Inventory Smart Management provides real-time, accurate knowledge from the stock room and guest room to both resort staff and corporate headquarters

Inventory Smart Management (ISM) is a web-based item inventory system,” explained Ski & Sea International vp/business development Lindsey Alexander. “It helps resorts manage items in their stockrooms and guest rooms, so they know what they have, where they have it, and when they need to get more. The end goal is to help resorts ensure a room is completely and accurately stocked for the next guest.”

ISM can be used on a Galaxy, iPod touch, or any other wireless device where “housekeepers can view a complete inventory for every room type,” according to the product’s website, No more scattered written lists filled with information highly prone to human error. No more pen, paper, and clipboard. Every item is listed by photos and descriptions, so language isn’t a barrier. “With ISM you have a complete, current, and accurate overview of what is in the stockroom and what is in the guest room,” offered Ski & Sea president and CEO Jennifer Miner.

The Ski & Sea connection

Ski & Sea is an Englewood, CObased supplier of housewares and houseware services to the vacation ownership and hospitality industries. The company, which debuted in 1968, is a three generation family business. It specializes in product quality and consistency. “We’ve been doing houseware packages for the vacation ownership industry longer than anyone,” Miner observed. “We have an understanding of the business and its needs.” In a very real sense, ISM sprang from this experience and understanding. In speaking with Ski & Sea clients and visiting multiple resorts, Miner and Alexander discovered the lack of an easy to use, all-encompassing inventory information system. “We’ve heard time and time again from mangers and housekeeping departments that maintaining their inventory is one of their most challenging issues,” Alexander observed. “What was out there was pretty haphazard and very inconsistent from resort to resort. Accuracy was being lost, as was time and money.” Even worse: “One of the things Lindsey has discovered is that a lot of people don’t do inventory, even though they intended to,” Miner added. “It’s just too complicated and cumbersome. This results in paying more money on last minute purchases, etc.”

How it works

Let’s say you are the person in the stockroom taking inventory. How does ISM work? “If you’re in the stockroom taking count of your inventory (a physical count),” Alexander explained, “you log in using your mobile device and enter the quantities of every item you’re counting. Once complete, you can evaluate the system’s quantities against the physical count’s quantities and then sync them up.” Here’s how ISM’s website describes the stockroom advantages of the product: “With ISM you have unprecedented control of inventory inside your stockroom. You can easily review and adjust quantities in stock. When item quantities go below par level, ISM automatically gives you a visual alert. When items are removed to replenish guest rooms, stockroom quantities are instantly updated. You can customize ISM to fit your needs. View stockroom counts, check the status of vendor orders, update receiving information — anything you prefer, so you can have complete, up-to-the-minute inventory information.” What about ordering and receiving? “ISM streamlines your ordering and receiving processes, saving you time and money and improving inventory accuracy. ISM automatically sorts products by vendor to generate orders. It can create and save orders for receiver to use when shipments arrive. ISM automatically updates stockroom quantities as orders are received. It makes it easy to maintain records of order discrepancies.”

OK, now I’m a housekeeper in a guest room. How does ISM work? “Log in using your mobile device and create a new inventory by entering the unit number or by scanning the QR code¹ for that guest room,” Alexander responded. “You will then be shown an inventory list specific to that guest room, complete with pictures, descriptions, and quantities. Take count of everything listed on the inventory and check each item off as you go. Any variance from the required quantity will be noted. Once a group of room inventories is complete, a runner can use a mobile device to get a pick list of items to take out of the stockroom and then a restock list that shows which items go in which units.”

“ISM makes it practical and easy for your housekeepers to take guest room inventories after every checkout,” the website asserts. “ISM shows the required quantity for each item. Touch the + or – button to record the actual number of items in the room. After your housekeeper completes the room inventories, ISM summarizes all the items needed for restocking. ISM lists, by unit number, live data of missing items from rooms. Housekeepers do in-room inventories using an iPad or other tablet device and ISM’s wireless, web-based technology.” What about restocking? “With ISM it’s easy to view the list of items you need to restock, pick the items in your stockroom and distribute them, viewing the items needed for each room as you go. ISM compiles pick lists for all the items you need for restocking. ISM generates restock lists of items needed for each unit for easy distribution. In the stockroom ISM makes it easy to pick all the items you need for restocking and then sorts by unit number for easy distribution.”

