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Smart Merchandising Warehouse Management

The Next Big Thing in Retail: Automation in Inventory Management

As more and more people turn to omnichannel shopping, something as simple as maintaining inventory has become more difficult for companies. The silver lining is that along with consumer purchasing preferences, the technology required to conduct an efficient business has also evolved leading to digitization and automation of processes including inventory management.

Manual vs Automated Inventory Management 

A labour-intensive process, manual inventory management heavily relied on people’s ability to consistently perform at their best. This was also a time-consuming job that rarely offered a comprehensive picture of a company’s inventory in real-time. It involved counting, aggregating, and calculating data at every step. Even the smallest errors could have a grave impact in the long run. 

An automated system makes these processes simpler, reducing the amount of human intervention and involvement by providing each SKU with a serial number or a barcode. It presents various insights and access to warehouse/operation-wide data easily. This means all information becomes readily available, movement of the product can be followed, and there are fewer discrepancies. 

Considering an increasing number of companies are opting for an omnichannel approach, the lack of a cohesive selling and stocking strategy can translate to significant losses. If you are considering moving your business operations to an automated inventory management system, here are some benefits – 

  • Stock visibility –There is 100% inventory exposure, across all sale channels at the same time. Real-time inventory-order sync increases the chances of sales and minimizes order cancellation due to overbooking.
  • No “lost” stock – Once a product is assigned a serial number and scanned into the automated inventory management system, the chances of getting misplaced or lost are close to zero. 
  • Minimizing manual errors – An automated system reduces the number of human errors.  
  • Analytics & Insights – Stocks can be redirected where there is higher demand, prices can be changed depending on the trends which are showcased by the automated inventory management system. 
  • Scalability – The biggest benefit of implementing an automated inventory management system is the ability to grow and expand faster and quicker. 

Automation in Inventory Management at Stores 

An automated system such as Iris X can efficiently manage the following functions increasing sales, productivity, and overall performance of a store. 

  • Assortment planning and buying – Using algorithm-driven data, an automated inventory management system can analyze the demand and help in product planning for the store. This tool takes into consideration real-time data regarding sales, revenue, discounts, size cuts, stock-outs, etc. These factors can determine buying and assortment planning too as the tool analyses 17 levels of product attributes, providing accurate insights for informed decision making. 
  • Restocking – As this merchandising solution keeps track of stock, there are automated alerts to ensure that the store has enough stock to match demand at all times. It becomes possible to automate the re-ordering process with proper checks and balances to keep your stores are running smoothly. 
  • Replacements and replenishment – Once any of the bestseller stock gets sold out, it is prudent to have them restocked as soon as possible as it can affect the cash flow. Iris X identifies bestsellers as well as low-selling stocks. Having this information means that a store can always have its bestsellers in stock while moving its low-selling items through various promotions to avoid deadstock at the end of the season.  
  • Inter-store transfers – A unique feature of Iris X is showcasing trends in purchase which can help retailers to move stock between stores if there is a demand mismatch. This helps in utilizing the stock while avoiding losses. 

Automation in Inventory Management at Warehouses 

Automation in inventory management at the warehouses can be beneficial in preventing human errors. An automated system can also increase efficiency and reduce losses due to such errors and oversight. 

Increff’s WMS solution automates processes in the warehouse by using inventory serialization which can properly track SKUs and facilitate better space utilization. This enables faster picking and packing at warehouses, reducing the turnaround time for completing orders. Each time a product barcode is scanned, all of its details including a picture are displayed to ensure zero errors while packing a product. This WMS has a simple and friendly user interface to make sure that all warehouse workers can be quickly and easily trained to use this software. 

The overall benefits of using automation in inventory management increase as your business grows and expands. The transformative powers of automation are many and the need to integrate automation in your business is more evident than ever as the world itself goes through a transformative time.  Based on your business needs and goals, choose an automation solution that works the best for you.

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Smart Merchandising Technology Warehouse Management

If you are going D2C with Shopify, Scale Faster with Increff

Retail started from local stores and expanded nationwide, cross borders, with e-commerce. E-commerce provided a uniform platform business for brands to compete on. The traditional legacy brands, having huge landmark stores and a dedicated customer base, had to wrestle with hip startups that were born in the digital era. As fast-paced technology started transforming the future of retail, it completely changed the way we shop. 

