Inventory Planner

Make Better Ordering Decisions.

Project Summary

Epicor® Inventory Planner allows retailers to save time and reduce their overall inventory investment by implementing sophisticated suggested order points and forecasting models.

Role


Tasks

Design, from the ground up, a better way for retailers to manage their inventory.

Tools

  • Paper Prototyping
  • Whiteboarding
  • Balsamiq
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Axure RP

Company: Epicor Software

Industry: Retail

Project Timeline - Kickoff to GR
01/20/2010 - 08/24/2010

The Problem: How can retail companies reduce stock outs and the carrying costs associated with excess inventory while improving cash flow and increasing profitability?

The Solution: Design a smart sales forecasting application that allows retail managers to create plans, attach rules to order point estimates and run "what if" scenarios.

Approach & Process

This was the first project I tackled for Epicor. At the time, I was working within Product Management and had little to no experience in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and their associated applications.

There was going to be a steep learning curve. And math!

In fact, in the coming months I would learn about weighted and moving averages, linear regression and seasonal indexing. These, if I recall correctly, refer to the "best fit" re-order point and sales forecasting models. In other words, the level at which it is most prudent to re-order inventory supplies based on average sales units + safety stock and seasonal expectations (think snow shovels in winter).

Click or tap the images below to have a look at our whiteboard brainstorming sessions as well as my notes, paper prototypes and wireframes. I apologize in advance if the images are not lit properly, appear fuzzy or are just overwhelmingly out of context.

Order Point Calculation & Formula

Flowcharts

I understand the importance of creating flowcharts. They are diagrams meant to depict a process, flow or sequence of events. They are however, my Kryptonite. Why is something seemingly so simple, so damn difficult?

The examples below show the create, read, update and delete process for inventory plans and the rules that apply to them.

Enter the Compass Framework

Inventory Planner was the first of many applications that would eventually reside under a framework to be known as "Compass." I worked with Product Development and Product Management on a distributed team to create the framework with witch the following applications would live:

  • CRM
  • Item Attribute Maintenance
  • Loyalty Reporting
  • Market Basket Afinity
  • Performance Manager
  • Pricing Planner
  • Product Ranking
  • Promotions Reporting

My intent is to circle back and eventually create a similar page for Performance Manager or Product Ranking. Stay tuned if this sort of thing interests you. Crickets...

Balsamiq Wireframes

As with all projects, I never jump into pushing pixels (mockups & visual designs) before iterating and testing the interaction with wireframes.

I have limited the examples below to present only some of the interaction discovered during my whiteboarding sessions and post mortems.

Photoshop Mockup

Nice mockup bro!

There are so many things I dislike about this particular mockup; namely the navigation structure on the left aside which was tied to the technology we were using at the time. Gotta love the Pie Chart / Bar Chart callouts too!

In Conclusion

Epicor® Inventory Planner was received with relative success but relied heavily on existing Eagle software.

My initial understanding of the project was such that this and other products within the Compass framework might eventually stand on their own. The impending global SaaS movement would change all that, and in the humble opinion of this designer, for the better.

So was it a success?

For those that were able to leverage the analytics gleaned from recalculating suggested order points...yes, definitely. At the time, research showed that over 3% of sales were lost due to stock outs.

“For the items on which we use Inventory Planner, in our first six months the annual moving calculation GMROI increased 19.1% and our turns increased 13.4%.” Kyle Little, eCommerce and IT Manager of Little Hardware.

For more success stories please refer to the following Inventory Planner presentation found on YouTube.


Have your own thoughts?