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Wal-Mart'S Smart Inventory System

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Autor:  yppi  12 May 2010
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After extensive last minute digging, I finally found a manager who trusted me enough to supply me with the name of the inventory system that is used. Unfortunately for me this is all I could uncover from my employer, but it is a start. Wal-Mart uses the SMART system. Because of the way it is spelled I can only assume that it is an acronym. I have been searching for over an hour on Google.com and finally produced some meager results, but here they are.

Background

From the results produced, I am at the deduction that SMART is not an acronym after all. SMART is basically a tracking system, it keeps track of all our inventory, the on-hand counts, and can automatically reorder product that is low or empty. As stated last week, most interaction with the SMART system is through the Telxon. Just to recap, the Telxon is a 900 MHz wireless handheld terminal equipped with a barcode scanner. When a barcode is scanned, almost instantly the item number, a short description, on hand counts and amount on order are displayed. The technicalities are a mystery to me but I can only assume that the Telxon is linking to the SMART database to retrieve all of this information. All from a simple thing like a barcode which is just a set of numbers that are unique, like a primary key.


Strengths of SMART
The actual database has to be enormous. There are so many products that the Wally keeps track of. All of which must be in the same database because products we don’t carry will still scan and give us all the relevant information. This is helpful because it allows people to return products from a “Super Center” that carries a much larger stock than we. Another strong point of the SMART system is that it is linked to the cash registers. When a product is sold, inventory is updated automatically. On hand counts are updated and on some products they are reordered automatically, depending on how many are left. While we are on the topic of strong points I think I will quote the web site I have been using as reference. “Because SMART Inventory is process-driven, storeroom managers and shipping department teams quickly learn how to access the critical information they need to update cycle counts, receive purchase orders and issue parts. Training usually takes less than one day.” (Inventory FAQ)
Weaknesses of SMART
In all actuality, these are mostly just minor annoyances. Firstly, the system’s on hand counts only update once every two hours. This may be because of the huge amounts of data that need to be updated, but customers get angry when the on hand says 25 and one can’t be found. My second complaint is that the system has no way of recognizing theft. Again, this produces wrong on hand counts which sometimes become negatives, and is an overall pain to figure out what is actually wrong. I guess one could say my main complaint against the SMART system is human error. But what program can completely remove it?
Possible Improvements
I think the best solution for this problem would be removal of human interaction, but I realize that this is not possible. Therefore, my second proposition would be not allowing just any Associate to operate the Telxon. I have been there a total of 4 months and I can change prices and inventory counts at my leisure. I’m sure you can imagine the havoc that could be wreaked if I weren’t an honest Associate. I think there should be at least some kind of intensive training. Most of my training was in the same day and lasted under an hour. Instead of allowing anyone these options, just a handful of Associates should be trained in the Telxon’s use and be almost solely responsible for inventories and ordering. Anything more that what I have here is well beyond my scope and for whatever reason I am trusted with price changes but not simple information concerning their storage solutions. Such is the nonsensical existence at the Wally.

References
Nickerson, 2001, Online Print Version
Syclo, (n.d.). Inventory faq. Retrieved Feb. 15, 2005, from Syclo Web site: http://www.syclo.com/smart/inventory/

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