today. We stand at the very beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which new technologies promise to bridge the physical and the digital. The world is in for rapid, disruptive change thanks to artificial intelligence, the democratization of mobile technology, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, and myriad other advances. These fast-paced changes inspire equal parts excitement and fear. On one hand, new efficiencies in supply chain, transportation, and communications promise to improve the quality of life around the globe. Meanwhile, many people fear that their livelihoods will be replaced by automation. This leads us to the concept of Manufacturing 4.0, a movement which zeros in on how these technologies impact the manufacturing industry.  The principles behind Manufacturing 4.0 We’re optimistic for an increase in safe and rewarding jobs spurred by concrete technological improvements in manufacturing. Done right, Manufacturing 4.0 will be realized through four central methods: Interconnection. People will be able to communicate with machinery and tools via the Internet of Things. Importantly, machines and devices are also able to share data with one another. Information transparency. Expect a huge influx of data enabled by these interconnected technologies and people. Improved information has the potential to touch every point in the manufacturing processes. Operators, managers, and workers will be able to make data-driven decisions when it comes to improving processes, training, factory layouts, and more. Technical assistance. Humans will not have to parse through this information alone. New systems will aid leaders and teams to make informed decisions based on the quick and systematic aggregation of the data collected with the help of information transparency. Computers can detect trends and produce visualizations so that managers and workers can make data-driven choices and plan ahead. Aside from helping people think and reason better, cyber physical systems aka smart machines, will also be there to perform or support physical tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans. Decentralized decisions. In some cases, systems will make decisions on their own. This is automation. The promise of automation relies on the imagination of people performing manufacturing processes today. These folks know their work best and can provide the best insights into how technology can amplify and standardize their hard work. People-powered innovation While the principles behind Manufacturing 4.0 are promising, you might be apprehensive about how you can implement these lofty ideas in your industry. After all, manufacturing touches a wide variety of industries from automobiles to clothing, specialty chemicals to aerospace equipment, and everything else produced on planet Earth. How can you make business decisions about technology that will produce specific, yet ongoing, impact? Start small. Ask around. The people who work in your manufacturing plants and facilities are the experts at the work they do every day. Seek the input of manufacturing workers and managers on how their jobs could be made easier. Does paperwork keep foremen working late into the night? Think about ways that smart technology could streamline this work, such as replacing pen and paper with tablets that store data in a centralized, cloud database. Explore optical character recognition (OCR) solutions that detect handwriting to convert scattered, paper-based information into digital files. Voila! The beginnings of interconnection and information transparency at your organization. There are countless examples of how manufacturing processes can be improved today. And given the volume and complexity of work done on any manufacturing site, it’s inevitable that one small improvement will cascade into others until eventually, your organization will become a lean, mean Manufacturing 4.0 machine.  Check out our recent post on inventory control for manufacturing to gain more insight into current applications of industry 4.0 in the industry.

How Can Mobile Apps Increase Productivity and Improve Inventory Data Accuracy

Many businesses across multiple industries are investing not only in e-commerce as it continues its double-digit growth, but also smart warehousing. With the rise in interest of these technologies, businesses are seeking solutions to increase productivity and address heightened customer expectations. Target last year announced plans to spend $7 billion to improve its supply chain efforts. UPS is investing $20 billion over the next three years to boost productivity and fulfillment capacity. And a recent survey indicates 42% of businesses expect to move forward with warehouse and distribution center spending—the highest level in four years. “Overall, the survey reflects enthusiasm for where things are going with the economy in general, and with supply chain activity in