Many inventories and inventory processes still use time-consuming analog methods. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Learn how a strategic concept and mobile app enabled one organization to transition successfully to a continuous inventory system.
Physical inventories are a sensitive issue in many organizations. Each year, they create a huge additional workload for multiple departments. The data held in business systems is often inconsistent with the technical documentation database, which means everything has to be painstakingly checked and corrected. Most discrepancies originate unintentionally during normal day-to-day operations. However, the problem is exacerbated by the lack of disposal records for old equipment as well as undocumented changes to the infrastructure.
Those are some of the challenges that FI-TS faced up until 2014, when its management board launched the “PermIn” (“Permanent Inventory”) project. To resolve the problem of inventories once and for all, the conventional system of dedicated stocktaking on a specific date would be replaced by a new continuous inventory process. To provide the quality of data required, it was necessary to synchronize the SAP business system with the FNT Command technical documentation system.
“For us, it was time to act. We wanted to make sure we could scale up important processes as our business grew.”
Andreas Kodweiß, internal project manager for inventories at FI-TS.
“For us, it was time to act. We wanted to make sure we could scale up important processes as our business grew,” says Andreas Kodweiß, internal project manager for inventories at FI-TS. “Our goal was to integrate the physical inventory into our day-to-day operations and create a system that was more flexible generally and would allow us to identify discrepancies more quickly.”
According to Kodweiß, there were a number of challenges and factors that influenced the company’s decision. Up until that point, there had been no continuous cycle for maintaining the inventory. As a result, documentation of physical assets was not always up to date. It was also unclear exactly who was responsible for maintaining which inventory lists, which meant it was necessary to coordinate these tasks between multiple departments – a process that was both time-consuming and expensive. When FI-TS began managing the technical operations of Landesbank Stuttgart, it also had to integrate a number of new employees into its own organization.
“It quickly became apparent during the initial workshops that we would have to adapt large parts of our existing processes to allow for a continuous inventory system,” recalls Andreas Kodweiß. “And ultimately that was the biggest challenge,” adds Sabine Avagyan, the external consultant tasked with managing the PermIn project. “After all,” says Avagyan, “the effort involved in rearranging organizational structures that had developed over the years and bringing the new processes to life was actually greater than for integrating the new system.”
Key project milestones included standardization of the zone structure in both IT systems and systematic comparison and correction of inventory data. The next stage was to model the new continuous processes around a newly created role of inventory manager. After FI-TS had finalized its objectives, the technical experts from FNT were given the task of integrating the new system. Technical dependencies and other details were discussed in a series of joint workshops. There, it became apparent that all requirements could be met in full using an evolution of the FNT Command Mobile app.
There are many reasons for including mobile devices in a continuous inventory process. Using the FNT app, staff can quickly identify and document all equipment in situ. And thanks to the integrated QR and barcode scanner, they have immediate access to information about each device and can confirm its current location. The input data is then automatically transferred to a central instance of FNT Command and compared with the existing database. If the site information does not match, the system generates a special list of all objects for which a second review is required. Only when the data has been corrected and confirmed is it transferred to the SAP system and tagged as fully inventoried.
“We’d already added QR codes to all our devices, so we were able to use them in our new permanent inventory process,” says Andreas Kodweiß. “For us, it was as important for people to understand the need for perpetual inventory as it was for them to accept the new app. We were all very aware that the new process structures would only be effective if they were adopted by everyone.”
The new PermIn process was partially rolled out in November of last year, with widespread deployment of the app. After the first few months of the successful test phase, FNT Command was fully integrated with the SAP system. Despite the major changes involved, the feedback from staff has been very positive. Even the most skeptical are now convinced of the benefits of using these systems to achieve the required level of organizational flexibility.
Finanz Informatik Technologie Service (FI-TS) was founded in 1994 through the merger of data centers serving the Sparkasse banks in Bavaria and Bayerische Landesbank. Now employing more than 980 staff, FI-TS provides bespoke applications and services to banks, financial services providers, and insurance companies. In addition to running applications for clients, FI-TS provides typical data center and cloud services that offer the highest standards of quality and security.