Inventory Counting Software
ScienceSoft applies 10 years of experience in supply chain software development, 9-year practice in designing and building image analysis solutions, and 11-year expertise in IoT to introduce effective inventory counting solutions.
Inventory Counting Software: The Essence
Inventory counting software helps companies improve the speed and accuracy of stock counting processes and enhance productivity of employees involved in inventory planning and control tasks. Such solutions rely on computer vision, IoT, and barcode/QR code scanning technologies to provide inventory counting automation. The software facilitates monitoring of inventory levels and location and can provide analytics-based guidance on inventory replenishment, which helps companies avoid stockouts and overstocking.
Main Approaches to Inventory Counting Automation
There are several main approaches to inventory counting automation that define the architecture, functional capabilities, and necessary integrations for an inventory counting solution. Below, ScienceSoft describes benefits and limitations of each approach so that companies could choose the one that fits their stock counting needs best.
Barcode- or QR-code-based inventory counting with handheld devices
The degree of automation: Semi-automated.
- Manual scanning of barcodes and QR codes on inventory items’ package with scanners, mobile or wearable devices.
- Automated calculation of inventory levels based on the data retrieved from barcodes and QR codes.
- Improved counting speed comparing to traditional physical counting.
- No need to set up complex hardware infrastructure.
Limitation: Manual scanning is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and error-prone.
RFID-based inventory counting with autonomous devices
The degree of automation: Fully automated.
- Automated transmission of data from RFID tags placed on inventory items to the RFID readers installed in the facility.
- Automated calculation of inventory levels based on the data retrieved from RFID tags.
- Fast and accurate inventory counting across even large storage facilities, during inventory receipt and dispatch.
- Completely eliminated manual efforts.
Limitation: High implementation cost due to the need to set up RFID readers and place RFID tags on each individual item.
Inventory counting with computer vision
The degree of automation: Fully automated.
- Automated capture of inventory items in a human-eye-like manner and counting them with the help of cameras installed in the facility, on robots or drones.
- Instant and precise counting of static and moving inventory items, inventory in piles, stacks, and more, including touching and overlapping objects, without human involvement.
- The ability to count inventory not labeled with barcodes, QR codes, RFID tags.
Limitation: Computer vision model design, training, and fine-tuning requires the involvement of data scientists, which increases initial project investments.
ScienceSoft’s supply chain consultants consider computer-vision-based approach the most effective for solving inventory counting tasks.
A Sample Architecture of Computer Vision System for Inventory Counting by Sciencesoft
Computer vision software for inventory counting is built around an image analysis system with a pre-trained convolutional neural network (CNN) at its core to recognize and count inventory items. The system instantly captures digital images of the inventory storage areas (e.g., racks in the warehouse, shelves at the point of sale) and production lines from the connected cameras. It automatically preprocesses images to enhance their quality. Then, a CNN extracts features to determine lines, corners, edges, colors and performs high-level image processing (recognition, classification, counting of inventory items, etc.).
A computer vision solution can rely on rule-based or AI-powered algorithms to analyze data on current inventory levels, available demand data, historical data on inventory turnover and suggest further actions (e.g., SKU replenishment, item replacement, etc.). Data on current inventory quantities and associated decisions are automatically communicated to the relevant systems and/or employees responsible for inventory-related tasks.
Learn more about the capabilities of computer vision for inventory counting in our comprehensive guide.
Inventory counting automation
- Semi-automated (barcode/QR-code scanning with handheld devices) or fully automated (computer vision, RFID) inventory counting:
- Counting particular items and the whole inventory.
- Continuous and periodic stock counting.
- Counting static inventory objects and items during movement (e.g., at the production line, during goods receipt or dispatch).
- Automatically updating the information on available inventory across the required systems as new relevant data appears.
- Inventory level monitoring:
- Across multiple domestic and foreign locations (warehouses, points of sale, manufacturing facilities, etc.).
- Across various stages of production: raw materials, in-progress goods, finished goods.
- Across owned and consignment inventory (for retail, healthcare, and more).
- Customizable inventory control dashboards for various user groups (inventory managers, accountants, the warehouse team, the store team, etc.).
- Real-time tracking of inventory items location in the facility using RFID technology or computer vision technology.
Decision making on inventory replenishment
- Ongoing matching of current inventory amounts to the optimal inventory levels (defined by rules or suggested by AI).
- Notifications to the employees responsible for inventory replenishment on low-stock and overstocked inventory.
- Automated submission of replenishment requests to the relevant systems (e.g., procurement software), triggered by pre-defined reorder points.
- AI-driven recommendations on inventory reallocation between different manufacturing facilities, warehouses, points of sale, etc. based on the analysis of inventory levels across locations (for multi-echelon inventory optimization).
- Automated reconciliation of data on physical inventory levels with inventory quantity data from the general ledger.
- User-defined triggers for inventory amounts reconciliation:
- Upon the count cycle completion.
- At the end of the day.
- At the end of an items counting procedure upon inventory receipt or prior to goods dispatch, and more.
- Alerts on inventory data discrepancies (e.g., mismatched or duplicated data) that require manual check by the responsible employees.
- Scheduled and ad hoc reports, including:
- Inventory level reports (by SKU, category, etc.).
- Inventory reconciliation reports (by period, location, etc.).
- Reports on inventory items that require replenishment, and more.