particular,” says Donald Derewecki of supply chain consulting company St. Onge. “If you’re not investing in technology, especially in a growth economy, then your competitors are going to eat your lunch.” Digital warehouse adoption is expected to see the greatest growth between 2017 and 2023 in real-time data gathering and interconnectivity (41 to 95%), real-time inventory management (41 to 95%), people-technology connectivity (49 to 91%), smart analytics and machine learning (17 to 89%), and warehouse mobility solutions (37 to 80%). Mobile apps can also allow for real-time inventory management, people-technology connectivity, and smart analytics. Enhance Efficiency & Productivity “The transformation from fixed desktop workstations to smartphones and mobile devices is a major step forward in gaining warehouse efficiency—it reduces the walking time substantially,” notes Cyzerg Warehouse Technology. That’s important—especially in light of growing warehouse sizes and employers’ talent challenges. The average warehouse size is now 672,080 square feet. That’s up from last year’s 473,400-square-foot measure. And a recent study suggests 76 percent of warehouse operations plan to expand their facilities this year. As for talent, a recent EmployBridge survey suggests warehouse operators are prepared to offer as much as $2 an hour over average wages to attract and retain workers during the 2018 holiday season. That’s because talent is at a premium give today’s single-digit unemployment. Using mobile apps not only allows employees find what they’re looking for faster, but it also allows managers to communicate with and dispatch field workers efficiently and better-prepared. That way, warehouse operations can get more done with fewer human resources. Improving Accuracy Of course, successful warehousing isn’t just about saving time and money. It’s also about doing things right. For example, warehouse workers who have access to mobile apps on their tablets and phones can communicate key information to one another from warehouses apart without the need for email, phone calls, or text messages. Mobile apps allow more efficient, flexible, and powerful documenting, storing, and distributing of data to whoever needs it. Outdoor power products company The Husqvarna Group reduced packing mistakes by 200 percent due to its adoption of a quality tracking mobile app. This level of improvement may help explain why the industry-wide use of paper-based picking systems dropped from 62% last year to 48% this year. Managing People More Effectively Mobile apps can also help the human resources department track the location, expertise, work history, and other factors related to warehouse workers. When appropriate, some information can be made available to other mobile apps. For example, having information about the expertise and location of their workers could help warehouse managers as they assign tasks for the day. Tracking & Optimizing Assets Mobile apps can provide a current view of the availability and location of distribution center equipment. That can save warehouse managers and workers valuable time too. Say, for example, someone in the warehouse needs a forklift to move inventory. A real-time mobile app could show what forklifts are available. And if there aren’t any forklifts available, the mobile app could show managers where the lifts are so they can decide whether and from where to pull one of them for the new job. Workflow automation is a key factor in allowing your workers to better do their jobs in the most efficient, and flexible way. Improving Accountability & Business Outcomes Funnily enough, you know what leaves a better paper trail than paper? Mobile apps that you can access and interface with wherever you are. Sure, warehouse workers can make a note on paper for whoever needs to read it next, but mobile apps collect data, make it available anywhere, update it in real time, and store it for posterity. Mobile apps can document timestamps for when work is completed. They can require a signature from the worker following completion of a task. Some mobile apps even offer the option of scanning or photographing something to illustrate the pallet, product, or issue at hand. All that serves to increase reliability, improve accountability, and let employees know what they’re doing matters and is being measured. That can have the added benefit of motivating workers to take greater care in all they do. Real-time records paired with analytics also can provide a business with a more complete picture of what’s happening in its warehouse operations. And that can serve as fuel to help the business to drive continuous improvement. Related stories: Top 5 Manufacturing Apps — Manufacturing & Warehouse Management Tools for iOS & Android How to Turn Google Sheets into an Inventory Management App A Sawmill in Uruguay Automates Tracking with Inventory Management Apps This post was updated on November 13th, 2019.

