TechKnowledge: A Conversation with Shaun McInerney & Michael Trent on Inventory Management

Inventory management is one of the building blocks of successful execution for many companies.  It’s just as important for a small company as it is for the largest in the world, which is why I was intrigued to learn more about how Precisio has built a solution in the Cloud called Ascent.  Here are key points from my interview Shaun McInerney and Michael Trent.

Q:  How did you decide to focus on building the first warehouse management/inventory solution native to

A: Precisio has been a warehouse management business process solution  provider for many years.  We recognized early on that the Software-as-a-Service model is not a fad.  We also realized that is the absolute leader in this space and that there were no other companies putting a complete business solution in the cloud.  So, we made the investment and took the leap.

Q:  What advantages are you seeing by building a solution in the cloud?

A:  In the cloud, takes care of all the heavy lifting associated with software roll-outs. We no longer worry about the customer’s infrastructure delaying projects and causing us pain.  We can hyper focus on developing the best solutions and on sales and marketing.  We no longer need a large IT staff.

Q: In today’s world, every company is focused on inventory management.  What do companies typically do wrong?  Or said another way, what are the biggest areas for improvement?

A: On the one hand, many businesses today are confronted with the challenge to manage complex production operations and inventory management variances, with rising customer service levels and increasing demand volatility on the other. Limited business functionality has been the primary barrier for business today.  At the same time, many businesses must undergo a cultural change to improve the planning process of how demand is created, managed and supported.

The easiest way to overcome this dichotomy is to decouple the supply and demand side by using demand driven inventory levels. This of course provides a sustainable competitive position in today’s business environment giving organizations an enormous opportunity to reduce asset costs.

Viewing inventory as an enabler in terms of running optimal operations will provide superior customer service levels and a competitive foundation to differentiate oneself from the competition. 

Ascent provides the functional vehicle for business to manage and support this transformation. However, the secret of sustainability is not just the use the software but to be in an excellent position to challenge it.

Q:  Describe “Ascent.”  How does a customer use it?

A. Ascent continues to evolve as the ultimate business process and work-flow solution in the cloud. Ascent can manage your entire manufacturing, distribution and sales operations. The power of Ascent is that it supports the entire back end operation of a business.  The entire pick, pack, ship, receive functions are now handled seamlessly on the Salesforce platform.  Inventory is maintained and managed with complexities surrounding serialization and bills of materials.  While at the same time sales and customer service have complete visibility into inventory, purchases and manufacturing progress.  Ascent has put salesforce in direct competition with warehouse management and MRP solutions providers.  With our introduction of wireless bar code scanning, we have enabled the platform to move directly into their space.

Q: So, if a business has routine tasks done many times, this can work well.   What if a company has a lot of unique out of the box products that it makes for customers? 

A: Build-to-Order, Build-to-Stock, Assemble-to-order or Configure-to-order, Ascent manages it all.   Our team has many years of real-world manufacturing experience and Ascent is built to support both repetitive and customizable manufacturing methods of operation.

Q:  You mention the integration with Quick-Books and other financial systems.  How does this work and what are the main advantages?  Can you give me an example?

A: We work with other cloud partners that have expertise in the integration and  middleware space. Programs like Quick-Books are excellent at generating and receiving payments, calculating P&L and dealing with national and international taxes. There is no denying the success of this product, however, Quick-Books provides basic features to meet the needs of small and entry-level businesses. Ascent provides the platform for growing or larger business taking their business to the next level. Businesses using Quick-Books can still realize the accounting best-in-class functionality while expanding the operational business functionality using Ascent.

Q:  Now that you work in the Cloud on a regular basis, would you ever go back to a non-cloud application or you pretty much sold this is the future?

A: We are working diligently to stay in the cloud.  However, there is a great opportunity for mobile applications.  Today, the cellular connections are still not fast enough to put many “direct to store” hand held applications in the cloud.  So, there is still a need for “non cloud” apps as they relate to mobile.

Q: We reach businesses of all sizes around the world.  Imagine they are listening right now.  What do you tell them to think about to improve their inventory management process today (in addition to considering Ascent)?

A: In this economy, it is ever more critical that your inventory assets are managed effectively. Inventory assets are your business dollars at work and should be managed efficiently.  Like your personal finances, if you don’t have control or visibility of your money, you are in trouble.  Ascent gives you complete visibility, transparency and control of your inventory, therefore your money.

Thanks Shaun and Mike, appreciate your time. 

About the Author: Bob P