What was memorable about brand stores was the unique environment they created by capturing its essence within the four walls and adding a peculiarity in interactions. This uniqueness and brand memorability get lost in multi-brand marketplaces. Marketplaces are standard platforms having their own purpose, that masks a brand’s individuality. E.g. you become a Macy’s customer or an Amazon shopper but the brand you shop for becomes secondary. Hence, D2C seems an attractive channel to directly communicate with customers and own the relationship. 

Brands selling directly to customers own their most important asset; their customer’s lifetime value. 

D2C is an emerging strategy to disrupt the market. It allows brands to grow at their own pace by eliminating the middleman and earning higher margins. It helps brands:

  1. Directly connect with customers: Having direct access to customer data gives brands the ability to customize every touchpoint. Connect with shoppers whenever they want, through emailers, push notifications, etc. 
  2. Innovate: Data enables brands to understand customers better and improvise basis demand. Manufacturers can optimize existing products or create new offerings by capturing the trend early. 
  3. Build stronger brand loyalty: Using upselling and cross-selling options, retailers can create more opportunities for sale and build brand loyalty. 
  4. Increase flexibility and agility: Having full control over product supply and demand allows brands to become more agile. Gain the ability to read and react to change fast. 

Going D2C is not easy. It’s important to have a D2C specific strategy, which addresses:

  1. Initial set-up – 
    • Building your website – Using the right e-commerce solution, that is affordable, scalable, secure and low maintenance is important. Specialized platforms like Magento and Shopify, serve as all-in-one website builders that are easy to work with. They provide multiple payment options and allow omnichannel delivery. Our web-based WMS solution, Increff Assure, has preintegration with both these platforms and we can be your technology partner. Assure is a multi-channel order fulfillment platform built specifically for fashion and lifestyle brands to improve topline and reduce operational costs. It manages inventory by tracking every piece using Unique Piece Barcode, ensuring 100% order accuracy and improving operational efficiency. Through fast and easy channel integrations Assure can manage inventory across multiple sales channels, online and offline, and display 100% inventory across all channels simultaneously ensuring higher sales and better visibility.
    • Deciding CapEx vs OpEx model of operations – Understanding whether you can support direct orders to your warehouse or do you need a warehousing partner is a next step. Increff Assure can help you manage inventory in your warehouse. Our Warehousing as a Service (WaaS) helps retailers switch from the CapEx to Opex model of operation as we manage anywhere, anytime warehousing through our trusted 3PL partners. Having the right tech foundation at each warehouse helps brands scale efficiently as their business grows with the increasing demand.
  1. Supply chain challenges – 

Inventory management tech-solution like Increff Assure helps optimize inventory across all sales channels to prevent understocking or overstocking at any point in time. Our Regional Utilization model helps distribute inventory intelligently across a network of managed warehouses, based on true regional demand. It helps minimize air shipments, promote surface shipments and reduce logistics costs significantly to facilitate faster deliveries. Our pre-integrations on Shopify with reliable 3PL partners, Shiprocket and Clickpost, ensures complete order traceability and timely delivery. Increff Assure has inbuilt returns management solutions that very few WMS solutions provide. It help in rapid returns processing and makes good inventory immediately available for resale to prevent loss in sales opportunities. 

  1. Usage of data and insights – 

Increff Assure’s 50+ insightful, actionable reports help brands make calculated decisions on inventory and resource management. They help in inventory reconciliation, identifying channels of higher sales for better order management, tracking manpower productivity, and improving efficiency by highlighting, and correcting, loopholes in operations. 

Channel diversification is an opportunity to build a new relationship with customers. It is about giving a reason to customers to buy directly while ensuring the sales on partner channels do not get impacted. Offering unique services, loyalty programs, or subscription services plays a major role. Omnichannel brands can also decide on differentiating inventory across different channels e.g. D2C channel can be used for launching new products, selling premium versions of existing products, or a limited product line. Gaining better control over consumer data empowers brands to cater to changing needs by providing personalized, authentic service, and making it memorable. 

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Warehouse Management

INCREFF recognized as a Notable Vendor in Gartner’s report “Asia/Pacific Context: Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems”

Increff is recognized as a Notable Vendor in Gartner’s report “Asia/Pacific Context: Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems” published in Aug 2020. Gartner recognizes us based on our completeness of vision and ability to execute. Gartner subscribers can access the report here.

As traditional manufacturers shifted to eCommerce, their warehouses that shipped bulk orders to retailers and wholesalers, gradually turned to distribution centers for picking and packing individual orders for end users. The shift from bulk order processing to single order shipping, demands new Warehouse Management tools. It cannot depend on traditional systems with new technology and expect efficient workflow.