Digitized Asset Tracking, Dispatch, and More: How Apps Are Changing the Utilities Industry

Digital transformation is now a top priority in the utilities industry, where companies are working to reinvent themselves as digital enterprises.  It’s not hard to see why utility companies are so interested in digital transformation. For example, according to a recent report by McKinsey, new technologies can reduce utility operating expenses by up to 25 percent while leading to performance gains of between 20 to 40 percent. Despite this potential, utilities have been struggling to achieve these returns. Companies are finding it difficult to move beyond pilot projects and spread new technologies across the enterprise. As a result, there remains significant potential for digitization at many utilities companies.  Many utility companies are, however, finding that there’s one technology that’s truly supporting their digital transformation efforts: apps. The emergence of no-code development in recent years has made it possible for companies to rapidly create and deploy apps that are cost-effective, reliable, and capable of streamlining a variety of tasks. Using apps, utility companies can fast-track digitization and produce tools that can generate immediate impact, with measurable returns. Let’s take a look at five areas of the utilities industry that can be significantly improved through on-the-job applications. 1. Asset tracking In the world of utilities, managing assets like bucket trucks, transformers, and other equipment is critical for success. For example, a downed pole or a blown transformer can lead to service outages, hazards, and upset customers. However, many companies still lack visibility into their assets, making it hard to track and maintain large numbers of endpoints.  This is one area where apps can be particularly helpful. In fact, apps are now being used to streamline asset tracking across utilities organizations. Companies are designing mobile solutions that provide field managers with interactive maps that detail the exact real-time locations of their assets and status updates.  With the right app in place, managers can quickly look at a geographical area, locate points that require maintenance, and assign team members to perform service checks, for example. Once a truck reaches a destination and performs service, they can use the app to communicate important status updates, repairs, photos, and other action items.  Apps help with asset tracking by: Providing visibility into field assets Making it easy to assign work orders Performing routine service checks Check our AppSheet's field survey app, which you can copy and customize to track your assets in the field: 2. Inventory management  Inventory management is a constant struggle for utility companies where mismanaged inventory can eat into margins and lead to project delays.  The digital approach to inventory management involves automating the process altogether via mobile apps. By using apps, employees can request parts, accessories, and other supplies in a way that is highly organized. It’s a much better approach than requesting items with paper and spreadsheets, or by word of mouth. Here’s how apps help with inventory management: Managing stock Predicting demand  Placing orders Check out our blog post, “How to Manage Stock: Three Free Inventory Management Excel Templates”. Then copy and customize the AppSheet inventory management app: 3. Dispatch  The utilities industry is becoming increasingly software-defined, as endpoints are  updated with IoT-enabled sensors that can transmit data in real-time. As a result, companies don’t have to dispatch as many trucks as they had in the past. Meters can be checked and recorded automatically, saving money and reducing the number of vehicles on the road.  Apps are increasingly used to interface with smart meters and other field equipment, alerting team members when service is required. Apps support dispatch workflows by:  Reducing vehicle wear and tear Saving fuel  Improving sustainability  Copy and customize our driver dispatch app: 4. Customer experience (CX) CX remains a major issue for companies in all industries, and utilities are no different. In fact, CX is quickly becoming a key competitive differentiator among brands. While other industries have made major strides in improving the customer experience, utility companies still have a long way to go in building customer trust and loyalty.  More and more utility companies are finding that they can use apps to improve CX. Apps are being used to share billing and service updates, provide a mechanism for feedback, and share alerts during storms and outages.  Equally as important, companies are using apps to streamline workflows — boosting productivity and reducing complaints along the way.  Here are some ways that apps are helping with CX: Sharing information with customers Expediting maintenance Streamlining support 5. Ongoing maintenance  Utility companies have to manage multiple concurrent projects, with complex systems, tight regulatory requirements, strict timelines, and demanding customers. Daily maintenance requires an amazing attention to detail and constant communication. A communication breakdown can lead to missed deadlines, hazards, and a host of other issues. Apps can be used to help busy and understaffed field managers triage maintenance and move projects along to completion at a brisker pace. For example, a manager can use an app to see a list of action items in a building — like fire alarm inspections — and assign a worker to oversee these tasks.  Apps can improve maintenance by:  Preventing missed service appointments Providing project status updates Assigning manage daily workflows  For some specific examples of how apps are transforming the utilities industry, check out the following stories: How Kentucky Power Sparked a Digital Transformation with Workflow, Inspection and Incident Management Apps Smart Lighting Contractor Builds Custom Apps for Project Management Want to build a maintenance app on your own? Copy and customize ours to get started: Build your own utilities app suite Clearly, apps are helping everyone involved in the utilities industry to change with the times. Mobile solutions are essential in utilities offices and in the field, and their importance will only increase. There are many options for how to meet utilities industry needs through technology — from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom apps. AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, you can create your own unique apps with our platform. If you haven’t already started using mobile application technology on your utilities jobs, don’t worry. AppSheet lets you build a whole suite of applications all under one roof.

