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A better way of taking stock

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From Left: Binter's financial controller Wayne Lim, general manager Marcus Lim and finance manager Victor Leong. With the integrated system, every item is accounted for: from the moment the stock arrives, all the way through to delivery.

FINANCE manager Victor Leong, 47, has been with Binter for almost a decade. But his insight into its transformation goes back another half-a-dozen years - when he was previously one of Binter's auditors.

Back then, the firm's reliance on physical paperwork was par for the course in the industry, he says. Upon joining the firm, however, he realised the true limitations of the approach.

"Whatever was stock was all physical stock - the accounts were separate. We didn't know exactly how much stock we had at any time."

He recalls: "When we first did a stock-take here it was just a mess. We couldn't find anything. If you spent one whole day, you could check maybe 10 items."

Eight years ago, Binter purchased an off-the-shelf enterprise resource planning system, and began the long process of integrating all their records, from stock to finances.

"Now we know exactly where everything is," says Mr Leong.

Though financial controller Wayne Lim joined the family business just last year, he knows how inefficient the old methods could be.

"Previously, you might want to reserve stock for people informally," he says "Then the warehouse people might get confused - who is this item for, why is it here?"

With the integrated system, every item is accounted for: from the moment the stock arrives, all the way through to delivery. This has also made things easier for Binter's delivery drivers, who would previously receive their jobs over the phone. Now, drivers are assigned automatically by the system, receiving details of the delivery via e-mail or text message: down to the precise rack location of the items.

Efficiency has improved, with quicker deliveries and far fewer cases of the wrong items being picked. Mistakes have dwindled in sales as well, with the integrated system also synced to Binter's website.

"Previously if someone called in, you wrote down the order," notes Mr Leong. "There would be some mistakes sometimes, just because you heard it wrongly or wrote it down wrongly."

Now, with online orders flowing straight into the system, there is no chance of such errors occurring. Some customers do take time to get used to the digital approach, though.

Customer service executive Lily Tan, who is in her 40s, has been working in Binter for about seven years.

She handles customer service for Binter's Tyrepac retail site: answering the live chat, taking calls, and even replying via Facebook.

Along the way, she has had to pick up website-related skills, from checking stock levels to uploading new items into the online inventory.

Sometimes she even finds herself playing the role of "tech support": explaining to customers how to use the site, and guiding them through placing orders. "But it's quite fun," she says with a smile.

And there is a sense of achievement when she sees her guidance paying off in real-time, she adds: "You can see them making the order immediately."

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council

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