New integrated systems, specifically designed for a seamless omnichannel shopping experience, need to be implemented for better handling of inventory, distribution, and fulfillment operations. One solution cannot fit all, hence INCREFF has built unique expertise in its software platform ASSURE, to address the needs of fashion brands & retailers.

Unique piece barcode serialization for smart order prioritization, intelligent pick paths, and accurate return order reconciliation

ASSURE is an end to end cloud-based platform that comes along with pre-built marketplace integrations, inventory management, order management, and warehouse management capabilities. It can be used for both B2B and B2C operations from a common inventory pool.

Its unique piece barcode serialization feature reduces human errors through an intuitive user interface that encourages order prioritization based on SLA and channel type. Serialized scan-based checks and product photograph display feature at multiple stages, ensure right first time operations. The software interface is simple and easy to master without expert supervision or monitoring. Consolidated intelligent pick paths and easy reference maps optimize workflow to reduce picker travel time. 

Quick real-time inventory and order sync not only assures efficient order fulfillment but also provides faster turn around times to your customers. This solution is built to handle 100,000 items per day per warehouse and supports multi-location warehousing. It is currently serving top brands & retailers achieving 99.9% SLA through accurate order fulfillment and improved inventory management.

A specialized WMS not only makes inventory management faster, easier, and efficient but also adds consistency and quality control, enabling brands to respond effectively to dynamic customer demand. With same-day-delivery now becoming a norm, human errors must be avoided. Brands need to move goods through their warehouse at maximum speed, improve fulfillment at every stage, and in turn boost sales and profits by making customers happy. ASSURE has accelerated the digital journeys of retailers increasing their sales velocity by 2-3x through better regional utilization, distributed warehousing, and real-time inventory updates. 

For more details, check out the link www.increff.com/assure

Asia/Pacific Context: ‘Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems’,  Simon Tunstall, Dwight Klappich, 5 August 2020

Gartner Disclaimer

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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Warehouse Management

Cloud-warehousing – Your low cost solution for easy fulfillment

The advances of technology are based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life” – Bill Gates

COVID-19 is probably the first global pandemic that has accelerated digital adoption in ways, and at speeds, no one could have predicted. As retailers and consumers switch services to E-commerce, timely order fulfillment has become a challenge. With increased viewability and availability of options online, the small screen offers more space for catalogs compared to a physical store. This is the power of SMALL over LARGE.

A smooth 24/7 shopping experience demands round-the-clock warehousing.
A continuous influx of orders requires efficient processing, greater fulfillment space, and skillful operations. With same-day or next-day deliveries & free shipping demands, warehousing requires advanced technologies to accelerate automation, reduce cost, maximize exposure, and accelerate sales.

Real-time data feed for better customer experience, quick fulfillment, and customer retention.
Increff’s Cloud Warehousing is a smart inventory placement service through which we help clients distribute stock to multiple 3PL warehouses, across the country, for better delivery to the end consumer. We lower overall client cost by providing the flexibility to switch from CAPEX to OPEX model of operations and assuring perfect, skillful management of warehousing with no additional operational bandwidth at their end. Our cloud warehousing service can be made operational within 2 days with complete adaptability on the quantity that needs to be stored at each location based on consumer demands.

Increff ASSURE, our web-based fulfillment platform, which is at the heart of our Cloud warehousing Service, provides a single view of the inventory across all sales channels simultaneously. It helps fulfill both B2B and B2C orders from a common pool of inventory, thus improving the overall Rate of Sale, that too from the nearest location. We have helped clients lower manpower costs by 20-25% and achieve 99.9% SLA in order fulfillment through our combination of Technology and Warehousing as a Service.

One of the largest footwear giants, increased the rate of sales by 300% using ASSURE and Cloud Warehousing.

What’s next!
Unpredictable purchasing season is another concern where many warehouses find it difficult to keep up with seasonal changes and demands from consumers, often leading to either understocking or overstocking. As seasonal goods or particular fashion trends lose relevance in one region, cross-border analysis can help brands quickly shift that merchandise to regions where goods are more likely to sell. This is the future of retail and Increff is on the path of a revolutionary change, helping brands plan a more sustainable and better-designed fashion ecosystem.

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Warehouse Management

9 reasons why you need a New Age Warehouse Management Systems

Efficient warehousing is a crucial activity in the supply chain. It has become a source of competitive advantage for brands to outperform their competition in costs, lead time, and customer service. With so many WMS solutions available in the market, Gartner’s report on Critical Capabilities for Warehouse Management Systems is a helpful guide for businesses to determine their best-suited tech-solution.