Keeping it Moving: Using Apps for Supply Chain Management

Behind every successful manufacturing company there’s a reliable warehouse and supply chain. In fact, 79% of companies with high-performing supply chains report above-average growth. Managing a supply chain is highly resource-intensive, though, and companies today are under a lot of pressure to move products efficiently from point to point. To streamline operations, manufacturers often outsource operations to businesses like Hodge—a family-owned logistics and material handling company providing warehouse and supply chain management for customers in the midwest. Hodge, it should be noted, has a long track record of success that dates back to 1958. The company operates under this motto: “Whatever it takes to make manufacturing and supply chains work.” Today, Hodge has four sites with over 1 million-square-foot warehouse space. Around 475 employees in the warehouse division manage $100 million worth of equipment, products and materials on these sites. When it became apparent that Hodge’s logistics department needed to modernize its management system and undergo digital transformation to keep up with rising customer expectations, Hodge wasted no time getting started.  Here’s what happened. Challenge: Modernizing Legacy Processes With so much at stake, Hodge has no room for inefficiency. In supply chain coordination, mistakes can lead to delays, unhappy customers, and lost business. When Matt Hodge took over as Director of Quality Assurance in 2016, his first order of business was finding a better way to collect and manage data. Many of the company’s management and oversight processes still used paper—which is highly inefficient and prone to errors. The department was struggling to keep up. “I saw so much paper—people writing eight sheets a day, over eight hours at a time, and recording hundreds of data points,” Hodge explains. “Their hands would be cramped at end of the day. And then the paper would go into a drawer. I knew we had to digitize these operations.” Solution: AppSheet Shortly after becoming the QA Director, Hodge discovered AppSheet, the leading no-code development platform. He immediately began tinkering with the platform, looking for ways to solve everyday problems. Matt started with a single app in September 2016. By April 2019, the company had integrated 23 apps that team members now rely on every day.  Each mini app solves a specific problem or purpose at Hodge. There are apps for processes such as damage documentation, inventory, quality audits, yard management, equipment repairs, and more. One app, for instance, simplifies equipment safety inspections by integrating with Raspberry Pi devices, which are installed in kiosks around the warehouse. These inexpensive and low-maintenance devices—which are essentially small computers—provide an ideal way to enter data in a dusty warehouse setting. They offer a simple web interface, which employees can use to enter data. With this setup, team members no longer have to fill out paper forms, or risk damaging expensive computers or smartphones during safety inspections.  Results Here are some of the biggest ways that AppSheet is making a difference at Hodge: Easier data entry: The company was able to automate manual data entry using AppSheet’s barcode scanner, which Hodge calls a “genius move that transformed the way the company does business.” Now, instead of manually entering the same information over and over again when conducting inspections, employees can simply scan a barcode using their phone or tablet. In some cases, information can be pre-populated, saving a great deal of time. This also reduces errors. Improved truck sequencing: Trucks are constantly coming and going from the company’s warehouses. Sometimes, there can be as many as 60 on a single day. Before AppSheet, the company had a complicated system for sequencing pickups and deliveries. This was done manually, using laminated cards. Now, this process is managed using an app. Drivers can check in upon arrival and receive updates with instructions for loading and unloading equipment and materials. Enhanced communication: A warehouse is a busy place, making it difficult to communicate with employees. For managers, this is especially trying; most of a manager’s day is spent running around, gathering information, and putting out fires—a process that’s very distracting. Now, important information can be entered into an app and distributed to team members throughout the day using AppSheet workflows (Text SMS/Email), keeping everyone informed and updated. As you can see, after implementing AppSheet, things are running much more smoothly. Hodge’s ultimate goal is to create a culture of continuous improvement—and AppSheet is the tool that’s making it happen. “Whenever we have a process that needs to be updated, we gather our team in a room, pull up AppSheet, define the problem, and develop a process,” says Hodge. “Then, we build an app together, right there. In most cases, we can build an app for gathering data within 10 minutes. Some people can go out and start collecting data immediately. AppSheet really is something we bring to all of our projects.” According to Hodge, anyone can use AppSheet effectively, becoming a citizen developer practically overnight. To learn more about AppSheet, click the button below.  

