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Publication numberUS20040230503 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/873,183
Publication dateNov 18, 2004
Filing dateJun 23, 2004
Priority dateMar 7, 2000
Also published asUS6996538, US20010051905, US20050197929, US20060041329, US20060100937, US20060116936, US20070055586
Publication number10873183, 873183, US 2004/0230503 A1, US 2004/230503 A1, US 20040230503 A1, US 20040230503A1, US 2004230503 A1, US 2004230503A1, US-A1-20040230503, US-A1-2004230503, US2004/0230503A1, US2004/230503A1, US20040230503 A1, US20040230503A1, US2004230503 A1, US2004230503A1
InventorsMichael Lucas
Original AssigneeInvinity Systems Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Inventory control system and methods
US 20040230503 A1
Abstract
A system and method which allows third-parties to monitor company inventory via the Internet and World Wide Web (“web”) and automatically order needed items. The present invention also provides a forum through which resellers and customers may directly interact to resell surplus and used equipment. The present invention may also allow a third party to act as a broker, thereby assuring that both the equipment purchased is actually delivered, and that the seller is properly compensated.
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Claims(55)
1-29. (Canceled)
30. A computer program embodied on a computer-readable medium that implements an inventory management system, comprising:
program instructions for programming at least one first network-enabled apparatus associated with a customer to enable the customer to track inventories of a product or products and place orders for the product or products;
program instructions for programming at least one second network-enabled apparatus associated with an inventory manager to:
receive orders for the product or products from the at least one first network-enabled apparatus;
request and receive information about the ordered product or products from at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors;
evaluate responses from the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors including the requested information;
determine at least one preferred response among the responses; and
arrange at least one of payment for and shipping of the ordered product or products associated with the at least one preferred response to the customer associated with the at least one first network-enabled apparatus; and
program instructions for programming at least one third network-enabled apparatus associated with the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to:
receive and process the requests for information about the ordered product or products from the at least one second network-enabled apparatus; and
respond to the at least one second network-enabled apparatus with the requested information.
31. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to communicate with each other over a network.
32. The computer program of claim 31, wherein the network is at least one of the Internet and the World Wide Web (“WWW”).
33. The computer program of claim 30, wherein the information about the ordered product or products is real-time information.
34. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one third network-enabled apparatus to receive and evaluate information about inventory levels of a product or products that the customer has on-hand.
35. The computer program of claim 30, wherein the information about the ordered product or products comprises quantity of the product or products in stock.
36. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to interact with other customers.
37. The computer program of claim 30, wherein the information about the ordered product or products comprises information about at least one of price of the ordered product or products, quantity of the product or products in stock, and estimated delivery time of the product or products to the customer associated with the at least one first network-enabled apparatus.
38. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to operate according to a predetermined set of business rules of the inventory management system.
39. The computer program of claim 38, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to modify the business rules in real-time.
40. The computer program of claim 37, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to track information about supply usage of a product or products in order to determine a minimum acceptable quantity or quantities of the product or products to keep in-stock at a particular location.
41. The computer program of claim 40, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to create an inventory usage model based on the information about supply usage.
42. The computer program of claim 41, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to modify minimum in-stock thresholds at the particular location to reflect supply usage that is anticipated based on the inventory usage model.
43. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to perform at least one of:
automatically ordering the product or products when an in-stock quantity of the ordered product or products reaches a predetermined threshold; and
notifying at least one of the at least one second network-enabled apparatus and the at least one third network-enabled apparatus when the in-stock quantity of the ordered product or products reaches the predetermined threshold.
44. The computer program of claim 30, wherein the orders for a product or products comprise at least one of information about urgency of need for the ordered product or products, information about willingness to accept alternatives to the ordered product or products, information about billing and information about shipping.
45. The computer program of claim 36, wherein the interaction with the other customers comprises providing to or receiving from the other customers information contained in at least one of articles and catalogs.
46. The computer program of claim 36, wherein the interaction with the other customers comprises selling to or purchasing from the other customers at least one of products, equipment and excess inventory.
47. The computer program of claim 36, wherein the interaction with the other customers comprises providing to or receiving from the other customers an up to date catalog including at least one of products, equipment and excess inventory that is available for purchase.
48. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to monitor and evaluate information about inventory levels stored in a database and to communicate a result of the evaluation of the information about inventory levels to the at least one first network-enabled apparatus.
49. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to monitor and evaluate information about inventory levels stored in a database and to communicate a result of the evaluation of the information about the inventory levels to the at least one third network-enabled apparatus.
50. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to monitor information about inventory levels stored in a database and to adjust the information about the inventory levels when the inventory levels are adjusted.
51. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to monitor information about inventory levels stored in a database and for enabling the at least one first network-enabled apparatus associated with the customer to communicate with other network-enabled apparatuses associated with other customers in order that the first customer may sell to or purchase from the other customers at least one of products, equipment and excess inventory based on the information about the inventory levels.
52. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to transmit at least one of new product offers and special promotions to the at least one first network-enabled apparatus.
53. The computer program of claim 52, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to display only new product offers or special promotions based on criteria specified by the customer.
54. The computer program of claim 53, wherein the criteria comprises at least one of categories by manufacturer, trade name of product, specific type of product, general classification of product, quantity available and quantity per shipping unit.
55. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to enable the customer to select between a one-time order of a product or products and recurring orders of a product or products.
56. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for:
programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to transmit advertisements to the at least one first network-enabled apparatus; and
programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to display the transmitted advertisements.
57. The computer program of claim 56, wherein the advertisements are displayed on the at least one first network-enabled apparatus on a rotating basis.
58. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to request a user-ID (“user-Identification”) from the customer when the customer uses the at least one first network-enabled apparatus, the user-ID (“user-Identification”) allowing secure communications within a standard browser.
59. The computer program of claim 58, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to enable the customer to enter the user-ID (“user-Identification”) through at least one of an active user interface and a passive user interface.
60. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to:
enable the customer to enter information from a packing list associated with a shipment of the ordered product or products; and
verify whether the information from the packing list is valid.
61. The computer program of claim 60, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to:
retrieve information about the shipped product or products from at least one of the at least one second network-enabled apparatus and the at least one third network-enabled apparatus; and
update inventory information based on the retrieved information.
62. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to enable the customer to search inventory information included on at least one of the at least one second network-enabled apparatus and the at least one third network-enabled apparatus.
63. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to:
enable the customer to enter restocking parameters for the ordered product or products; and
transmit the restocking parameters for the ordered product or products to at least one of the at least one second network-enabled apparatus and the at least one third network-enabled apparatus.
64. The computer program of claim 63, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to:
post invoices of the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to an accounts payable module;
generate customer invoices based on the invoices of the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors; and
post the customer invoices to an accounts receivable module.
65. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one third network-enabled apparatus to enable the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to perform one or more of:
updating product information;
updating vendor information;
updating contact information;
viewing an account status;
invoicing customers for a purchased product or products; and
viewing open invoices.
66. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one third network-enabled apparatus to enable the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to perform one or more of:
tracking an inventory of product or products;
providing real-time information about the inventory of product or products to at least one of customers and prospective customers;
accepting electronic orders for the product or products;
generating pick/pack lists; and
tracking an order fulfillment process;
67. The computer program of claim 66, wherein tracking an order fulfillment process comprises one or more of:
tracking information about the contents of one or more containers used for shipping ordered product or products;
generating at least one of bar-coded packing lists and shipping labels for each of the one or more containers; and
generating invoices.
68. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first network-enabled apparatus to enable the customer to perform one or more of:
adjusting inventory counts for a product or products;
updating employee information;
updating contact information;
updating payment information;
viewing account balances; and
making payments.
69. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to forecast inventory requirements based on at least one of:
prior order history;
prior lead times; and
safety stock quantities.
70. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one second and third network-enabled apparatuses to enable the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to track processing and shipping status for the ordered product or products.
71. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one first and second network-enabled apparatuses to enable at least one of the customer and the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to:
electronically sign at least one of a purchase order and an invoice; and
electronically transmit at least one of the signed purchase order and the signed invoice to a recipient.
72. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one second and third network-enabled apparatuses to:
scan an inventory table associated with the customer that reflects a number of a product or products on-hand; and
monitor inventory usage of the on-hand product or products based on the inventory table.
73. The computer program of claim 72, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one second and third network-enabled apparatuses to:
determine a product or products listed in the inventory table that are frequently used based on the monitored inventory table; and
order appropriate quantities of the frequently used product or products to re-stock the number of on-hand product or products.
74. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming at least one of the at least one second and third network-enabled apparatuses to:
track historical usage of one or more of a product or products; and
determine periodic usage patterns for the one or more of a product or products.
75. The computer program of claim 74, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one of the at least one second and third network-enabled apparatuses to order appropriate quantities of the one or more of a product or products based on the determined periodic usage patterns.
76. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one second network-enabled apparatus to:
query inventories of the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors; and
determine a level of ability of the at least one of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to fulfill an order for one or more of a product or products.
77. The computer program of claim 30, further comprising program instructions for programming the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses to communicate with each other over a network including at least one firewall for maintaining secure internal data.
78. The computer program of claim 30, wherein the program instructions for programming at least one first network-enabled apparatus associated with a customer to enable the customer to track inventories of a product or products include program instructions for enabling the customer to track inventories of the product or products by reading an RFID (“radio frequency identification”) tag associated with the product or products.
79. The computer program of claim 78, wherein the RFID (“radio frequency identification”) tag is read by a hand held electronic device.
80. The computer program of claim 78, wherein the RFID (“radio frequency identification”) tag is read by an electronic portal device.
81. The computer program of claim 40, wherein the at least one first, second and third network-enabled apparatuses track information about the supply usage of a product or products by reading an RFID (“radio frequency identification”) tag associated with the product or products.
82. The computer program of claim 81, wherein the RFID (“radio frequency identification”) tag is read by a hand held electronic device.
83. The computer program of claim 81, wherein the RFID (“radio frequency identification”) tag is read by an electronic portal device.
Description
PRIORITY AND COPYRIGHT CLAIMS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/187,389 filed Mar. 7, 2000, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

