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Getting Started With QR code Inventory Management

How Does QR Inventory Help Your Business

A QR Inventory software makes inventory management and asset tracking process easy, fast, efficient and real time by using modern technologies: mobile, cloud, QR codes, NFC, Bluetooth, IoT sensors and gateways. You can use a mobile app for the fast and efficient inventory tracking in the field and warehouse. A mobile app supports a variety of smart inventory tags: QR codes, barcodes, NFC or BLE tags. You can also fully automate inventory and asset tracking process by using an IoT asset tracking system.

A mobile app links field invenory tracking smartphones to the back end cloud software. Up to the minute reports available to all authorized software users on the office computers and mobile devices.

Implementing QR Code Inventory Management Software FAQ

A QR Inventory is a smart inventory management system that gives you a lot of flexibility in setting up your inventory management and asset tracking process. Since a QR Inventory software is very flexible and can accommodate various business scenarios, it is very important that you set it up correctly from the start. Please read this FAQ to have a better idea on how to set up a QR inventory management system for your business scenario. If you have additional questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Real Time Inventory Management And Assets Tracking

Is there any delay between inventory processing in the mobile app and cloud software update?

There are no delays. All inventory transactions processed in the mobile app update central database in real time. As soon as inventory or asset updates are recorded on any of the smartphones in the field (or by an IoT gateway), stock level and asset location are sent to the cloud software and are adjusted in the central database. Up-to-the-minute reports are available to all authorized software users via the web interface.

Do we have to use smartphones for the field assets and inventory tracking?

It is convenient to use smartphones for the field inventory and assets tracking. Field technicians can use their own smartphones that they are familiar with, so there is a minimal learning curve, and you become productive fast. You also do not have to buy barcode scanning hardware that can be quite expensive.
However, you do not have to use smartphones or tablets. You can use rugged mobile computers that are made for the harsh outdoor conditions, or regular mobile computers that are running Android OS.

Can we use a barcode scanner instead of the smartphone for inventory and asset tracking?

Yes, if you prefer you can use a regular barcode scanner. If you need a barcode scanner for the faster scanning, the best setup would be a bluetooth barcode scanner connected to a smartphone or a tablet. A QR Inventory mobile app is natively integrated with the Socket Mobile line of barcode scanners. You can find more information on using a bluetooth barcode scanner with the mobile app here.

Does QR Inventory software support IoT?

A QR Inventory software collects data from the field devices (asset and inventory tagged with the smart tags) and sends data to the back end cloud software in real time. In this sense it is an IoT system, regardless of which smart tags and gateways you are using.

A QR Inventory software gives you a choice of tags and scanners. You can pick a degree of inventory management automation that is right for your business use case and budget. You can use QR code, barcode, NFC or BLE tags. The degree of inventory management automation, as well as the overall cost of the system increases from QR codes to BLE tags.

You also have a choice of scanning devices that send data to the back end cloud software. You can use employees with the smartphones, tablets or mobile computers for this. This option requires company employees to scan assets or inventory with the mobile device. It also allows field technicians to record extra info that should accompany an inventory or asset transaction.

You can also use a dedicated BLE gateway for a completely automated IoT asset tracking system. With this setup, no human participation is required for the real time inventory and asset tracking and cloud software data connection.

Can we remotely monitor temperature and humidity for sensitive assets and inventory?

Yes, a QR Inventory software includes an optional built-in IoT temperature and humidity monitoring system. In order to use it, you will need to install BLE IoT sensors (provided as a part of a software package) in the warehouse or field zones that you want to monitor.

You can set optimal temperature and humidity ranges for the sensitive assets and inventory groups, as well as individual zones. You get digital data logs for all assets and inventory that you need to monitor, and instant alerts if conditions go out of the pre-set range, regardless of how assets and inventory are moved between locations.

QR Codes vs NFC vs BLE vs Barcodes - Which Tags Work Better For The Inventory Management

Should we use QR codes or barcodes for the inventory management?

You can use either barcodes or QR codes. A QR Inventory mobile app will scan QR codes, UPC barcodes and other barcode types - as long as the barcode types you are using are readable with a mobile phone camera. If you already have inventory and assets labeled with the barcodes, there is no need to create new labels. If inventory and assets are not labeled, you can use a QR Inventory software built-in tool to generate, layout and print QR code labels. We discuss pros and cons of using QR codes vs barcodes vs other barcode types for the inventory management in more details here.

