Turbo charge your inventory management system

What system do you use to manage your inventory? What do you use to collate orders into picking lists? How do you manage goods inwards? I’d like to tell you about how we manage our inventory.

Over the last year I have been learning how to use FileMaker Pro. It is a program that has huge potential. This is one of its drawbacks. It takes a long time to master. But once you do you can use it to make a bespoke system tailored to suit your company’s needs that can grow and evolve with you allowing you to add features as you need.

20130221-121250.jpg

One of my favourite features is that I can access and update our stock on my iPhone. Our database is hosted on a server. So all information is always up to date. When I am in the warehouse, where we don’t have computers or broadband, I can receive an order on my phone, check its location, mark it as picked. This allows us to update stock levels. Filemaker Go for iPhone/iPad offers lots of potential. The container fields allow us to photograph book jackets and feed them to the websites where we sell our stock. You can see that containers also allow the user add audio, signatures and PDFs. Siri allows the user to add text using the phones microphone. I have CNS Barcode Reader integrated with our database. This nifty feature allows us to scan our books’ barcodes on the iPhone. It is a pleasure to use.

20130221-121322.jpg

FileMaker Pro is great for adding goods to our inventory. We programmed it to scrape information about our books from amazon. So when we add a new book we type in the ISBN and press a button. The rest of the information is scraped in a couple of seconds. The scraping feature is one of my favourite features. I’m developing our database to scrape our orders from amazon and our other market places automatically and getting it to push the orders to us. Isn’t this just the same as email? No. When I mark the order as posted FileMaker Pro will tell Amazon that the order has been shipped. Depending on where the order ids going I can get FileMaker Pro to email the customer just after the expected date of arrival of the shipment asking him/her for feedback – timely and effortlessly. It creates a really professional impression on the customer.

I’m also in the process of developing our database to scrape prices from bookfinder.com. I’ll use an algorithm to competitively price our books. You may say that what I am doing here can already be done by fillz or monsoon. The beauty here is that I can change how our price is worked out and I don’t have to pay a commission for the privilege.

I can send customers a snapshot link of our inventory based on a find according to my their preferences. The customer will receive this smart find in the form of an app.

20130221-121306.jpg

The interface is absolutely gorgeous especially after Filemaker introduced new themes last year. It is also easy to produce charts, from live, updating data, showing your best sellers, customers, regions etc.

Please let me know what your favourite features are of your inventory management system.

What Spaniards are reading

I attended the Diario de Navarra’s electronic book club webinar two weeks ago hoping to find out what it’s members were reading and to get a snapshot of what Spaniards are interested in. I was interested to find out that the Diario de Navarra is the only newspaper to have a book club in Spain.

20120813-170115.jpg

Belen Galindo, co-ordinator of the Diario de Navarra´s book club

Among the Diario de Navarra’s most popular authors are Juan Jose Millas and Pamplones Juan Gracia Armendariz. Recommended reads included Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee and Juegos De La Edada Tardía, by Luis Landero. (I haven’t been able to find a translated version of this.) Against The North Wind, unfortunately not yet translated to English, by Daniel Glattauer, was recommended as a Summer read.
Writers to watch for the future are Margarita Leoz, Ignacio Lloret and Julia Montejo.

Incidentally the Diario de Navarra is a centre right newspaper similar to the Irish Daily Mail.

How does this compare to what you are reading? Are you interested in any of these writers? Feel free to comment.

Full Tilt

Dervla Murphy started her journey from Ireland to India from Dunkirk on 14 January 1962. But although Dervla´s story is just over 50 years old it is still relevant to today´s readers. She  planned on travelling through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally India. Back then and today, many of these countries, given their unstable political climates and their attitudes to women, would have been unsafe for a woman to travel through, alone on a bike – even if she carried a .25 revolver with her. Dervla had her share of scrapes and it was lucky she brought her pistol with her because she would not have lived to tell the tale without it.

I really admired Dervla´s effortless ability to make friends and network so that nearly every night she stayed with and learnt from the natives – be they ambassadors or peasants. Or if not Dervla nonchanantly laid her head down at the side of the road and slept soundly, reminding me of my father and business partner – who can sleep anywhere and at anytime – a very useful skill to have.

If I was to follow in Dervla´s footsteps I don´t think I would bring a gun. I´ve done my fair share of backpacking. The worst incident I had was in a train station when I had just arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, on a sweltering night in July 1999, with Co. Antrim´s Corrymeela Community. Two sweaty policeman apprehended our group and took our passports from us and started shouting in their pidgin English “Problem!” It seemed they had rehearsed this one before. After two minutes of them shouting at our passports one of the group had a bright idea – they showed them a handful of dollars. “Problem” solved. A gun would not have helped.

Thanks to askaboutireland.ie

Dervla noted that women were treated very poorly in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where the purdah system is used. This is where women were sent to separate rooms or kept behind a curtain when guests arrived in the home. In Afghanistan Dervla stayed in a hotel where “the womenfolk were incarcerated while they (the men) went to town”. Open minded as Dervla was she found this hard to stomach. For many women in Afghanistan this way of life has not changed.

If I could talk to Dervla now I´d ask her about her kit: what would she leave out/include now? She´d probably make few changes. I´m sure she´d bring a smartphone now. Would she bring a Lonely Planet guide? Not her style. Dervla brought £300 worth of travellers´ cheques – a huge amount of money. My parents bought their house two years befor her trip for £500 on Dublin´s northside.

no preview

Picture by the Daily Telegraph

Why has Full Tilt remained such a hit among readers? I´d say its because of Dervla´s journey through countries which still remain off the beaten track for travellers. Her belief that any stranger is a friend that she hasn´t made yet made it easy for her to find a roof for her head nearly every night. There is something about her ability with people that makes her the envy of backpackers and explorers. Also her mode of transport has become fashionable again. Bicycles remain one of the best ways to discover a country. I really enjoyed reading Full Tilt and look forward to reading more of Dervla´s books. You can buy Full Tilt here.

Daniel Topolski

Daniel Topolski last April spoke, in the Telegraph,  about the protest made at this year’s Oxford Cambridge boat race by Trenton Oldfield. He agrees with Oxford crew member, Will Zeng’s sentiment that the protest was unfairly disrupting the efforts of these hardworking and dedicated students. According to the article, Zeng believes they are elitists.

Daniel Topolski

Picture by Stefan Lubomirski de Vaux

He knows what it is like to have one’s honest efforts thwarted. He tells his story of the Oxford Boat Race in 1987 in “True Blue”. His team mutinied against him citing his training methods as being too tough despite his having brought to an end Cambridge’s run of victories. Topolski effectively fielded his B team and won against a particularly strong Cambridge team.
You can buy Daniel´s fascinating story, “True Blue”, here.