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Inventory Management System Project Proposal

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Letter of Transmittal:

Venice Art and Ceramic Titles Company Ltd.
692500 Sovetskaya Avenue,
Ussuriysk, Russia 75226
8 924335 95 55

April 29, 2010

Mr. Alexey Morgunov, the Managing Director
Venice Art and Ceramic Titles Company Ltd.
17 Pushkina St,
Ussuriysk, Russia 6925191

Dear Mr. Alexey Morgunov:

Enclosed is a copy of an Inventory Management System proposal that I completed during the fall of last year upon a request that was made to me by the IT Department Board. The main objective of the proposal was to analyze the operations of the Inventory Management system that is currently in use and come up with some its weaknesses and strengths. An integration of both would then enable the department to come up with a conclusion of a completely different system that would cover up for the shortcomings of the current system and add more value to its strengths.

According to the proposal approved by the IT management Board, the proposed system would take at least three months to complete before implementation is done. The whole project would cost $1,500,000 to complete and implement. Some of the limitations as per the proposal included lack of enough capacity within the current PCs in use to accommodate the new system and so an upgrade to all the PCs was suggested. The user level of information was also to be upgraded to enable them use the new system effectively.

The purpose of this letter is to request your office to consider the viability of this project in terms of cost effectiveness and achievement of desired results that would scale the company to higher heights in profit making. The IT Management Board is then supposed to proceed as necessary based upon the recommendations of your office.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Ekaterina Cheburkova

Ekaterina E. Cheburkova
Research Manager

Encl. Project Proposal.

Inventory Management System Project Proposal

Ekaterina E. Cheburkova

University of Maryland University College
WRTG390, Section 6981
2010 Spring Semester, 0909
Professor David Taylor
05/12/2010

Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations: 0
Executive Summary 0
PART ONE Preface 2
PART THREE Development and Methodology 3
PART FOUR Development Tools and Requirements 7
PART FIVE Problems and Recommendations 8

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 – The steps of developing prototype..................................................................5

Figure 2 - User Interaction with a Database system.........................................................6

Executive Summary
Venice Art and Ceramic Titles Company Ltd., which sells works of Art, experiences some problems with current Inventory Management and Database Systems. The database system does not provide an account for those customers who are likely to be interested in a particular exhibition. The system capacity is also a problem since the company keeps enlarging annually with the increase in the number of customers in every branch of the company. This is because the company uses Microsoft Access 2003 whose capacity is limited.

Other weaknesses with system include transactional problems with the sales team. This is because each time a customer company buys works of Art a transaction sheet is completed in the system. The system produces two sheets to the customer and the other remains with the company for filing purposes. In a case whereby the same customer company comes back or orders for the same specific work of art they bought previously, it means that a lengthy search would be carried out since the database design does not contain a categorical display of the various items the company is dealing with. Other issues are nearly as troublesome: inability to send targeted mail shots and lack of information about the database.

It is really essential for the company to build strong long-term relationships with the customers. Unfortunately, the database problems have a great impact on the information about which the most frequent customers are, which company has made the greatest number of orders in the past few years and which popular items did those companies buy. These problems also affect productivity and profitability of the company.

This paper proposes to you, as the Managing Director, an effective and proven way of improving current database system. The proposed project is approved by the IT management Board and needs you to consider the viability of this project in terms of cost effectiveness and achievement of desired results that would scale the company to higher heights in profit making.

A proposed solution to this issue is an Inventory Management System which is intended to enhance rather than replace the current system of recording and tracking details of customers as well as maintaining the stock levels of the business. Upon success, the current method of tracking of details of customers would be replaced so that the details are typed into the computer.

The first step of implementation of the proposed project is to develop the Evolutionary Prototyping. This methodology is based on the idea of developing an initial implementation, exposing this to user comments and refining it through many versions until an adequate system has been developed. Prototyping will improve user understanding of the system, its information needs and capabilities. Prototype will also help the users trace the customers’ information.
Next, the company should develop an Inventory Control System. Inventory Control System is a package of hardware and software that is integrated and is used for warehouse operations and storage companies. It is used in the monitoring of the quantity, status and location of the inventory together with the related shipping, put-away and picking processes. The term can also be used to refer to software components. Potential RFID tags and barcodes can be used to provide identification of inventory objects automatically. A wireless LAN can assist in transmitting transaction information to the central database. Inventory services provide automation and labor for quick counting and in minimizing shutdown time. Inventory system software can also assist in speeding the physical inventory process. It also helps in tracking the receipt and calculating the quantity at hand.

The final and most important step in implementing effective Inventory Management System is testing. The company should test the system in the all stages of development to minimize costs. The company needs to test every aspect of each form, report, and query as soon as it is implemented using valid and extreme data.