[0002] This application includes material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0003] The present invention relates to the field of electronic inventory control. In particular, the present invention relates to controlling healthcare supply inventories.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0004] Traditionally, inventory control has been done by the company or organization using the items in the inventory. In smaller offices, inventory control is typically not a high priority, and orders may be placed whenever items are out of stock.

[0005] As an office increases in size, inventory management becomes more of a challenge, and monitoring of frequently used or crucial items becomes very important. Typically a person is given the responsibility of monitoring inventory and ordering replacements as supply diminishes. As a company further increases in size, more advanced inventory management techniques may be used. For example, supply and usage trends may be analyzed to determine minimum quantities on hand, and seasonal or other peak usage may be determined.

[0006] Some larger offices have switched to automated or semi-automated inventory tracking systems. These automated systems utilize barcode scanners or other electronic identifiers to track outgoing and incoming inventory, and can prepare purchase requests as supplies diminish.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The present invention improves upon the prior art by shifting the burden of inventory tracking onto a third party; this concept is referred to as vendor managed inventory, or VMI. When a third party provides VMI services for multiple companies, it gains significant buying power which it can use to negotiate better deals, improve supplier responsiveness, and streamline the buying process.

[0008] The present invention allows third-parties to monitor company inventory via the Internet and World Wide Web (“web”). In addition, the present invention allows small to medium sized companies to take advantage of VMI by providing a cost-effective solution to their inventory tracking needs.

[0009] The present invention utilizes web-enabled technologies to revolutionize inventory management by tracking inventory and automatically contacting suppliers, manufacturers, or distributors when additional supplies are needed. This may result in a labor reduction as compared to the labor-intensive inventory maintenance systems currently deployed.

[0010] In addition to reducing labor costs, the present invention may help a company cut other costs. The present invention may help reduce delivery costs by regularly ordering supplies in anticipation of need, thus obviating the need for express shipments. The present invention may also allow third parties to take advantage of manufacturer or distributor specials when offered for the products its customers require, thus further reducing customer cost.

[0011] While purchasing is a large part of inventory maintenance, the present invention may also facilitate other transactions as well. For example, the present invention may allow customers to resell products or equipment to other businesses, thereby maximizing utility. Although some in the prior art, such as Neoforma.com and Medibuy.com, have attempted to provide business-to-business equipment resale through web-based auctions, auctions do not provide equipment availability assurances. The present invention provides a forum through which resellers and customers may interact, where the present invention acts as a broker, thereby assuring both that purchased equipment is delivered, and that a seller receives proper compensation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012]FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating the major hardware components of the present invention.

[0013]FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an overview of the software components of the present invention.

[0014]FIG. 3 is a process flow diagram illustrating sample logic implemented when client software attempts to update data stored in a server.

[0015]FIG. 4 is a process flow diagram illustrating sample logic implemented when client software polls a data connection.