- Customizable templates for various types of inventory reports.
Validation of inventory placing, pricing, and positioning
For computer-vision-based inventory counting:
- AI-powered detection of misplaced stock items.
- Intelligent recommendations for the employees responsible for inventory placing (warehouse workers, merchandisers, etc.) on the proper inventory location.
- Alerts on irrelevant and suspicious objects in the inventory storage area.
For retail: Automated verification and validation of planogram compliance and price label compliance, alerts on mispositioned and mispriced products.
ScienceSoft suggests setting up the following integrations to enable fast and efficient collection of inventory counting results and ensure seamless communication of data on current stock levels and associated decisions to the relevant systems:
In ScienceSoft’s projects, we take into account the following factors that help maximize the ROI of inventory counting software:
- Maximized automation. To eliminate time-consuming and error-prone manual inventory counting, enable precise real-time tracking of inventory level and location.
- Smooth integration with business-critical systems. To ensure seamless data flow between inventory counting software and a company’s hardware control systems, procurement software, accounting software, etc.
- AI-powered prescriptive analytics. To provide inventory specialists with intelligent recommendations, for example, on optimal time for inventory replenishment or reallocation to maintain optimal inventory levels across various storage, selling, and manufacturing facilities.
- Proper user training. To help employees involved in inventory counting quickly learn how to use software and integrated hardware (machine vision cameras, RFID readers, barcode/QR code scanners) to streamline their daily tasks.
- A large inventory image dataset to train a CNN on. (for computer-vision-based inventory counting) To ensure precise recognition and quantification of inventory items.
The main cost factor for inventory counting software development is the chosen approach to inventory counting: semi-automation provided by barcode/QR code scanning devices or full automation enabled by RFID technology or computer vision. The approach defines requirements to the capabilities and specifics of counting software and hardware.
The cost of inventory counting software implementation varies greatly depending on:
- The number and complexity of a solution’s functional modules.
- The number and complexity of integrations (with hardware, accounting software, procurement software, etc.).
- The number and complexity of web and/or mobile applications for various user groups (inventory managers, accountants, the warehouse team, the store team, etc).
- Software performance, availability, scalability, security requirements, and more.
From ScienceSoft’s practice, custom inventory counting software of average complexity requires $90,000–$250,000 in investments, while the cost of a comprehensive inventory counting system for a large enterprise may reach $400,000+.
The cost of inventory counting hardware varies significantly depending on the number of hardware tools a company needs. Average hardware prices are the following:
Up to x15 faster stock counting and 25%+ reduction in inventory-related labor costs due to automation.
Improved inventory visibility due to real-time inventory level tracking.
Minimized risk of stockouts and overstocking due to accurate data-driven decision making on inventory replenishment.
Currently, there are few standalone inventory counting systems available on the market, and none of them is a "one-size-fits-all" solution. While off-the-shelf general-purpose inventory management solutions do cover some inventory counting and stock level monitoring functionality, they often fail to fully meet business-specific inventory counting needs and provide compatibility with the hardware of a company’s choice. High subscription costs coupled with substantial efforts on customization and establishing smooth software-hardware integration may make ready-made inventory counting solutions economically unfeasible.
ScienceSoft recommends that companies should build a custom inventory counting solution in the following cases:
You need inventory counting software that provides specific functionality, for example:
Fully automated counting of your specific inventory items based on computer vision powered with custom image analysis algorithms.
Analytics-based detection of misplaced, mislabeled, damaged stock items.
Custom process rules and triggers for the automated reconciliation of physical vs. bookkeeping inventory.
Multimodal inventory counting (using a handheld inventory counting machine, an RFID reader, and a computer vision camera in some combination), and more.
You need a flexible inventory counting solution that is easy to evolve, for example, with advanced features like AI-powered prescriptive analytics or machine-vision-enabled counting of overlapping inventory objects.
You want to smoothly and cost-effectively integrate inventory counting software with your existing corporate systems (WMS, procurement software, accounting software, etc.) and available hardware.
You have large teams involved in inventory counting processes and want to avoid costly subscription for off-the-shelf software products, which scales as the number of users increases.
You’re building a blockchain-based inventory management system and need to maintain immutable records of all inventory counting results in the distributed ledger.
Inventory counting software consulting
- Analyzing your business needs and eliciting requirements to an inventory counting solution.
- Developing a Proof of Concept (optionally).
- Suggesting optimal features, architecture, and tech stack for inventory counting software.
- Assisting on the choice of compatible hardware (cameras, scanners, RFID readers, etc).
- Preparing a plan of integrations with hardware, procurement software, accounting software, etc.
- Delivering a roadmap for inventory counting software development, including a risk mitigation plan and cost & time estimates.
Inventory counting software implementation
- Business needs analysis and requirements elicitation to an inventory counting solution.
- Inventory counting software conceptualization.
- Architecture design.
- Inventory counting software development.
- Integrating the solution with existing corporate systems (procurement software, accounting software, etc.) and required hardware.
- Quality assurance.
- User training.
- Continuous support and evolution (if required).
ScienceSoft is an international IT consulting and software development company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. We provide consultancy and development services to help organizations build effective inventory counting software. Being ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 certified, we apply a mature quality management system and guarantee that cooperation with us does not pose any risks to our customers’ data security. If you are interested in getting a reliable inventory counting solution, feel free to turn to ScienceSoft’s team.