June 11th, 2013
By Devanny Novak
August 11, 2011
Much like everything else in the trade show industry, exhibit inventory management systems are entering the digital age. These virtual inventory systems are making business easier by allowing exhibiting companies the ability to keep track of parts and products without ever needing to enter a warehouse. In fact, the warehousing part of these digital inventory systems is already determined once a company decides to purchase particular software.
For example, if an exhibiting client chooses to go with ShowGo, a trade show management program created by the Seattle Software Corporation, they have a variety of storage options available. “Rather than tie a client to a warehouse, the client can choose to use ShowGo with one or more exhibit houses,” said Shane Eckel, president of Seattle Software Corporation. “We host the data so the exhibiting company has the control.
“However, if a company chooses to go with software like ImageCraft Exhibits, a Texas-based design, production and management company, then warehousing is included in the deal. ”Our online inventory system is designed with the intention of clients storing their properties in one of our two Austin and Dallas-based warehouses,” said Ryan Hammond, new business and marketing executive for ImageCraft. Once the company decides where its components are going to be stored, they can inventory just about anything with the click of a mouse.” We currently inventory everything from crates, graphics, small bags of hardware, promotional items, literature and other frequently shipped pieces of equipment,” said Hammond. ”We have a client that uses the service to allow their individual offices scattered around the country to remote order replacement items. This provides a quicker turnaround than submitting a requisition to their purchasing department.” Some customization features include categories and organization tactics to keep exhibit companies incomplete control of their inventory.
Exhibitstar, a web-based inventory management application, was designed to meet the needs of trade show exhibitors, exhibit program managers and exhibit houses. “The user can create categories for any type of exhibit component,” said Liza Lange, CEO of ExhibitStar. “Users can create custom kits out of individual components and upload PDF instructions with each item. ”Keeping track of everything once it’s in the system is easy. With each program comes a range of features available to the users for making inventory as hassle-free as possible. This means any user can see shipping instructions, setup instructions and quantity of an item as well as things like inventory history and detailed shipping information.
“A special feature our clients enjoy is the ability to link images with the Inventory Report,” said Hammond. “This is extremely helpful to clients who have multiple graphic sets for the same display.” For clients who are constantly needing to send parts and pieces across the country, having an updated inventory is an absolute necessity.” As soon as a user makes a change to the inventory, like checking it in, marking it damaged or reserving it to a show, every other user is aware of it,” said Eckel. “We have tools like the Event Duplication Wizard and Inventory Duplication that automate shipments as well as inventory details.” Once the systems are instantly updated, users need to know they can access information from remote locations. For example, if a representative is already at a trade show and notices that a piece or part of the booth is missing, they need to be able to order it and get it shipped as soon as possible.
“Our customers access the system through their personal branded ‘Exhibits Online’ (EOL) website,” said Hammond. “Depending on the environment, we allow virtual private network (VPN) or remote desktop access to our desktop application. The web-based systems are available to anyone with Internet access and a web browser.” Although these systems are user-friendly and make exhibiting life easier, the creating and testing process was not such a simple feat. “With software, it is never complete,” said Eckel. “It took about two years of research and development for our inventory section to be where it is today.” With the rapid pace of technology, digital inventory systems are definitely on the rise. As these programs continue to evolve, visual inventory confirmation may soon be a thing of the past.