How to Manage Stock: Three Free Inventory Management Excel Templates

Inventory Management Has Never Been Easier Inventory management apps (like Inventory Management App and Store Inventory App ) have been on AppSheet’s top 10 most popular sample app list since we started tracking this in 2016. Over the last two years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the number of inventory management use cases with no end in sight. The Inventory Management App has the following powerful features: The app automatically enters dates and uses the phone/tablet camera as a Barcode reader. A daily email report reminds the user to reorder stock. You can navigate the different inventory items by Category. An independent view to see all items that need to be restocked. Current stock data is connected with sales and purchasing data. Why the trend? Businesses and organizations are automating data capture by tracking and updating inventory data in real-time through bar code scanning or image capture. What does an Excel spreadsheet have to do with this? Well, it’s actually a great starting point for creating an app that automates the inventory management process for you. My recommendation: Start with a spreadsheet and turn it into an app using an app maker platform like AppSheet’s. Of course, we’re not the only platform out there but we’re the only one that can easily take a spreadsheet and turn it into an app! If you are considering making an inventory app on your own, you will need to begin the process with a spreadsheet and there are some great Excel inventory management templates. The following sections describe some free inventory management excel templates that can help you get started. Of course, you can just use the templates and adopt them to your own business needs or you can turn them into apps—it’s up to you!  General Inventory Manufacturing Inventory Warehouse Inventory General Inventory Excel Never tracked inventory but want to start tracking it now? This easy-to-get-started template has all the key items you need to track. It’s made up of three tabs: Daily Stocktake records stock coming in and going out of a company on a daily basis. Stock Database allows you to enter more detailed information about each item. Stock Inventory links Stock In and Stock Out columns to Daily Stocktake, and after you enter Initial Stock, the spreadsheet will calculate Final Stock for you. Of course, to meet your business needs you can add or update columns. For example, to manage reordering, you can add columns for reorder levels and reorder quantities. Bonus: I modified the above excel template and convert it into an Inventory Management App. The app enables inventory managers to do the following: Use a bar-code scanner to record stock in and stock out (your phone or tablet can serve as a bar-code scanner); Automatically calculate current stock level; Display on a view what items need to be restocked; Send “Add Stock” email notifications to the purchasing department. Copy the excel template and the app, and customize your own way. If you want to learn how the app was made, read this blog.  Manufacturing Inventory Excel Template This template works for any business that purchases raw materials, manufactures in-house and then sells products to customers. For example, a bicycle producer, a furniture manufacturer or even a car company. This template is made up of three main tabs—Sales, Parts and Inventory. Orange columns allow you to enter data. Based on that, the template calculates and auto-fills data. In the Sales tab, you enter Sales_Quantity and the template calculates Sales Quantity per day and send the data to the Inventory table. In the Parts tab, there are Parts, Parts_Barcode and Low Inventory Alert. I suggest you use Parts_Barcode if you have a lot of parts. With Barcode, you can easily scan a part and update its sales and production data. Low Inventory Alert or Re-produce Point tells you market demand exceeds supply and you need to produce more. In the Inventory tab, the template auto-generates Initial Stock and Daily Inventory. Initial Stock is equal to the previous day's inventory. Daily Inventory is equal to Initial Stock plus Daily Production minus Daily Sales. Bonus: I converted this spreadsheet into a mobile app. You can use it on iOS and Android devices. The app fosters team collaboration—manufacturing team, sales team and warehouse inventory team can enter data simultaneously. It allows inventory managers to check inventory data anywhere and any time. It eliminates data entry errors and data migration errors from paper to computers. It enables sales managers, production managers and inventory mangers to pull historical data, conduct analysis and make decisions on that. The Inventory View shows each part group's Daily Inventory and previous day's Inventory. Warehouse Inventory Excel Template The template is for companies who have warehouses and put their raw materials in bins of different sizes in different bin locations. The template has three tabs—Inventory List, Inventory Pick List, and Bin Lookup. The Inventory List tab tracks the quantity of SKUs in different bins and locations and flags SKUs that need to be reordered. The Inventory Pick List tab allows users to easily locate where to pick up an item and the quantity of the item. The Bin Lookup tab acts as a bin database where information such as size, location and bin number are stored. Bonus: An App for Streamlining Inventory Updates This app can replace paper logging of product inventory, for quicker input, real time analysis of stock levels and alerts when items require a check or re-order. Features include: Barcode and NFC Tag scanning for quick inventory edits; Custom Formats to highlight popular products and the ones with low inventory level; Email Alerts on low inventory products; Charts on receiving and shipping. What’s Next? These are just some of my favorite Excel templates for inventory management. You can use them as is OR easily create your own apps. Check out our sample inventory management apps here and here—and note, they were all made from spreadsheets! If you have other favorite Excel templates, let me know by submitting a comment or tweet. I'm always looking for templates to add to this list! Related stories: Free Excel Templates for Small Business 10 Excel Templates for Simplifying Your Life How to Turn Google Sheets into a Stock Management App Ready to take your inventory tracking to the next level? Copy the following app and customize in your own way!   

