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PathGuide’s Advanced VMI: A New Frontier For Vendor Managed Inventory

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PathGuide Technologies is a leading provider of warehouse management and shipping solutions for industrial and retail distributors across the United States, Canada and abroad. Below is our recent interview with Eric Allais, president and CEO at PathGuide:

Q: PathGuide recently unveiled an Advanced VMI, or Vendor Managed Inventory, software solution for distributors. Can you begin by explaining vendor managed inventory?

A: VMI systems have been a hot topic in the supply distribution world in recent years. VMI is a system that allows a vendor to take the headache of ordering and managing inventory away from their customers and instead offer the management of said items as a service. A few years back, typical “tools of the VMI trade” were pen, paper, and a fax machine. These days, people can use a barcode RF terminal to scan the items, enter a quantity and then send the order – via Wi-Fi or cell network – through the barcode RF terminal to their vendor.

Q: Can you give us more insights into your Advanced VMI product?

A: Similar to VMI, Advanced VMI also helps distributors and their customers efficiently maintain inventory levels by easily creating and managing replenishment orders. With PathGuide’s Advanced VMI, however, when a customer runs low on stock of an item, the system generates an automatic replenishment order to bring inventory levels up to predetermined maximums. The system then sends the order to the distributor for fast, accurate fulfillment.

Q: What differentiates PathGuide’s Advanced VMI solution from a more traditional VMI offering?

A: To understand the differences, let’s compare traditional VMI with Advanced VMI. With a traditional VMI system, when your customer, George at Specialty Sprockets, realizes they are running low on hubs, he uses a mobile scanning device to open an order on the scanner. George then proceeds to scan the barcode label on the shelf next to the product, enter the number of hubs needed, verify and complete the order, which the scanner wirelessly transmits to you. Your WMS sends that order to the warehouse, where your team checks it for errors before passing the order on to the ERP system.

With Advanced VMI, however, when Specialty Sprockets begins running low on hubs, the system creates an automatic replenishment order – without any prompting by George. Your warehouse receives the order electronically, which is then typically approved, picked, packed and shipped right back to Specialty Sprockets. Advanced VMI can also trigger automatic advanced shipping notices that George can reference when the shipment of hubs arrives and is ready to be received into inventory.

Q: What are the most important features of your Advanced VMI?

A: One unique advantage is that Advanced VMI can run either independently outside of the warehouse for a distributor’s customers or as part of a WMS. Orders are placed faster, easier and more efficiently than ever before – especially for customers like Specialty Sprockets who consistently order the same hubs. As a result of these efficiencies, PathGuide’s Advanced VMI enables distributors to improve customer service, retain existing business and grow market share.

Our Advanced VMI offering includes key features such as: bin-level management for complete inventory control; lot and shelf life management; serial number control management; consigned and non-consigned inventory management; ad-hoc replenishment; industrial vending machine support; SaaS-based multi-tenant cloud architecture; and user-defined multilingual support.

Q: Who is your ideal customer and why?

A: Distributors of all sizes will value Advanced VMI for its ability to improve customer service, retain existing business and grow markets share. Specifically, sales teams find that using Advanced VMI with an RF terminal significantly reduces errors, stockouts and downtime. There’s less handwriting to worry about and fewer instances during which information can be miscommunicated. The order is placed right on the spot at the customer location and transmitted in real-time.

PathGuide’s Advanced VMI also provides visibility into competing suppliers’ inventory, giving you a chance to supply additional inventory as part of your VMI offering. Advanced VMI is uniquely positioned to help increase sales accuracy and revenue while lowering the costs associated with a traditional VMI program.

Q: Is there anything else our readers should know about PathGuide’s Advanced VMI?

A: In addition to saving time and virtually eliminating customer order errors, the biggest benefit to Advanced VMI is that your customers will love it. Giving customers the ability to replenish orders is a fast and simple way to streamline inventory management and order fulfillment. In other words, PathGuide’s Advanced VMI is a win/win for everyone.

Q: What does the future look like? Is there more planned on the horizon?

A: Yes. Just like manufacturing and supply chain technology continues to evolve, so will the capabilities of Advanced VMI. Robotics, IoT and other advancements will continue to bring major opportunities. Changes to the API are planned to support these developments as markets embrace these technologies.

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