This proposed solution can significantly help Venice Company build strong customer relationships and maximize its profit. I invite your careful and favorable consideration of this proposal and adoption of the implementation steps it recommends.

PART ONE Preface
Background:
This project examines Venice Company Ltd. which is a multi-million dollar company situated in Russian city, Ussuysk, its system requirements as well as incorporation of new Technology such as Oracle 9i and Microsoft Visual Basic. NET to increase efficiency and enhance productivity in handling customers for profit maximization.
The company specializes in production and selling of works of Art such as paintings prints of local and international artists, restoration and framing of pictures and photographs.

The company has managed to build a large customer base and this is increasing every year due to increase in the profits leading to more customers wanting to identify with the company. The company’s sales are boosted by the regular exhibitions of works of Art which are conducted annually. During such occasions various artists are invited together with the customers. Advertisements are made through the print media, radio and television stations.

Due to the increasing number of customers, the company has adopted a customer base through the employment of a Database Management System to manage the information regarding the regular and occasional customers. Proper financial assessment and auditing is also carried out periodically to inform the public about the financial status of the company and also to evaluate financial progress of the company (Heathcote 80).

Introduction:
Venice Company Ltd uses a computerized system to manage sales made per period and also to manage Information regarding the regular and occasional customers. As a result the company uses a Database Management System which employs the use of Microsoft Access 2003 to manage the data. A few weaknesses are however being noticed with the system. The database system does not provide an account for those customers who are likely to be interested in a particular exhibition. This makes it impossible to send invitations to such customers from the system automatically.

The system capacity is also a problem since the company keeps enlarging annually with the increase in the number of customers in every branch of the company. This is because the company uses Microsoft Access 2003 whose capacity is limited. According the predicted trend of the company, the company database is likely to lack storage in the current database system within the next two years (Heathcote 87).

Other weaknesses with system include transactional problems with the sales team. This is because each time a customer company buys works of Art a transaction sheet is completed in the system. The system produces two sheets to the customer and the other remains with the company for filing purposes. In a case whereby the same customer company comes back or orders for the same specific work of art they bought previously, it means that a lengthy search would be carried out since the database design does not contain a categorical display of the various items the company is dealing with.

PART TWO Objectives of the proposed system

System Objectives:
To reduce the amount of time it takes to trace the records of past transactions performed by certain customers (“10 Simulation Tools for UI Designers Top, Information Architects and Usability Specialists”).
To increase the effectiveness of communication between the company and the customers.
To establish a system with a capacity to do the following:
Provide a list of various types of customers
Provide a list of all the customers interested in a given subject matter.

Project Objectives:
To come up with a project that will incorporate new technology through introduction of a Inventory and Database Management System with a higher capacity to manage both customer and employee information.
To ensure that the project is completed within the stipulated amount of time.

Constraints and Limitations of the Project:
The proposed system to be developed is an Inventory Management System which is intended to enhance rather than replace the current system of recording and tracking details of customers as well as maintaining the stock levels of the business. Upon success, the current method of tracking of details of customers would be replaced so that the details are typed into the computer.

The whole project has a few limitations such as in terms of the software to be introduced to run the new system. Oracle 9i is Database Management System. The limitation is in its cost which is extremely expensive. There are also constraints in the hardware to run the new system and program. The current hardware in use does not have the capacity to handle the new system together with the other programs to be used in the system.
There is also a constraint in terms of the user’s level of information. The current users have no knowledge of oracle 9i and so this means that training must be conducted to them that will equip them with the necessary information about to manage and run the new system without any problem.

PART THREE Development and Methodology
Getting comprehensive and adequate information to assist in project development required carrying out investigation by interviewing the Information Technology personnel and contacting the IT Management Board. The interview was arranged and a list of topics for discussion drawn up prior to the interview. These included:
The precise objectives of the new system.
The problems or the weaknesses in the current manual system.
The methods currently used to be kept on each customer.
The required output.
The volume of data. (E.g. number of existing customers, number of new customers each month/ year.).
Any hardware or software constraints e.g. did they already have hardware or software which they proposed to use.

A number of weaknesses in the current system came to light during the interview and some new objectives were stated. These are discussed below.

Tracing previous orders placed by a customer.
Each time a customer company places an order or buys a work of art an entry is made in the database. The system design does not have a capacity that enables an accurate search of past records of transactions and so it becomes a problem to trace any past transaction that was made by the company. This wastes time in case the same customer company places an order requesting for same work of art bought previously. As a result the process of sales and distribution of the goods of the company is reduced and hence the profit margins are not as optimal as they ought to be.