In the age of A-commerce (Automated Commerce), where all warehousing processes leverage automation and new technologies from start to finish, businesses need to switch to web-based WMS solutions that lower ownership costs are easy to use and quick to deploy. Supply chain digital transformation builds greater agility and resilience in business structure and strengthens growth strategy for now and the future.

Increff ASSURE, recognised in this report, has nine notable capabilities (five core capabilities and four are additional capabilities), that make it an important new age WMS solution.

ASSURE’s nine notable capabilities are:

  • Inspection
  • Cycle counting
  • Inventory management
  • Picking
  • Packing
  • Responsive UI
  • Easy to Use, Learn, and Maintain
  • Near-Zero Training and a valuable user experience
  • Multi-site Deployment

While building efficiencies independently within each core capability is extremely essential, ASSURE ties all activities together building a secure, flawless flow through the entire process.

  1. Inspection

This stage involves inward processing where a Unique Piece Barcode (UPB) is assigned to each product. The barcode captures all key details like MRP, style, color, size, SKU image, etc. of the product along with a complete audit trail of operations with timestamps. It allows scan based GRN, showing the product image and description for quality check (QC).

ASSURE’s stringent in-built QC matrix includes a comprehensive list of failure reasons covering all business requirements. If a product is found defective or unsellable, the reason is selected from the drop-down list and its UPB is marked as QC failed. Digitally bifurcated unsellable inventory, with in-depth QC failure reasons, helps in taking quick necessary actions. This product-defect mapping is linked to the seller and can help in streamlining future buying decisions.

  1. Cycle counting

ASSURE allows cycle counting to be done without blocking any inventory or affecting the exposure of the inventory, hence regular operations can be run simultaneously. It identifies discrepancies in the physical scan and system count as we go, making sure that it is addressed immediately without having to wait for a periodic cycle count activity. In case a certain item is marked as ‘Not Found’ during regular picking operations, the updated inventory is synced on all channels including the marketplaces within 30 seconds. These real-time inventory adjustments and live updates can be done without hindering day to day operations.

  1. Inventory Management

Location tracking and assigning perfect pick paths for efficient picking is another notable feature of ASSURE that is achieved through UPB scanning. Separate pick paths can be assigned for smaller and larger products. Picklists are generated using the FIFO inventory method, considering the oldest SKU first to reduce the aging inventory. It also has the ability to prioritize or release picklists according to SLA or channel priority, e.g. Express & Prime orders which have to be fulfilled within 2 hours of order receipt, or multiple marketplaces that have separate cut off and pick up timings, are addressed accordingly. A single view of inventory across all channels and 99.9% bin level accuracy exceeds RFID tagging in bringing accuracy and building proficiency. Proper inventory management in the warehouse allows capturing the true cost of the inventory with accurate aging.

  1. Picking

Is a fully automated scan-based process, free of pen and paper, allowing first-time right pick. Using the UPB tracking method, ASSURE creates an optimized linear forward-going pick path that facilitates systematic sequential picking. It ensures that a picker exits an aisle only when all the items from the picklist have been picked. Through real-time checks, the system has the ability to throw an error and an audio alert to warn the picker if a wrong product is scanned. The picker cannot move forward until the right product is picked up or an item is marked as ‘Not Found’. In case a piece is not found in the assigned bin, a recommendation system is set to direct the picker to the next best location. An order is closed only when all the pieces have been scanned and picked.

  1. Packing

ASSURE has a single screen for each marketplace to view the packing status in real-time. Automated prompts for packing are generated if a product packing requires any customizations, e.g. use of corrugated material for plastic ban states, or gift label print if an order is for gifting. The system provides options to print the shipping labels in different custom formats. If an order is canceled before/during packing then it is sent back to the inventory and made live for sale again, immediately.

6. Responsive UI

UI is designed for the end-operator who is used to the touchscreen on mobile devices. It is fully automated and scan-based, to avoid the use of a mouse or keyboard and eliminate chances of lapses due to human decision-making, and can run on any device; tablet, laptop, smartphone, HHTs. Normally, the operation of GRN/ return processing has a maximum number of steps, but with ASSURE it can be covered in just 4 scans. On scanning, the cursor automatically moves to the next field freezing the previous one and ensures that the operator does not skip a step. If the operator scans any barcode other than the one expected, then a pop-up error stops him from moving further.

