Software analytics let retailers track usage, monitor changes, determine reorders and calculate when and how much to reorder, and check inventory levels on an item-by-item basis. Control of inventory begins right at the cash register: the point-of-sale (POS). Now, inventory records are always up-to-date. This allows better decisions about ordering and merchandising.
The initial reaction was to turn this data into purchase orders for the suppliers (the Spokes). What about instead passing along the POS data to the suppliers and in fact, let them write their own purchase order. The Spoke knows their own products better than anyone else.
POS data can deliver many benefits
- See how well all the items on your shelves sell, and adjust purchasing levels.
- Sales history can adjust for seasonal purchasing trends.
- Provide audit trails to trace any problems.
- Better control through reporting features.
Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) can include situations in which the retailer has given their vendor access to their point-of-sale (POS) system data. This can result in lower costs when inventory management is outsourced; minimize stockouts; better forecasting by leaving it to the experts.
Making it happen
The EDI 852 transaction set is the standard data format for providing trading partners with product SKU activity data, such as inventory levels, sales rates and other product movement-related information. An 852 may include any or all of the following information:
- Item description and UPC
- Quantity sold
- Quantity on hand
- Quantity on order
- Forecast sales
- Sales history and/or comparison to prior periods
The 852 transaction or Point-of-sale data provides information about the sales transactions and it's easy to guess that a transaction file from a large store can include many thousands of transactions.
Making sense of (much less assimilating) all of the data can be a tough job in itself. And dealing with the differing file contents from transactions provided by different retailers (remember that this is a 'standard' EDI file) requires translators to derive a common set of data. For those reasons it makes sense for retailers to provide their output data to consolidation services that can be utilized by suppliers to understand the output. From there the suppliers can review trends, take actions, or make recommendations to their customers based on current information.
POS data is by nature voluminous. It is becoming part of the mix of big data, and can benefit from the growing sets of data manipulation and analytics tools available for this important sector of technology.