How about for resort managers/general managers? “Since ISM is a web-based program, the resort manager/general manager can monitor what’s going on at any moment,” Alexander pointed out. “On the app site (the site used on mobile devices), you can view a dashboard page which will show you the inventory activity for the entire resort. On the admin site (the site typically used on a desktop or laptop computer), you can run reports to show item history, inventory activity, or requested tasks. You can also view stockroom orders to quickly and easily see items that need to be ordered and which vendors you order them from. You can then place vendor orders directly through the app. ISM also helps you streamline the receiving process, automatically updating stockroom inventory as items are received.” Here’s the website: “ISM allows managers and executives to view inventory data to maintain a comprehensive overview of inventory status and trends. With ISM you can have a detailed picture of the current and past status of your inventory. ISM technology places at your fingertips the information you need to increase efficiency, decrease errors and save time, labor and money. ISM allows managers and executives to generate an inventory history detailing replacement information. We can work with you to customize your reports to display information using any criteria you prefer. ISM can help you generate an inventory history for any range of dates, so you can have an overview of changing inventory trends.”

Saving time, labor, and money

Alexander provided a real life example of the savings ISM delivers. “A housekeeper goes into a room and notices items that need restocking (note: they may eyeball this, some don’t even work with a list). Let’s say the TV remote is missing. They call down to the runner and say ‘We need a remote in room 205.’ The runner finds a remote and runs it up to room 205 and then comes back to the stock room. In the meantime, some other guests have checked out, too. The process is repeated: there’s a missing wine glass in 404. So runners are making multiple trips to the stock room and then the guest rooms. They do this one unit at a time. But with ISM you can look one place, once, and see what multiple rooms are missing. So at 1 PM on check out days the runner can check his/her pick list. The pick list shows all the items missing from all the rooms. It will be sorted by stock room category, so the runner knows exactly where to find the various items. As he/she takes all the items that need to be replaced he/she is checking them out of the stock room. So he/she is accomplishing two tasks at once. He/she is checking stuff out of the stock room, and noting that, and then resupplying the rooms and noting which items have been replaced in each room. ISM consolidates all the information in one place, one device. Runners make one trip a day for everything vs. multiple, spontaneous trips. ISM provides much more accurate and reliable information because you know exactly what you should get, for example, the right sized wine glass. ISM shows a picture and description of each item and everything else you need to know to choose the right one. Again, the savings in time, labor, and money can be considerable.” She added: “ISM also saves money and time by letting you know when to order an item before running out of it. It helps you reduce the need to place rush orders or, worse, to run out to the store and buy items at full retail prices.”

Miner and Alexander put together a cost-benefit analysis of using ISM, which is available to all potential clients. It shows the substantial savings in time, labor, and money that they believe is the ultimate upside of the product. But more than that, there are “advantages that are less quantifiable but no less valuable. How valuable is a satisfied guest to you? How valuable is a smiling employee who knows she’s working at peak efficiency? What is the value of a glowing review on a guest survey? An owner’s recommendation to one of their friends? These benefits are beyond price.”

Alexander put the cost of ISM at between $99 and $499 a month, depending on the size of the resort or resort network. “This includes everything including support,” she noted. “We host the information on our site. Clients don’t have to pay for software upgrades or new versions.”

2013 and beyond

ISM was launched in November 2011. Its client list is building and includes two big property management companies, Trading Places and VRI. “We are also working closely with some top developers and I expect we’ll have some major announcements soon,” Miner said. Alexander added that ISM has attracted interest in industries outside of vacation ownership and hospitality including retail venues, health care facilities, manufacturing facilities, business offices, and others. She emphasized the product is always under development, seeking both to do what it does even better and discover new tasks to accomplish. “This has been very gratifying and validating for both Lindsey and me,” Miner imparted. “People have never seen anything like this. It’s easy to use and very effective. It helps them organize themselves and saves time.”

1. The QR code function comes at no additional cost. Its use is optional.