[0016]FIG. 5 illustrates a sample RFID portal and related computer equipment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0017] The present invention implements an Internet-based, vendor managed inventory (“VMI”) system. A VMI system allows a customer to reduce costs by pushing inventory management responsibilities onto a third party, or manager. Managers may service multiple companies, thus allowing them to negotiate better deals, improve supplier responsiveness, and serve as an effective customer advocate.

[0018] The present invention allows managers to inexpensively monitor customer inventory via the Internet and World Wide Web (“web”). The present invention utilizes web-enabled technologies to revolutionize inventory management by tracking inventory and automatically contacting suppliers, manufacturers, or distributors when products are needed. This may result in a labor reduction as compared to the labor-intensive inventory maintenance systems currently deployed.

[0019]FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating the major hardware components of the present invention. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the present invention utilizes a client/server architecture to facilitate communication between customer inventory systems and managers. A client running on a Customer Inventory System 130 may be used to track inventory, place special orders, and interact with other customers.

[0020] A client may include custom software, such as an application written in Visual Basic, JAVA, or C; commercial software, such as a web page accessible through a web browser; or a combination of custom and commercial software, such as a “plug-in” which operates in a web browser. Examples of common web browsers include Internet Explorer, developed by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., and Navigator, developed by Netscape Corporation of Mountain View, Calif.

[0021] Customer Inventory Systems 130 may allow manual inventory tracking, semi-automated inventory tracking, or inventory may be dispensed using automated systems. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, a preferred embodiment of the present invention includes a handheld device, such as a Palm VII device by Palm Computing, Inc., to be outfitted with a barcode scanner. Such a device can allow barcodes or other identifiers associated with each inventory item to be scanned or otherwise entered into the system prior to or at the time of item distribution. As each item is scanned, a count maintained by the present invention may be adjusted to properly track inventory levels. Recipient-specific labels, including product warnings and other information, can then be printed for each scanned item.

[0022] Other inventory distribution methods contemplated include, but are not limited to, interfacing the present invention with vending machines. Vending machines may allow accurate inventory tracking without requiring human interaction, except to periodically restock a particular supply or group of supplies. In a preferred embodiment, vending machines may include security measures to prevent unauthorized supply distribution. Such security measures may include, but are not limited to, the use of an identification card and personal identification number (“PIN”), and biometric systems. Vending machines equipped with security systems may restrict access to specific supplies on an individual-by-individual level, or group-by-group basis. Vending machines may also be equipped with label printers that allow warnings and other information to be attached to a dispensed item's packaging.

[0023] Alternatively, supply closets or other storage areas can be outfitted with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) portal, as illustrated in FIG. 5. An RFID portal (Block 500) is similar in structure to airport security metal detectors, except that RFID portals can detect or scan RFID tags as such tags pass through a portal. The present invention can monitor RFID tag identifiers, including identifiers assigned to individuals, such that access to a storage area can be monitored, and items removed by an individual can be tracked without any direct user interaction.

[0024] A preferred embodiment of the present invention can also track individual product dispensation, and may require additional information as products are dispensed. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, if a doctor dispenses sample medication to a patient, the present invention may also request a patient identifier, whereas if a package of gauze bandages was removed from inventory to restock an examination room, the present invention may not request a patient identifier. Patient identifiers can be used by the present invention to generate dispensation history reports for various products which may help suppliers and manufacturers to better understand income, race, ethnicity, or other demographic characteristics of typical recipients. The present invention may restrict such reports to only demographic information, and may not include individual-specific information in such reports.

[0025] An alternative embodiment of the present invention allows physicians or others to carry a handheld device through which prescriptions can be written while talking with a patient. Such a handheld device can connect to a local inventory management system through a wireless or wired means, and, when appropriate, a prescribed item sample may be automatically dispensed by a vending machine. Alternatively, a message may be displayed at a nurse's station indicating the items to be pulled from inventory. When items are dispensed by a vending machine or pulled from inventory, inventory counts can be decremented as appropriate, and new orders can be placed as necessary.

[0026] As inventory is distributed, Customer Inventory System 130 may track supply usage habits to determine minimum acceptable quantities on-hand. Usage information may be studied for various periods of time, and the present invention may create an inventory usage model based on collected data. As models are created and refined, the present invention may modify minimum in-stock thresholds to reflect anticipated usage. As quantity in-stock approaches a calculated or specified threshold, Customer Inventory System 130 may automatically request new supplies from Server 100. Supply requests may include various information, including, but not limited to, urgency of request, customer willingness to accept alternative brands or sizes, billing information, and shipping information.

