It’s been proven that self-proclaimed “nerdy guys” can change the course of technology from the comforts of their own garages.
But Bruce Bender, president of DigitalBins.com, doesn’t intend to build an empire.
So when Bender, who specializes in distribution software, and his brother-in-law Eric Bartscherer, who specializes in engineering, finalized the design of their “garage project” two years ago, they decided to start small with their state-of-the-art, vendor-managed inventory system that makes ordinary plastic bins “smart.”
DigitalBins.com eliminates the need for physical inventory shutdowns and frequent cycle counts by using piece-counting scales containing SKUs, or stock-keeping units, as light as small washers up to 10,000 pounds. DigitalBins.com also makes inventory visible from anywhere in the world with its browser interface.
Today, a brand employee makes daily visits to grocery stores to count inventory because it’s otherwise unknown what’s been sold, what product remains and how fresh it is. The employee spends time and resources at each store making sure the brand’s sections are properly stocked.
But if there were a scale underneath each SKU, the brand company would be able to electronically monitor inventory across every store from a central location.
“Today, our prototypes have sold and we have a manufacturer,” Bender said. “But we’re now talking about much bigger installations — thousands of scales for thousands of different SKUs.”
So much for staying small.
DigitalBins.com was born out of Bender’s 32-year-old company Software Co-Op Inc., which creates software for manufacturing and distribution purposes.
Aside from its measuring scales, DigitalBins.com currently manufactures and sells preconfigured secure cabinets and stationary and mobile bin racks with six LED lights per scale. It also has software licenses for an inventory-monitoring application that can count 100 bin locations per second and keep in mind variables such as lead times and expiration dates, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) security systems that provide limited access for store employees to take supplies freely while the inventory monitor records and displays all activity.
The system uses light messages to provide important information about the contents of each bin. The green LED light indicates a bin’s level is above the assigned minimum; the yellow LED light indicates the bin’s level is equal to the minimum; and the red LED light indicates the bin’s level has fallen below the minimum, which can trigger automatic purchasing orders or replenishment reports by email.
Users can also create three customizable LED messages for viewers, such as expiration date notifications, delivery statuses or foreign object detection.