Inability to send targeted mail shots.
The current system does not hold any details on customers’ particular interests or what past purchases they have made. Currently it not possible to send out a mail shot only to selected customers, although labels can be printed to customers in the database. With current rising number of customers in the database increasing every year, this is impractical and expensive.

Lack of information about the database.
There is a general lack of information about which the most frequent customers are, which company has made the greatest number of orders in the past few years, and which popular items did those companies buy.

Step One - Prototyping:
The methodology of software development that was approved was the Evolutionary Prototyping. This methodology is based on the idea of developing an initial implementation, exposing this to user comments and refining it through many versions until an adequate system has been developed. Specification, development, and validation activities are interrelated rather than separate with rapid feedback across activities.

Some of the major advantages of prototyping include:
Short development time.
Short user reaction time (feedback from user).
Improved user understanding of the system, its information needs and capabilities.
Relatively cheap and so can be afforded by small-scale businesses.

Limitations of Prototyping include:
The customer sees what appear to be a working prototype/ version of the software unaware that the prototype is not the final product and therefore raises anxiety in the case the version does not work.
The developer often makes implementation compromises in order to get a prototype working quickly (Ian 359-361).

Justification of Methodology /Approach.
It is a fact that continual changes tend to corrupt the software structure and may even go to the extent of creating confusion amongst the project team. The impact is great for very large and complex systems. However, for the case of this project which is small, these continual changes will have negligible effect if not nil.

One can never be 100% correct in getting the system’s specifications and requirements for the first time. Hence prototyping allows the developer to develop a better understanding of the problem as well as the specific system’s specification (Charette 290). Prototyping will also improve user understanding of the system, its information needs and capabilities. Prototype will help the users trace the customers’ information.

Figure 1 represents the steps of effective development of prototyping. These steps include the following:
Identification of Basic Requirements:
The system’s services, constraints and goals are established by consultation with the system users. They are then defined in a manner, which is understandable, by both users and development staff.

Development of a Working Prototype:
Modeling of the working prototype begins. The overall system architecture is modeled and the software design to install the new system alongside the current working system. This is to monitor effectively and avoid business breakdown in case the new system goes down.

Acceptance Testing:
User comments are considered. If the installed new system does not meet the user’s needs, the developer is expected to make enhancements to the system until the entire user’s needs are met. The system is considered if the prototype meets all the user needs and therefore termed successful (Charette 330).

Figure 1 -
The steps of developing prototype
(Source: Leonard 15)

Step Two - Inventory Management System:
An Inventory control System is a package of hardware and software that is integrated and is used for warehouse operations and storage companies. It is used in the monitoring of the quantity, status and location of the inventory together with the related shipping, put-away and picking processes. Modern Inventory systems are based on potential RFID tags and barcodes. The barcode scanner or RFID reader automatically identifies the inventory object and then collects additional information via fixed terminal workstations rpm the operators or mobile computers. RFID tags can make it easier for the company to trace the inventory.

Applications:
An Inventory Control System can be used in the automation of sales order process. A system of that kind contains lists of orders to be filled and prompts by workers to pick important items and then assist in provision of shipping and packaging information. Inventory control systems which are Real time employ the use of wireless mobile terminals for recording of inventory transactions as they occur. A wireless LAN then assists in transmitting transaction information to the central database (“Evolutionary Rapid Development”).
The main features of an inventory control system include Physical Inventory and Cycle counting. Physical Inventory explains the process by which the entire inventory is physically counted by the business. It may be mandated by tax regulations or financial accounting rules to place accurate values on the inventory. The company may adopt several strategies to aid in minimizing the disruptions that are caused by physical inventory (Tempelmeier 112). The major advantages of Inventory system are as following:
Inventory services provide automation and labor for quick counting and in minimizing shutdown time.
Inventory system software can also assist in speeding the physical inventory process.
Inventory system also helps in tracking the receipt and calculating the quantity at hand.

The reliable Inventory Management system and high performance Database system will help the company substantially reduce its compliance risk and improve productivity. As displayed in Figure 2, a user can directly interact with a database using different types of technology tools such as views and report generators. Users can also interact with a database by using application programs such as accounting, marketing, and manufacturing applications.
Figure 2 – User Interaction with a Database system (Source: Paige and Amy 185)
Step Three - Test strategy:
The final and most important step in implementing effective Inventory Management System is testing. It is essential to test the system in the all stages of development to minimize costs of implementation. The error in the one stage of the system development may cause the failure of the whole project. The test strategy used included the following types as described below:

Logical Testing: This is to be used in testing every aspect of each form, report and query as soon as it is implemented using valid and extreme data. The test data to be added is to test each code module and compared with the expected results.
Functional Testing: Each menu item is to be tested in turn to ensure that no function has been missed out.
System Testing: When the system is complete, the whole ranges of tests are to be carried out again to ensure that no errors were introduced.
Recovery Testing: The computer is re-booted while the database is open to ensure that the data is not lost or corrupted in the event of power failure.
Acceptance Testing: The user is then involved and asked to test all the capabilities of the program to ensure that all required functions were present and working in the manner expected. This was to be subjected to further refinements on the level of satisfaction of the user.