[0027] As Server 100 receives supply requests, Server 100 may request price quotes from several Manufacturer, Supplier, or Distributor 120's (“Distributor 120”). Distributor 120 may respond with quantity available, price, estimated delivery time, and other such information. Server 100 may then automatically evaluate each Distributor 120 response to find the best value given various factors associated with each customer request. When an appropriate Distributor 120 response is chosen, Server 100 may automatically arrange payment and shipping of requested supplies for Customer Inventory System 130.

[0028] Communication between Customer Inventory System 130, Server 100, and Distributor 120 may be achieved through various methods, including, but not limited to, hypertext transfer protocol (“HTTP”), file transfer protocol (“FTP”), simple mail transfer protocol (“SMT”), or other such related methods.

[0029] Although purchasing is a large part of inventory maintenance, a preferred embodiment of the present invention may also facilitate communication between customers, provide a source of information dissemination, and encourage customer interaction. The present invention may facilitate customer communication by allowing customers to resell products, equipment, or excess inventory to other businesses. The present invention may allow information dissemination by providing an up to date catalog of available equipment and other inventory from which a customer may order. The present invention may facilitate customer communication by allowing managers and customers to author and distribute articles describing new rules, regulations, procedures, revenue generation prospects, or other information of interest to other customers.

[0030] Customer Inventory System 130 may serve as the primary source of customer interaction with the present invention. Articles, catalogs, inventory information, and other such information may be stored on Server 100, and Customer Inventory System 130 may communicate with Server 100 to obtain requested information.

[0031]FIG. 2 illustrates a preferred embodiment of Server 100, in which relationships between data storage, web server, and application services provided by Server 100 are illustrated. All client communications may first pass through Firewall 210. Firewall 210 represents a combination of software and hardware which is used to protect the data stored in Web Server 220, Database Server 230, and Application Server 240 from unauthorized access.

[0032] As previously described, clients may communicate with the present invention through various protocols, including HTTP. Web Server 220 represents software capable of transmitting and receiving information via HTTP or other protocols. Examples of such software include Internet Information Server, developed by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash.; Enterprise Server, developed by Netscape Corporation of Mountain View, Calif.; and Apache Server, developed by the Apache Software Foundation of Forest Hill, Md.

[0033] When a client requests information, Web Server 220 may determine whether a client request requires pre-processing, in which case a request is transferred to Application Server 240, or if a request simply requires data to fulfill the request, in which case Web Server 220 may communicate directly with Database Server 230.

[0034] Database Server 230 represents commercially available database software, such as Microsoft SQL Server, developed by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., Oracle 8i, developed by Oracle Corporation, of Redwood Shores, Calif., or other, similar software. Database Server 230 may store raw data, such as customer inventory information, customer addresses, vendor names, vendor product classes, and other such similar information. Such information may be transmitted to a client by Web Server 220, or Application Server 240 may interpret information stored in Database Server 230 prior to transmission.

[0035] Application Server 240 may contain business rules associated with the present invention, which can be used to interpret Database Server 230 data prior to transmission of that data to a client. In addition to interpreting information stored in Database Server 230 for client use, Application Server 240 may also monitor inventory levels reflected in Database Server 230, contact vendors based on information from Database Server 230, adjust inventory information as new inventory is received, and provide the services necessary to facilitate business-to-business resale of equipment or products stored in Database Server 230.

[0036] Web Server 220, Database Server 230, and Application Server 240 each represent software which may run on the same computer, or on multiple computers. In addition, Application Server 240 may be implemented within Database Server 230 as a set of business rules.

[0037] An alternative description of the present invention follows, in which the present invention is described through a series of functional specifications. This information is included for enablement purposes, and describes the best mode contemplated at the time the present specification was filed. While the following functional specification describes a preferred embodiment of the present invention, descriptions within the functional specification should not be construed as limiting the present invention.

[0038] To avoid confusion, the following terms are used in this functional specification:

[0039] Customer—Refers to a buyer of products via the present invention. Customers can have “open account” relationships to avoid credit card and COD shipment problems.

[0040] Linked Supplier—A distinction is made to avoid confusion with other vendors doing business with the present invention, given that payables may be in a common accounts payable system. Distributors, manufacturers, or other vendors (collectively “suppliers”), are distinguished by whether they are using the present invention's inventory tracking and accounting software, and therefore have live Internet linkages into their databases for queries, order processing, and billing.

