The new stock answer to retail inventory management
- 01 June, 2020 22:15
Inventory solutions company Cin7 was founded by Danny Ing to provide Azure-based software support for small to medium Kiwi businesses wanting to sell their products through large retailers like Walmart and Amazon. A few short years later, Danny and his team are fast capturing the global retail market, getting stock to where it’s needed faster, more efficiently and at a lower cost.
For many retailers, ensuring both online and physical stores are stocked with the products required to meet customer needs can be challenging. Consumer demand changes at such a rapid pace, suppliers can struggle to keep up. Auckland-based inventory management specialist Cin7 recognised various problems were impacting retailers globally. Whether the time spent stock-taking in warehouses wasn’t being managed by staff efficiently or items were sitting on shelves, taking up valuable space in one part of the country, but flying off shelves in other areas, Founder and CEO Danny Ing and his team realised there had to be a better way. They embarked on a mission to automate and connect the whole inventory supply chain, saving time, space and money, while providing consumers with better, faster access to food and fashion, flooring and furniture.
Ing was developing custom e-commerce sites when a customer enquired about an inventory management add-on. The idea for Cin7 (it stands for “Connected Inventory”) was born.
Cin7 and Azure: the logical choice
The first step was tackling the “business logic”, learning how inventory flows for all different kinds of products. Cin7’s customers have bricks and mortar retail stores, a quarter are online retailers and others are wholesalers, each with different needs.
The next savvy move was to partner with Microsoft and build Cin7’s software on Azure, giving it the ability to match the needs of its customers, no matter how fast things change.
“Azure is quite elastic. Black Friday and Boxing Day require a lot more resources, so with Azure we’re able to spin up much gruntier databases that we couldn’t do with other platforms,” Ing explains. “Plus it’s designed to integrate easily with other technologies. We don’t have time to work with incompatible technology, and with Azure that ‘harmonious’ ability to work with all other technologies is one of the things we can count on.”
It’s also a valuable selling point, as the world’s retailers recognise and trust Azure as a secure platform. In the world of e-commerce, reliability and security are a big deal, and as Ing says, “Azure needs no explanation”.
With support from Microsoft to gain Azure qualifications and develop their product, the Cin7 team hit Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform Partner status for outstanding Azure innovation in just a few years.
Ryan Tarak, Partner Development Manager at Microsoft New Zealand, has had a ringside seat throughout their skyrocketing growth.
“The combination of Cin7’s understanding of customers’ supply chain issues and their willingness to innovate with Azure and other products has created a truly unbeatable product. Local retailers can now access the world’s biggest markets, and because the platform is so flexible, the world’s biggest markets are using it too. It just goes to show how New Zealand tech companies’ success isn’t limited by borders.”
During the Covid-19 outbreak, Cin7’s technology enabled product suppliers to quickly redirect products from locations where shops and warehouses were locked down to markets that were doing better, such as Australia. It also enabled warehouse pickers to work safely, identifying safe zones for individual workers and organising stock to align so they could keep products going out the door.
An inventory of the future
So successful has Cin7 been that it attracted a $100 million investment from a US venture capital firm in late 2019.
“We generated a lot of our business at the beginning from Australia and New Zealand, but we’ve always been geared towards operating in the US. The demand over there is much greater, but it also gives smaller retailers the opportunity to get their products listed with larger wholesale stores, whether it’s through native point of sale or their e-commerce sites,” says Ing.
Not content to rest on its laurels, the business is kicking its innovations up another gear. It’s already engineering dashboards customised to each user’s role, making it easier for employees to find exactly the info they need, whether they’re doing the accounts or fulfilling orders.
But the new world is all about automation and business intelligence. Cin7’s goal is to automate 80 per cent of manual tasks, such as emails about payment terms, and see its platform no longer be merely an interface for data entry, but one that suggests intelligent solutions. Within a few years, employees could log on and receive instant suggestions to move stock from one area to another where it’s selling better, saving delivery time (and maximising sales).
That also means using other Microsoft tools such as Power BI to turn user data into insights, or enabling retail customers to securely access their own data online via Microsoft Access.
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