PART FOUR Development Tools and Requirements
Software:
Operating system- Windows 2000.
System applications: - Microsoft Visual Basic.NET for programming.
Oracle 9i for Database Management.
Microsoft Word 2007 for generation of letters, mail merge.
Mac Afee Anti-virus to protect the system from viruses (“Software”).

Hardware:
Laser Printers for printing of business documents-20.
Additional Pentium IV PCs-50.

Advantages of Visual Basic.NET
Is an event driven programming language and hence the user controls the program.
It does not follow pre-determined path and allows flexibility.
It is highly interactive and so user friendly.
Easy debugging to correct errors in algorithm (“Upgrading from Visual Basic 6.0”).

Disadvantages of Visual Basic.NET
Encourages the use of many instruments in statement and therefore the complexity of these instructions could lower program processing.
Instructions have to be compiled into machine readable language before the computer can execute them (“Upgrading from Visual Basic 6.0”).

Conclusion:

The system is to be completed and installed into the user’s PCs. The completion is to be in the manner originally designed and agreed with users and the management Board of IT. It should therefore be straight forward to use. Referring to the original objectives listed in the analysis section:
It should take only a few seconds to establish whether a particular customer is on the database at the moment.
The menus of the new system should work as planned.
It should be easy to navigate through the menus and go to any form so desired with ease by clicking on the form you want to visit on the menu and details are automatically displayed.
Upon the conclusion of the system the future should be secure in terms of the capacity of the database to handle as many customers as possible due to the continual growth of the company.
It should be easy to generate reports from the database that would aid in decision making for the finance department and the management team.

To sum up, the proposed system will improve user understanding of the whole system, its information needs and capabilities. The system will help the users trace the customers’ information. The proposed Inventory system can provide automation and labor for quick counting and minimizing shutdown time. Inventory system software can also assist in speeding the physical inventory process. It also helps in tracking the receipt and calculating the quantity at hand. This proposed solution can significantly help Venice Company build strong customer relationships and maximize its profit.

PART FIVE Problems and Recommendations
Time Schedule:
The overall system according to the approach and methodology chosen is supposed to take a short time. With this into consideration, the programmer is more likely to be tempted to hurry up on development and implementation thereby leaving or ignoring vital elements or ignoring some of the vital elements in development. This inhibits the achievement of the part objectives.

Approach/Methodology:
Identification of Basic Requirements:
It is a challenge to explicitly define the user requirements especially if as a programmer you are dealing with users who are not fully informed of their needs. This may require the developer to make various assumptions when designing the system which the users may reject later on.
The customer sees what appears as a working prototype/version of the software unaware that the prototype is not the final product and therefore raises anxiety in case the version does not work.
The developer often makes quick implementation compromises in order to get a prototype working quickly.

Recommendations:

Time Schedule:
The programmer should clearly understand the project and system objectives so as to plan well the time schedule for all the activities that will be carried out to achieve all the set objectives.
Each activity should have a specific time allocation which has to be adhered and followed to the letter during development.

Approach/Methodology:
The project developer, IT manager, should clearly understand the users he/she is dealing with in terms of their knowledge and experience so that no assumptions are made during development which would later on be rejected by the users.
The programmer should clearly explain explicitly to the users details about the approach of development so that all the anxieties are put to check.

References:

Charette, R. Software Engineering Risk Analysis and Management. New York: McGraw Hill, 1989. 289-332.

Heathcote, P. Tackling Computer Projects. New York: Payne-Gallway Publishers Limited, 2000. 74-109.

Ian, S. Software Engineering. Edinburg: Pearson Education Limited, 2004.

Upgrading from Visual Basic 6.0. Developer Center: Visual Basic 6.0 Resource Center, 2000.

Leonard H. “Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering.” No Silver Bullet Journal 57 (1986): 12-18.

Evolutionary Rapid Development. Software Productivity Consortium, 04 June. 1997. Herndon: SPC document SPC-97057-CMC.

“Software.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Dictionary.com. 20 Oct. 2009 .

“10 Simulation Tools for UI Designers Top, Information Architects and Usability Specialists.” Amazing Design World. 27 March 2007. 20 Oct. 2009 .

Tempelmeier, H. Inventory Management in Supply Networks. Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2006.

Paige, Baltzan and Amy, Phillips. Business Driven Information Systems. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin. 2007. 185.

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