Are there any advantages in using NFC tags vs QR codes for inventory management?

There is an advantage in using NFC tags vs QR codes or barcodes, but this advantage comes with the higher cost of the inventory management system. You can scan NFC tags much faster than QR codes or barcodes. With NFC tags you do not need to focus a smartphone camera for each scan - just touching an asset with a smartphone will read NFC tag. NFC tag does not have to be in the line of sight, and can even be inside a package or a casing.

The drawback of using NFC tags for inventory management is the higher tags cost and more involved tags production. You will need to either purchase pre-encoded NFC tags or use a special NFC tags printer and encoder. This additional expense is justified if you are regularly processing high volume transactions, and scanning speed is an issue. You can find more detailed discussion on using QR codes vs NFC tags for inventory management and asset tracking in this blog article, and on using NFC tags in the QR Inventory software here.

What are pros and cons of using IoT technologies, such as bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons or RFID, for inventory management and asset tracking?

BLE tags allow you to further automate inventory management process. Instead of scanning each single item, you can scan multiple items with one click. Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology is a good alternative to RFID for inventory management. Both BLE and RFID provide better precision and much higher speed of inventory processing as compared to QR codes or barcodes. Unlike RFID, BLE tags can be scanned with a regular smartphone. Company employees can use their own smartphones, and you do not need to purchase expensive RFID scanners.

Do we need to purchase an IoT gateway if we are using BLE tags?

You do not have to use a dedicated IoT gateway with the BLE tags. You can track assets and inventory tagged with the BLE tags using a smartphone, tablet or a mobile computer. BLE tags allow you to bulk scan all items that you need to transfer between locations with one click in the mobile app. If you routinely move large volumes of assets or inventory, BLE tags will provide a significant advantage as compared to QR codes or NFC tags.

You need a dedicated IoT gateway only if you want a fully automated asset tracking without any human participation. IoT gateway will automatically record appearance and disappearance of the assets tagged with the BLE tags, and send data to the back end cloud software. Company employees won't need to do any extra work for maintaining accurate asset and inventory data.

Tracking assets and inventory across multiple field and warehouse locations.

How can we manage inventory / track assets across multiple field locations? I added Location as a custom field and inventory location is not being changed automatically.

A QR Inventory mobile app tracks assets and inventory locations automatically when you process a transactions on a smartphone. You should not create a special custom field for the inventory location. When you record a transaction in the mobile app, you will have to select from which location an asset or inventory is picked and / or to what location an asset or inventory is moved. This info is sent from the mobile app to the cloud software in real time, and the central database is updated.
You can review inventory stock levels in all locations on the item details page, in the reports, and in the mobile app.

We keep inventory and assets on various job sites that change frequently. How do we manage inventory / track assets in these field locations? Should we enter all field inventory locations into the QR Inventory software?

You do not have to enter field sites that change often in the QR Inventory system. A QR Inventory software allows you to have four types of locations:

  • Permanent Storage Locations.
    These are warehouses, offices or field locations (job sites, service trucks) where you store assets and inventory for a significant time. These locations should be entered into the QR Inventory software. When processing a transaction in the mobile app, a user will select from and to location from a dropdown list.
  • Remote Site or Person.
    These are short lived field sites. Some examples may include home address of a client for a one time installation, one off event location, etc. It is not practical to keep a list of such locations in the QR Inventory software and constantly change them. Therefore, when inventory or assets are checked out, checked in or transferred from or to Remote Site or a Person, user enters a location name manually or scans it in from the location QR code.
  • Self.
    These are employees and users of the QR Inventory software system. If a user checks inventory in, out or transfers asset or inventory to or from "self" (s)he will not need to enter a location. A mobile app or a cloud software will recognize a logged in user, and will records the name of an employee without a need .

Do I need to enter a group for the warehouse or field inventory locations?

You do not have to specify a group for the locations. However, if you have a lot of inventory storage locations, combining locations into groups keeps them better organized. You also can limit locations list in the mobile app for each inventory transaction type. This option helps you avoid long drop-down lists with the locations not relevant to the task at hand.

Recording Inventory Transfer Between The Field And Warehouse

What are in, out and transfer transaction types, and when should I use each type?

All inventory transactions that move assets or inventory from one location to another should be of transfer type. Use in transaction type for recording inventory or assets purchase, and out transaction type for recording inventory sale or use for a project.