[0041] Manual Supplier—If a supplier provides goods or services through the present invention, but tracks inventory through a manual interface, such a supplier may be termed a “Manual Supplier”. Open account relationships may be maintained between Linked or Manual Suppliers avoid payment complexities.

[0042] Non-linked Supplier—Suppliers not linked to the present invention.

[0043] Products—Items for sale via the present invention.

[0044] Customer Inventory—A list of products to be maintained at a given customer site.

[0045] In addition to the general definitions set forth above, this functions specification also defines a set of system functions. System functions may fall into one of the following general sub-system categories:

[0046] Interactive—human interface and related functions for tracking inventory counts, inventory consumption rates, ordering critical products, and the like. Interactive processes may be web-based or PC-based (client-server).

[0047] Nightly Processes—periodic processes through which orders can be generated and invoicing and related processes can be performed, including interaction with Distribution system at distributor warehouses.

[0048] Corporate—processes performed within corporate offices, but which update a database. Includes accounting, client data management, and other such processes.

[0049] Distribution—Linked Suppliers integrated with the present invention. Industry standard Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software may be bundled with commercial financial software to provide a complete business system to Linked Suppliers.

[0050] Database Design—A database schema which may be utilized in a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0051] The present invention in general, and this functional specification specifically, defines styles and functions included in detailed web pages and other user interface elements that are intended to be available system wide. Web pages, application windows, program screens, and transactions within the present invention should observe common rules. These rules include, but are not limited to:

[0052] No customer can view, inquiry into, update or in any way alter another customers data. Transactions can use an IP address or other unique identifier as a cross-check against a customer ID coming in with transmitted pages to insure rule enforcement. For such security procedures, customer IP addresses or other unique identifiers may only be changed through a function accessible only to Corporate staff.

[0053] No Linked Supplier can see data belonging to another linked supplier.

[0054] System parameters controlling customer options can be set through an account setup and editing process. Such a process may be accessed by only someone with an authorized identifier. Initially, such identifiers may only be given to Corporate Staff.

[0055] Data changes will generally be reflected by a transaction log or transaction history, which may be accessible to customers or distributors, and to which Corporate Staff with appropriate security levels may have access.

[0056] Functions involving data changes may be performed as server-side scripts, rather than through client-side logic. In general, such server-side scripts can utilize a logical flow similar to FIG. 3. As FIG. 3 illustrates, client software running on a customer machine may generate a page containing data to be updated by a web server and transmit said page to said web server (Block 300).

[0057] When a web server receives a page from a customer machine, the present invention may attempt to process any changes requested by said page. If such changes are successful (Block 320), the present invention may return a confirmation page or cause a confirmation message to be displayed to a customer machine, and appropriate transaction logging may occur.

[0058] If changes are not successful, the present invention may increment a retry count by one (Block 340). If the retry count is less than or equal to three, the present invention may retransmit customer changes (Block 370) to Block 310 in an effort to make any appropriate changes. If the retry count exceeds three (Block 350), the present invention may cause a page containing any error codes or other feedback information to be displayed on a client machine. Such a page may also contain original client data changes as well as a means for resubmitting said changes (Block 360).

[0059] Client software may also periodically verify that a data connection exists between said client software and a server acting as part of the present invention. Such software may follow the logic illustrated in FIG. 4 to achieve accurate data connection monitoring. As Block 400 illustrates, client software may send one or more TCP/IP Ping commands or other network test commands to verify that a high-speed connection is still available to a server acting as part of the present invention.

[0060] If a high-speed network connection is detected, the present invention can continue normal operations (Block 410). If a high-speed network connection is not detected, the present invention may attempt to reestablish such a connection (Block 420). If a high-speed network connection can be reestablished (Block 430), the present invention may continue normal operations (Block 410). If a high-speed network connection cannot be established, a lower speed network connection, such as a dial-up network connection, may be established by the present invention (Block 440). If a lower speed network connection can be established, the present invention may continue normal operations, including periodically attempting to reestablish a high-speed network connection (Block 410).

[0061] If a lower speed network connection cannot be established, client software may display an application or page with alternative user interface and alternative functionality (Block 460). Such alternative functionality can include local storage of product usage information, local inventory tracking, and limited reordering via a dial-up or other temporary connection with a known supplier (Block 470). A client functioning without a data connection may periodically attempt to reestablish high or low speed network connections (Block 480). When a connection is reestablished (Block 490), a client may transmit product usage scan information to a server acting as part of the present invention.