7. Easy to Use, Learn, and Maintain

Considering the fluidity of the workforce where attrition is typically 15-20% in a warehouse, Increff ASSURE’s user-friendly interface design guarantees quick learning and easy implementation without supervision. In scenarios like the present where a large number of blue-collar workers moved out of big cities to villages, there is an acute shortage of skilled labour in big warehouses. These warehouses have to operate with a lot of temporary unskilled, less-educated workers to deliver efficient and proficient output. In such situations having easy-to-learn systems saves time that goes into training and in turn increases the productivity of the labour force.

8. Near-Zero Training and a valuable user experience

Reduced training time relates to a lot of dollars saved. Typical manpower required to operate the ASSURE interface needs the bare minimum educational qualification to read simple text. The training time is less than 5 mins so you can go-live faster and reduce manpower cost by 20-25%.   

If there are multiple options available on the screen it can confuse the operator and reduce productivity. A google-like extremely simple UI, with limited options, allows a majority of the decision-making to be done by the system itself. Also, each screen has a video tutorial of 3- 5 mins embedded on the UI to train the new operator. With strict rules set by all marketplaces and different kinds of processes for each operation, it is best if the decision-making is left up to the WMS system. This helps in the easy scale-up of operations and maximum productivity from day one.

9. Multi-site Deployment

Increff ASSURE is capable of handling multi-warehousing. The creation of an environment for a seller takes a maximum of 48 hrs. Our Cloud warehousing service is based on CAPEX free model that gives the flexibility of scaling up and scaling down as per business needs. It enables sellers to easily build up inventory in different regions and optimize low-cost order fulfillment from a local warehouse, reducing logistics costs significantly. Multi-location cloud warehousing improves supply chain resilience and reduces the risk of failures.

For one of the top ethnic wear brands in India, within 15 days of launch, ASSURE GRNed approx 5 lakh pieces across 2 warehouses during peak sales. It dispatched ~170K pieces within 3 days, achieving 99.9%+ SLA and only 48 orders (0.03%) were canceled due to the item not found or excess orders. Powered by ASSURE, the brand has now fAssure and Amazon Prime quality badge for 100% fulfillment accuracy.

Every business needs to evolve and strengthen overtime to cope with the challenges of the changing market. This is the time for digital transformation and quick results. The real challenge is to choose the right system that can help you scale business operations immediately. The New-age WMS needs to be flexible and adaptable to the changing business landscape. Now is not the time to wait, but to act. Get ASSUREd!

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Warehouse Management

Increff named a Cool Vendor in Retail: Meeting Customer Basic Expectations Is More Important Than Ever

Change is here and INCREFF is leading it.
Retail has been an ever-evolving industry that has upgraded and strengthened with each disruptive change. Such disruptions pose multiple challenges with opportunities for innovation. The recent pandemic has not only accelerated digitalization but also exposed system deficiencies, highlighting the need for preparedness and resilience.

According to a recent Yourstory report, Flipkart owned fashion retailer Myntra witnessed an 86% rise in customers during its popular EORS this year. It processed more than 8,000 orders per minute and recorded a 30% growth in yearly traffic. This is a phenomenal performance by a fashion retailer considering the current economic slowdown. This shift of shopping from offline to online has defined a new role for retail stores.

Why Increff is Cool

An interesting personalized interaction at a store adds far more value compared to an online sale. Retailers must ensure physical touchpoints are leveraging technologies that create relevant assortments and product availabilities to build a memorable experience. Thus, Key to retail differentiation is intelligent merchandising and Increff IRISX helps achieve that.

Increff’s revolutionary intelligent merchandising solution combines the power of self-learning patent-pending algorithms with attribute level data analysis to predict pre-season and in-season smart assortment plan, an ideal buy plan, and a distribution plan for each store.

As we realize our interconnectivity with the ecosystem, we understand that assortment planning can no longer be limited to the pre-season stage but must also include in-season analysis and execution. It requires significant refinement of assortments using big data, both historical and near real-time, with advanced analytics and algorithmic approaches, to create store-specific assortments that mirror the buying pattern of distinct customer segments.

As one of the key players in the retail tech Industry, IRISX helps fashion brands & retailers increase sales by providing an intelligent and highly accurate merchandising planning platform helping merchandisers take pre-season and in-season decisions like what, when and how much to buy and where to showcase inventory via 100+ customizable patent-pending algorithms designed specifically for fashion and lifestyle business. It facilitates retailers to create store-specific assortments that meet customer needs while intelligently limiting excess production.

Retailers need to urgently automate legacy processes that consume time, bring inaccuracies, or fail to deliver corrective actions, to enhance speed and augment human activity.