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The right stock at the right place at the right time - that's iConsignment
by Colleen Bate

When I attended Printex last month, I happened to come across an interesting yet unassuming product called iConsignment. I didn't know what it was at the time – I merely noticed an understated paper rack displayed cleverly on the BJ Ball stand, but it held some appeal to the minimalist in me.

It didn't take me long to uncover the mystery - the rack was part of the iConsignment system - Australia's first vendor management system that provides the convenience and benefits of a traditional stocking programme, using modern technology, allowing the user to have full control of all his purchasing and production requirements.

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According to BJ Ball's Tony Bertrand, the iConsignment  system was built in an attempt to keep things simple.

He explains the process, "At the initial meeting with the customer we conduct a suppliers audit of product to ensure that we are both clear on what stock to include in the iConsignment system. We then load the paper stock onto the portal (the gateway between the customer's inventory and the ordering process) and then determine a minimum/ maximum quantity for each of those products.

"The product is then delivered to the customer with racking (or they can use their own) and we then set up the iConsignment system. Shelf labels for stock inventory are provided, an online account for employees is set up and a mobile phone is provided for scanning the QR codes. All that's required is to scan the code prior to printing and the iConsignment team do the rest. The customer is then off and running straight away.

"The paper stock is scanned as it is used, and by the end of the month customers are given a consolidated invoice of all the paper stock they have used during the month. As the paper stock is used, the minimum/maximum quantity is reduced. When the minimum quantity is reached, the order is automatically generated in our system to take it back to the maximum."

“This is where the system is really very clever. The inventory is managed to ensure that the customer does not need to reorder or urgently request paper stock.

"The inventory management system is really quite simple. The minimum/maximum quantity inspector is designed so that the customer's minimum amount is typically a week or two stock coverage. There's a huge bonus to this – it reduces the amount of urgency that is required when stock needs to be delivered throughout big cities like Sydney and Melbourne in particular, and ultimately reduces significant delivery costs."

Essentially iConsignment is a technology product, developed by a team of software developers and guided by BJ Ball's IT Manager, Craig White - the brainchild of the product. It was born out of a need to help customers improve their business by managing their cash flow in regard to the paper stock they were using.

iConsignment was launched in New Zealand in 2011 and here in Australia a year later. Over the four years, there  have only been a few upgrades to the system.

Says Bertrand: "The upgrades have been fairly minor as they only involved tweaks to the look and feel of the site. The functionality has been there from the beginning so there has really not been a massive amount of difference in terms of the function and the software - fundamentally the software has remained the same.

“We have introduced some advancements and checks around inventory visibility and added items such as electronic proof of delivery from customers. Where we felt that there was a much better way in terms of the user interface, we have made improvements to the area."

At Printex, 48 customers signed up letters of intent to take on iConsignment, many of which are wide format printers. To date, over 400 customers use iConsignment as part of their inventory management process and have provided positive feedback. One such customer is John Asvestas, of Digital Print HQ.

He says. "We have found the system very easy to use and very beneficial to our business. It has allowed us to offer our clients a wider range of paper and also stock larger quantities in house.This has helped us grow our business with faster turnaround times and better cash flow as we only pay for what we use. We have also found the team at BJ Ball very helpful when requiring urgent delivery of stock that is not on our consignment list. All in all we have found great benefits in using BJ Ball and hope to continue our business relationship for a long time."

Tony Bertrand demonstrated the product to us at Printex



BJ Ball