[0062] In addition to an inventory tracking application, the present invention may also utilize a high speed network connection to transmit new product offerings or special promotions to a client for display to a customer. As new products are entered into a Products table or similar data structure, the present invention may cause such a product to appear on a client. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention may allow customers to select products in which a customer is interested, and the present invention may only display new products or special deals meeting a customer's prior specifications. Such specifications can include, but are not limited to, categories by manufacturer, product trade name, specific product type, general product classification, and quantity available or quantity per shipping unit.

[0063] A client displaying such information may allow a customer to indicate an interest in a product by typing a command, clicking a button or other graphical interface element, or otherwise interacting with said client. If a customer expresses an interest in a featured product, a client may allow a customer to create a one-time order, or to configure recurring orders.

[0064] In addition to allowing customers to record product usage and order new inventory or new products, client software may also display advertisements on a rotating basis, and may be used for other purposes. A typical client software screen may also contain additional information and fields, including, but not limited to, a Product SKU field, a User-ID field, a Doctor-ID field, and a Sales Consultant Contact field.

[0065] When customers are not directly interacting with client software, client software may place a cursor in a Product SKU field by default. Placing a cursor in a Product SKU field can allow client software to ready accept an automatically or manually entered product identifier, such as a barcode label scanned via a wedge-style bar-code scanner.

[0066] As product identifiers are entered, client software may request a User-ID for each product identifier or set of product identifiers. A User-ID is a unique identifier created for each employee or set of employees within an organization. Such identifiers may be entered manually through an active user interface, such as, but not limited to, a keyboard, touch screen, or number pad, or through a passive user interface, such as, but not limited to, biometric recognition equipment, barcode identifiers worn by or associated with an employee, or through RFID tags worn by or associated with an employee. User-ID's may be combined with passwords to create a more secure inventory tracking system.

[0067] User-ID's may be used to track persons removing items from an inventory, but additional tracking or other controls may also be desirable. For example additional authorization may be required when employees remove expensive items or controlled substances from an inventory. The present invention may recognize when such an inventory item is removed, and client software may request an additional identifier, called a Doctor-ID, as authorization. Client software may even allow any user to enter a Doctor-ID for some inventory items, while for other inventory items a Doctor-ID and related password may be required. A biometric or other positive identifier may be used in place of a Doctor-ID or Doctor-ID and password in some applications.

[0068] When appropriate inventory tracking data has been entered into client software, the present invention may transmit such data to a server. A server may send a confirmation message to a client upon receipt of such data. If a confirmation message is not received within a predetermined period of time, the present invention may resend inventory tracking data. If successive resend attempts are unsuccessful, the present invention may follow a process similar to that illustrated by FIG. 3. Client software may allow additional inventory scans to occur while waiting for confirmation from a server.

[0069] In addition to recording inventory tracking information, client software may also allow a customer to access various options. Such options may include, but are not limited to, an administrative page, an inventory status inquiry page, and an inventory receipt page. An administrative page can allow authorized customers to create, edit, or remove User-ID's, Doctor-ID's, groups of such accounts, and account-specific information. An inventory status inquiry page can retrieve and display a page containing customer inventory records, order status, and other such information. An inventory status inquiry may be initiated through client software, which can send a page containing customer-specific information, as well as site-specific identification information stored on a client machine. In a preferred embodiment, a server receiving such a request may select records with appropriate site- and user-specific information from a table of customer inventory records. A server may generate a page or screen containing customer inventory information, including information from several tables. Table 1 below provides an example of columns displayed on a typical inventory request screen, as well as sample table and field names from which such data can be drawn.

TABLE 1
Column Heading Source Table Source Field
Description PRODUCTS DESCRIPTION
Product CUSTOMER_INVENTORY PRODUCT
Quantity In Stock CUSTOMER_INVENTORY ON_HAND_QTY
Order Point CUSTOMER_INVENTORY ROP
ReOrder Quantity CUSTOMER_INVENTORY ROQ
Activity Status CUSTOMER_INVENTORY STATUS

[0070] An advantage of the present invention over the prior art is the ability to simplify adding new items or restocking items into an inventory. Linked Suppliers shipping goods to a customer can provide a specially coded packing list, and a customer can automatically or manually enter such a code into client software. Client software can validate a packing list number as belonging to a customer and ensure a packing list is not credited to a customer system more than once. Entry of an invalid or previously validated packing slip can cause client software to display an error message.

