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Tracking and Using Consumable Inventory

Mitchell Paul-Soumis Updated by Mitchell Paul-Soumis

Basics of tracking consumable items

If you're familiar with the inventory system in Sonar, you'll know that new Inventory Models can be added as a "Generic" type. The Generic tag indicates the ability to add items to this model without defining fields, such as a Serial Number or MAC Address. The advantage of this approach is that it allows you to add traditionally difficult to track items without needless complexity. Below, we'll go through an example of how you might add and track a Generic Item

Scenario 1: Adding spools of Cat6A cable

In this example, we'll look at a very basic scenario where we need to add spools of Ethernet cable. We'll go through the steps that you would need to take in order to add the model, add the item, and make use of tracking. In order to follow along with this scenario, you'll need to have configured the administrative side of inventory, such as the Manufacturer and the Category.

You can see more about the administrative side of Inventory in this article | Setup of Inventory: Manufacturers, Categories, and Assignees
  1. Add your Inventory Model. For this scenario, we'll name it "Cat6A Cable - 500' Spools", and select Monoprice as the manufacturer, along with "Cables" as the category.
  2. Once the Inventory Model is added, you can add items. These items will need an assignee and a quantity. For this scenario, we'll be assigning a spool to one of our technician's vehicles.
Because we've added this item as a Generic Model, the only option is to add an item, no deployment types, fields, or LTE Provisioning is available for Generic Items

These steps cover the basics of adding a Generic Item, and in this scenario, we don't care about individual runs - when the spool is emptied by the technician, a new one would be assigned to the vehicle. This method, which can be implemented on other bulk consumable items, is the simplest method of tracking consumable items. For example, this same concept can be applied to:

  • Boxes of screws
  • Containers of cable management clips
  • Boxes of RJ-45 terminators

Advanced tracking methods

An alternative use case for tracking consumable items is wanting to track the most minute details of your inventory items. In the below scenario, we'll cover a few examples of how you can use the Generic Items system to keep track of consumable items as they're consumed.

Scenario 2: Tracking spools of cable by the foot

As with the previous scenario, we'll be adding spools of Cat6A Ethernet cable for tracking. Where this scenario differs from the last is that we'll be tracking these spools by the foot. The steps below will outline how you can do this.

  1. Add the Inventory Model. For this example, we'll be adding a model of cable manufactured by Monoprice, with the name "Cat6A bulk - by the foot"
  2. Once the model has been created, we'll proceed to adding the item. For this example, we'll be assigning 500 units to one of our technician's trucks
We're adding 500 units because in this scenario, each unit represents a single foot of cable
  1. In order to consume this inventory, the technician would need to measure how many feet were used on a run during their job, and consume that many units as appropriate

At this point, let's take a look at what's happened to the Inventory Item itself. If we take a look at the Inventory List, and expand the menu for our Monoprice "Cat6A bulk - by the foot" we'll be able to see that there are now 473 remaining units assigned to the technician's truck, which indicates that 27 feet were used and consumed.

By tracking and consuming the inventory, we're not not only tracking what gets used, but exactly how much. Unfortunately, this method does have a couple drawbacks:

  1. It's difficult to keep track of exactly where the inventory was consumed. For example, in the above scenario where the inventory was consumed on a job, there's no easy way to historically track where the inventory was consumed.
    1. You can optionally assign the inventory to the address or network site where the job was performed, then consume that inventory, however this would result in an entity permanently listed under the consumable item with 0 units of inventory.
    2. You could alternatively record the consumed inventory on a custom field, but this would require additional manual processing on the part of the field technician
  2. A technician returning a partially used inventory item would make it difficult to accurately find that item without an external tracking software. For example, let's assume technician "A" is returning 163 ft of cable to the warehouse. The box is then placed on the shelf and left for a month until someone wants to assign it to technician "B". The Inventory tracking in Sonar would not be able to direct you to the location this particular box is stored, as each unit would simply be lumped together under the Inventory Location.

However, this method does have a few advantages over the standard item tracking we explored in Scenario 1, especially when used in non-traditional way.

  1. One advantage is for specific items, like boxes of screws - if a particular screw type is stored within a specific bin in your warehouse, by combining the count of consumable items with the bin, you'll always know when the amount of screws starts getting low, allowing you to top up and add more to that bin.
  2. Another advantage of using the more precise Consumable Item tracking is the reduction in duplicate purchases. By keeping very close track of the items as they're consumed in Sonar, it removes the guesswork from restocking key consumable items.

In summary, while most users will find the first method of tracking consumable inventory more than sufficient, there are still possible use cases for tracking consumable items with even more precision. You may find the best method is a combination of both depending of the nature of the item being tracked and consumed.

If you find that your item or scenario doesn't quite fit the two covered in this article, leave some feedback below and we'll be in touch.

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