The Top 5 Barcode and QR Code Scanner Apps - for iPhone, iPad, and Android Devices

  Whether you're using barcodes and QR codes to decode product information or to capture and store items for inventory management, it's important to have a robust app (and data storage system) in order to stay organized.    We’ve rounded up the leading QR code scanners and barcode scanner apps made for a variety of purposes. Now, you can choose one that works for you. image:     Top 5 Barcode and QR Scanner Apps AppSheet QR Code Reader and Scanner Sortly Scanbot Barcode Scanner Pro AppSheet Appsheet, or as we like to think of it, the perfect app maker. Looking to scan barcodes and QR codes to track inventory or manage your business? Look no further. AppSheet is used by thousands to better capture data within a business. You can easily scan, record, access, and share information through your apps. AppSheet itself isn't really an app in the traditional sense—it is actually an app development platform. You're in control from start to finish. And AppSheet is a no-code platform. All you have to do is upload your data from a spreadsheet, doc, or form to start. Appsheet has great templates that you can copy to create a barcode scanner app. Here is one. AppSheet is the only option on the list that lets you customize your app to fit the needs of your business. But if you're looking for something that's ready to go right out of the box, we found some great alternatives. QR Code Reader and Scanner Need a quick and easy scanner to find product information, prices, and reviews? This straightforward scanner app is user friendly and offers a clean interface. It scans all kinds of QR codes and barcodes, then saves those scans to your history. You can also save and share the codes right from your phone; each code is saved in your photos and can be sent by text, email, Twitter, or Facebook. Whether you're trying to make better purchases at the grocery store, look up an informational website, or quickly read through a digital instruction manual, this app can do it quickly and efficiently... no search engine required. This app also has a feature some others on the list do not: it allows you to generate your own QR code for URLs, numbers, events, and any other code generation tasks you might desire. This feature, and the fact that you can get it for free, puts QR Code Reader and Scanner near the top of our list. iTunes rating: 4.5/5 Not available for Android Price: Free Sortly Sortly calls itself the "ultimate inventory app". It lets you create a visual inventory of your items using photos, tags, notes, prices, QR labels or barcodes. Customize your lists and track details, all within the app. You can also import or export spreadsheet data from the app to PDF, Dropbox or Evernote. You can save, share, or print your data and sync it up between devices. If you're in the middle of a big move or want to keep your warehouse inventory organized, Sortly can work for both your individual and business needs. Works on both iOS and Android devices.   iTunes rating: 4.8/5 Google Play rating: 4/5 Price: Basic app is free, Sortly PLUS subscription with sync, export, web access, (including barcode and QR scanner) is $4.99/month.   Scanbot      Scanbot will scan practically anything. Documents, sketchbooks, QR codes, barcodes, receipts, whiteboards, you name it. Save your documents as a PDF or JPG, then auto-upload and instantly share to over a dozen applications, including Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox.   And if you want to edit your PDF, you can, right from the app. Scanbot will also fax documents for you without needing an actual fax machine. You can now send faxes from your phone to more than 50 countries.   iTunes rating: 4.8/5 Google Play rating: 4.2/5 Price: Basic app is free, Scanbot PRO with full scanner access $6.99.   Barcode Scanner Pro    This professional-grade app packs a punch. It can quickly and accurately scan, decode, create, and share QR codes or barcodes.   This app is a lot like the "QR Code Reader and Scanner" but for the Android.   You can create a QR code for your personal information, including email addresses and phone numbers. Share your QR codes on social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, WeChat, Line, E-mail, SMS) to your friends. And, the app keeps track of your scan history.   It's perfect for anyone who wants to digitize their inventory; you can now create and store codes for your products and store all the information on your phone for easy access anytime.   Google Play rating: 4.6/5 Not available for iOS Price: Free Final Thoughts Code scanners can sometimes differ significantly, and rightly so. It is important to find an app that suits your needs, whether it be tracking and management or information lookup and sourcing. Whether you prefer a wealth of information, higher security protocols, or the ability to customize depends on your business. Code scanners are not "one size fits all" and ultimately business owners must look to what best meets their specific needs.  Need more ideas for apps for your business? Checkout the AppSheet blog for useful tips, free templates, and more. 

