Don’t Stop At The Obvious

I had a meeting with my new client yesterday. First, we discussed what the problems are, how the client wants them to be solved, and how soon they want them solved over the phone.

Basic questions — classic answers.

I could draw a picture in my head what the problems are. I inclined to agree with them when they said “We want a better inventory system”. They gave me a list of reasons:

  • We don’t know the stock levels.
  • We don’t really know daily usage.
  • We have a hard time forecasting demands.
  • We keep losing supplies.
  • People always forget to record.
  • And, they don’t follow the rules.

In their opinion, all these problems lead to only one obvious solution — a better inventory system.

I thought so too until I met them in person. As I know more about their situations, I was not really sure. And once I walked around to see how their staff work in a real environment, I started to ask myself “Am I looking this wrong?”

Possibly. Considering the fact that they already have an inventory system that they are familiar with. Considering the fact that the main point of this is not a particular system but an information flow. If the information is correct, likely the existing inventory system will do just fine.

Who is creating that information? Their staff. But if their staff always forget to record it or they don’t follow the rule, who is to blame?

Improving the inventory system is not going to help because the information flow is still likely to be incorrect. At this point I don’t think they need what they said they need.

The big challenge is more on real time data capturing from the real working environment. The big challenge is to know where things are at all time. Is it in a stock room? Who checked it in? Who took it out? Where is it now? For whom is this supply intended? Is it actually used? Is it returned back to the stock room? What missing?, and so on.

If we know answers to these question, we have a good chance to improve a quality and reliability of information flow, which eventually improves the overall inventory management operations.

This is bigger and more to the point than just creating another inventory management system that is going to make staff more confused and frustrated.

So, this is what I just proposed to them. I said out loud that “I don’t think you need a new inventory system but rather a tracking system. To make it to be able to automatically track movements and locations of your supplies without user intervention will improve everything.”

And this is my team’s focus. Not to build another-mediocre inventory system but a new way to track movements of assets. It is very specific — the goals, and the KPIs. It gives me and my team peace of mind because we don’t have to worry about recreating a boring-elephant-size inventory system.

This taught three lessons. First, listen to clients but don’t easily fall for their opinion. Second, have courage to think freely, and speak from your mind.

Last but the most important one, good solutions are rarely obvious solutions.

Don’t stop at the obvious. :-)

Thinking and writing are the things I like. Sharing is what I love. Because of them, I write everyday to share stories from my thoughts and experiences, from the future I see and believe in. Everything I use to build Inthentic a better home. A home of people who want to do good things and give back. A home that is a small starting point of changes for a better society. I am proud of what I am doing. And even prouder to know that I am not doing it alone.

Thanks for reading. :-)