A while back I wrote about how I developed an inventory management system using an iPad2 and QR Codes to help keep track of safety supplies at our local facility. Well, word soon spread and it wasn't long before someone asked for something similar.... but different.
After gathering some initial requirements, I determined that I could leverage part of my existing code to build another web app that could be used on any smartphone in a fairly similar way. The main difference here is that multiple people will be using the app, there will be thousands of items to keep track of and inventory will be controlled in real time, one part at a time.
The system works like this....
In one of our testing laboratories there are tools that require regular maintenance or tools that sometimes fail and need to be repaired. When this happens, an assigned technician will be responsible for the work. Most times, the tech does not know where the replacement part is stored in the supply room. To make this process easier, the tech can use his or her smartphone (or the designated iPod in the lab) to search for parts.
After typing in a term or part number into the search text box, the results are returned in order of relevance along with the location of said part. If the user requires more information, a link is provided that will display more specific information about the part such as vendor, vendor part number and the number of parts that are currently in inventory.
After the technician locates the part in the bin, thanks to the system recommendation, the database needs to know how many parts are being removed from the container in order to maintain integrity. This occurs when the tech uses the QR Code scanner application to scan the QR Code printed on the outside of the part bin. A new screen appears with the part information and a on-screen number pad prompting the user to tell the system how many parts will be removed from the bin. Using the provided keypad the user selects the number and then REMOVE to let the system know that parts are being taken out.
The QR Code can also assist the inventory manager with restocking. Instead of telling the system to remove parts, the user will enter the number of parts that are being added back into the bin and select ADD instead of REMOVE.
To make sure that there are always the correct number of parts on hand, the system notifies the Inventory Manager by email whenever the actual number of parts falls below the minimum number on hand and sets a flag in the part record to "Below Minimum". When the IM orders the required number of parts for replenishment, the IM will change the status flag to "On Order" to let the system know not to remind him/her to reorder parts. Finally, when the parts have been restocked, the system will automatically reset the flag to "Above Minimum".
With a little technology and some intermediate web development, our labs are sure to have the parts on hand when they are needed.