How Husqvarna Became a Thought Leader in Warehouse and Inventory Management

Part of my job is to keep a finger on what I like to call our customer pulse in order to produce customer stories and case studies. And I am constantly surprised and impressed by the innovative ways our customers use our platform to create apps that truly transform their business. Such is the case with Husqvarna. Most likely you’ve seen or used many of their products as they are a manufacturer of outdoor power products, including chain saws, garden tractors, push mowers, and trimmers. You can always tell it’s a Husqvarna product due to its brand color that is always prominently featured—I call it the Husqvarna orange. Less than a year ago, the team at Husqvarna’s largest North American warehouse facility located in South Carolina, made a bold decision: automate the entire facility with a suite of custom apps built on the AppSheet platform. Their goal: digital transformation through the automation of all their warehouse and inventory management processes. This is a pretty ambitious goal, particularly when you consider that the 125,000-square-foot warehouse manages more than 35,000 product SKUs—with more than 160 warehouse workers supporting this effort. And yet, Husqvarna was able to accomplish this within 8 months by building a series of apps—41 in all—to manage inventory, personnel, forklift drivers, goods reception, and quality tracking. Now, you may think that Husqvarna either had a team of developers or consultants who took on the massive project which probably had an equally massive price tag. Well, think again. Mark Creighton, Operations Manager, and his co-worker, Erika Braxton, were the “development” team. Neither had any development background and yet, they were able to create 41 custom apps—all without writing a single line of code—at a fraction of the cost when compared with other development platform solutions. Fast forward to today. With the apps, Husqvarna was able to increase productivity, offer better visibility into key metrics, motivate workers, and contribute to profitability. In my mind, that’s how you become a leader in a space—by setting ambitious goals designed to transform your business and then setting out on a path that helps you achieve them. Such is the case with Husqvarna and I suspect by now that you want to know more about what they did and how they did it. To read the entire case study, go here. And as always, comments and questions are greatly appreciated!   