It is a common mistake to make inventory transactions for equipment rentals and returns, or for sending assets and inventory to the job sites and returning unused inventory in and out types. This is incorrect - when you rent an asset it is still your property, it is just changing locations - so it is a transfer transaction. The same is true for sending tools, equipment and materials to the job sites.

Use in transaction type for the newly acquired inventory and assets (e.g. restocking), and out types for the inventory and assets that you are permanently disposing (e.g. sale, used for a project, scrap inventory, discard damaged asset, etc.). All other transactions will be of type transfer.

Inventory and asset tracking transactions for the specific use cases.

These are suggested setup for the common business use cases.

Sending assets and materials to the temporary short lived job sites.
Create a transfer transaction, from Permanent Storage Location to the Remote Site for sending out materials to a temporary job site, and transfer transaction from the Remote Site to Permanent Storage Location for returning unused inventory back to the warehouse. When processing a transaction in the mobile app an employee will select a warehouse from the list, and type in or scan in a temporary job site name.

Tracking job site deliveries and use of assets and materials.
The following set of inventory transactions will work for this situation:

  • Pick up at the warehouse (transfer). From Permanent Storage Location to Self. An employee will only need to select a warehouse from the list. After an employee picks up inventory item or an asset and records it in the mobile app, you will see that it is in the employee's possession.
  • Used for a job (out). From Self. An employee won't need to select any locations in the mobile app. When material usage is recorded in the mobie app inventory stock will be adjusted accordingly. An employee can specify for what project and / or client materials were used.
  • Return unused inventory (transfer). From Self to Permanent Storage Location. An employee will need to select a warehouse from the list. After this transaction is recorded, inventory will be removed from the employee and added back to the warehouse stock.

Assets, equipment or demo units rentals and returns.
Create the following transactions for this situation:

  • Rent Out (transfer). From Permanent Storage Location to Person
  • Return From Rent (transfer). From Current Location to Permanent Storage Location. When you select Current Location, asset location will be read by the system. In this manner you can process all assets that were returned from the different places in a single inventory transaction.
    Important! Current Location is only valid for the asset tracking. Do not select this option for the inventory tracking, since inventory can be in several different locations at the same time.

Delivery and pick up of food or other items in the reusable containers
Create the following transactions for this situation:
  • Pick Up In The Warehouse (transfer). From Permanent Storage Location to Self. At this point you will see that an asset (container) is in the driver's possession.
  • Drop Off At Client (transfer). From Self to Person. When the driver records a container drop off in the mobile app you will see that the container is in the client's possession.
  • Pick Up At Client (transfer). From Current Location to Self. When container pick up is recorded in the mobile app you will see that the container is in the driver's possession.
  • Drop Off At The Warehouse (transfer). From Self to Permanent Storage Location. At this point a container is back in the warehouse.

Customizing Inventory Management System - Custom Fields And Properties

What are Transactions: Trackable Properties, and how are they different from the Inventory & Assets: Custom Fields?

Custom fields are for data on the asset or an inventory line item that you want to record and keep in the system. This info is related to a specific inventory line item or an asset, and does not change with inventory transactions.

Transaction properties are related to the inventory or asset transactions. For example, if you want to keep track of the materials used for each project or job, Project Number or Job Number can be one of the properties for the Used For Project transaction. It is related to this specific transaction and not to the inventory line item. The same line item can be used for many different projects, and each time you record a Used For Project transaction you will enter a different project number.

What are Item Level and Fraction Level assets and inventory custom fields?

Item Level custom fields always have the same value for all instances of the same inventory line item. For example, every Electrical Motor ABC123 will have the same specifications and the same PDF file with the technical documentation.
Fraction Level custom fields can have different values for the different instances of the same inventory line item. For example, the same medicine in two different boxes might have different expiration dates.
Fraction level custom fields are used for tracking quantity of the inventory line item with the different properties. For example, in the case of the medicine with the different expiration dates, you will be able to see that you have 10 bottles of medicine A, out of them 3 will expire on date X, and 7 will expire on date Y.

What are Transaction Level and Item Level transaction properties?

Transaction Level properties will be filled out once per inventory transaction. These should be the properties that will always be the same for all items in the transaction.
Item Level transaction properties will be filled out separately for each inventory item or asset in the transaction. These should be properties that can be different for each inventory item or an asset.
As an example, project can be a transaction level property, but item conditions will be an item level property.

Mobile Inventory Tracking With QR Inventory