Home Brew Small Business Inventory Management Software
I laid my hands on an interesting piece of equipment lately, and was able to cook up my own little inventory management application to use with it.
There are all sorts of barcode apps for Android phones, but all the ones I've seen are either out on their own (run independently of other applications) or take forever to read a barcode. One of our vendors lately wrote an android app to interface with their warehouse, and requires us to use a bluetooth scanner.
This little scanner solves a big problem. It acts like a wedge scanner, the kind I'm used to. It essentially reads a code, then hits Enter. On a regular computer, if you read a barcode while you're in a text editor, word processor document, or wherever you have a blinking cursor, then you can see the numbers from a barcode appear on the screen when you scan it.
This bluetooth scanner is not limited to our vendor's application. It will read codes into whatever I want it to, because it's acting like a keyboard. I hadn't even ordered the damned thing when I started wondering "I wonder if I can use it with web forms and hit our database via PHP while we wander around the lumber yard trying to figure out what we want to order next."
Today, I finished the crude version of what I'd initially thought. I can use this scanner, our MySQL database, and a smidgen of PHP to scan an item's barcode and see immediately how much we have in each lumber yard, and how much we've sold over the last twelve months. Essentially, I can get whatever info I want, but this seems to be the handiest for someone who is outside looking at piles of lumber and trying to figure out whether something needs ordering, or if it can wait.
Until now, someone runs around with a pad of paper, writes down what looks low, comes back in to a desk, goes and looks up each item in our ERP. This can take a while because what's in stock is in a different place than how much we've sold, and every time we fire up a new app in our ERP, things get slower.
Tomorrow's mission will be to see about writing up "Pre" purchase orders with a tablet or phone whilst running around outside, then finishing them up from inside. Management of the inventory should be a bit easier now if it all works.
The scanner by the way, is a KDC200 Professional that we got from Serialo and it requires an app called Gears to work. You can get that when you buy the scanner. My only problem so far have been some hiccups when everything has been on but not scanning for a while. The Gears app thinks it needs to be running ALL them time, and I've had to argue with it a bit about that.
Compared to how reliable a lot of other stuff out there is though, it's great…