How to Turn Google Sheets into an Inventory Management App

Welcome back to my How to Make + Function + App series! I received so many comments on the Project Management and Property Management posts that I decided to continue with other use cases in this series. Determining which Functions to focus on can be tricky so I took a look at AppSheet’s Sample App page and Support page. By the way, AppSheet’s Support Page is the perfect place to search for AppSheet documentation, how-to apps and our responses to all kinds of app-making questions. Here is what I found: Inventory management apps are among the most popular sample apps (my first criteria for inclusion). There are lots of questions on how to make an inventory app (my second criteria for inclusion). So I made an inventory app that (I hope) addresses some of your most frequently asked questions around using bar codes and how to create and apply restocking levels. Feel free to copy this app, customize it and make it your own. And don’t forget to leave your comments below—either for this post or the post series!   Use case and target users This app was made for operation managers who want to keep track of inventory with barcode scanners to ensure they have enough stock for customers. Features The app enables operation managers to do the following: Use barcode scanners to record stock in and stock out Automatically calculate current stock level Display on a view what items need to be restocked Send “Add Stock” email notifications to the purchasing department Without further ado, here is how I built the app. Step 1: Organize your data and make an app First, make sure that your data is organized in a meaningful way so that your app (next step) can understand how to present that data. For example, in Google Sheets (check out other data sources AppSheet supports here), I have three sheets that organize different sets of data: Product, for all product information; Sales, for items sold or removed out from stock; Purchases, for products added to stock. Next, convert your data in Google Sheets to an AppSheet mobile app (see video 1 in the property management app). Now, the above three sheets become three views of data in your app. You can change view names to whatever makes more sense to you. I call my views Product List, Sell, and Add Stock. Step 2: Record stock in and stock out with a barcode scanner—the camera on your phone AppSheet can use the camera on your mobile device to capture barcoded data. To do this: Mark Product Barcode column (Data --> Columns in App Editor) in both the Purchases and Sales sheets as searchable and scannable. Your app is now ready to record any inventory movement, whether it is a stock in or stock out. All you have to do is to tap on the barcode scanner button (under Add Stock or Sell view) and scan the item! Keep in mind that if an item is new and doesn’t have a product barcode already stored in your Product sheet, you will have to capture its barcode first so that in can then be stored on the Product sheet. Instead of simply scanning it, you will need to follow these three steps: Tap on Product Barcode on Add Stock View Click New Scan the barcode, fill out the form, and save Step 3: Calculate the real time inventory level The calculation formula is pretty simple. But while the Initial Stock field is static, Stock In and Stock Out data can be a nightmare, especially if you want to monitor your stock multiple times a day. This is the formula you want to use: Current Stock Level= Initial Stock + Stock In – Stock Out To configure your app to automatically record real-time inventory levels, do the following: First, connect your Product Barcode columns in the Sales and Purchases sheets with the Product Barcode column in Product sheet. To do this: Go to Data --> Columns --> Sales, and click on Product Barcode and edit the column definition by following the three steps below: Name the Column Product Barcode Select Ref on the Type drop-down list Select Products as ReferencedTableName Now you have pointed all data (needed to do the calculation) to one place, in this case, your Product sheet. Next up: Tell your app how to calculate! Create a virtual column Current Stock in Product sheet and add your App Formula: COUNT([Related Purchases]) - COUNT([Related Sales]) + [Initial Stock]. And that’s it. If you go to: UX --> Product view --> Column Order and select Current Stock, you will see every product’s Current Stock level. We get questions on data referencing at almost every Office Hour. To learn more about it, go to AppSheet’s YouTube channel for tutorials or AppSheet’s support page for documentation. Step 4: Display “Restock Needed” for low inventory products Inventory managers need to make sure there is enough inventory to sell and that shelves are full. For example, if you keep running out of stock, there is no reason for customers to choose you over your competitors. In this section, I will show you how to let your app tell you: “You need to purchase the following products ASAP.” To set restock alerts for low inventory products, follow these steps: Set a restock level for every product. The restock levels for products might be different. To determine the right “number” for each product I suggest you review your historical data, check out your demand forecast and then determine your restock points.2. Create a slice. Go to Dataà Slices and create a slice: Restock Needed. Set your Row Filter Condition to be: [Current Stock] <= [Restock Level]. This formula says, “give me the data if a product’s Current Stock level is lower than or equal to Restock Level.”3. Create a view for the slice. Once you create a view, you will see all the products that you need to restock. The following screenshot shows the view you created.   Step 5: Send email notifications on “Restock Needed” products Let’s say that you don’t want to check your app to know what products need to be replenished. Instead, you want your app to send SMS or email notifications to you or to the purchasing department. To do so, create a report in the Behavior section of the Editor and tell your app to notify you or purchasing managers when the Restock Needed view has at least one product whose current stock is lower or equal to the restock level. Follow the instructions in the image below and messages will be sent out everyday at 7 PM PST.   Here is what you will see in your email: Okay—that’s it for now! Hopefully my mini-tutorial helped to fill some of your inventory management gaps. Questions, comments or even requests for my next app are always appreciated!