[0071] If a valid packing slip is entered, client software may retrieve shipment contents from a centralized database or from a supplier database, and automatically update customer inventory information to reflect inventory received. Client software may then display a message confirming successful inventory changes, and return a customer to a main page.

[0072] A product search page may also be accessible through client software. A product search page can allow a user to select a search type and, if appropriate, search parameters and search parameter values (collectively “search criteria”). By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, a product search page may allow a customer to search by specific manufacturer and products of a certain classification.

[0073] When a customer has selected appropriate search criteria, client software may pass such search criteria to a server. A server may query a database of products and product descriptions and return products matching or approximating customer search criteria.

[0074] If a user has selected a descriptive search, a server may select records from a Products table, or other similar table, whose data matches or approximates descriptive text entered by a user. If a user has selected a parameter search, a server may select Product table records whose fields match or approximate user search requests. To expedite such selections, a server may index descriptions, manufacturers, product classes, product names, and other frequently searched fields.

[0075] When appropriate records are selected, a server may transmit such records to client software for display. Client software may present such records in a variety of formats, including, but not limited to, a columnar or tabular format. Table 2 lists sample column names, sample source table names, source field names, and additional functionality client software may present when displaying such records.

TABLE 2
Column Heading Source Table Source Field
Description PRODUCTS SHORT_DESCRIPTION
Product ID PRODUCTS PRODUCT_ID
Manufacturer PRODUCTS MANUFACTURER
Mfg Item No. PRODUCTS MANUFACTURER
ITEM_NUMBER
Prod. Type PRODUCTS PRODUCT_TYPE
Prod. Class PRODUCTIONS PRODUCT_CLASS
Check Availability None Window action field
Add to Stock Plan None Window action field

[0076] As Table 2 indicates, client software can allow a customer to check product availability and add products to a stock plan. In a preferred embodiment, client software may make such functionality available for each record displayed. In an alternative embodiment, records may have check boxes or other selection controls, thereby allowing customers to check the availability of multiple items, and add multiple items to a stock

[0077] Customers can initiate such an order by clicking a button or otherwise interacting with a graphical or physical interface. In a preferred embodiment, a customer may select from products or groups of products already included in an inventory or stocking plan, or a customer may search for products through an interface similar to that described earlier. As previously described, customers can designate standard restocking quantities, and client software may use such quantities as defaults when clients are requesting additional inventory. Client software may also present quantities on hand to help customers make smarter purchasing decisions. Based on such information, customers can modify order quantities before submitting an order.

[0078] Client software can transmit customer orders to a server. Upon receipt of a customer order, a server can initiate an order fulfillment process.

[0079] A server may also automatically place an order based on customer demand. A server may periodically scan a customer inventory table and monitor inventory usage. As inventory is depleted, a server can predict frequently used items, and order appropriate quantities. Initially, a server may order limited quantities, to limit customer costs. A server may increase order quantities for frequently ordered products as customer usage habits dictate. A server may also construct an historical usage characterization, so that seasonal or other periodic usage patterns can be automatically taken into account.

[0080] As orders are placed, a server can query Linked Supplier inventories to determine each supplier's ability to fulfill an order. A server can calculate shipping costs as each order is processed, and a server can select one or more suppliers who can most cost effectively meet customer needs. As qualified suppliers are identified, orders are placed which can include expedited delivery and other options as specified by a customer or as determined by a server.

[0081] A server can also post supplier invoices to an accounts payable system, generate customer invoices based on supplier invoices, post customer invoices to an accounts receivable system. A server may further integrate with an automated payment system, thereby limiting invoicing and other such expenses.

[0082] In addition to customer and order related functions, a server can also provide administrative functions. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, a user who is not a customer can register to be a customer through a server-provided interface. Such an interface may allow a user to specify a business name, business type, executive director or general manager, physical address, mailing address, shipping address, one or more telephone numbers, employee names, employee licensing and accreditation information, and the like.

[0083] As users submit such information, a server may validate that an address, telephone number, and zip code are all valid with respect to each other, and that all necessary fields have been filled. If any validations fail, a server may present a data entry page along with any invalid data, thus simplifying data correction.

[0084] A server and client software may also allow customers and suppliers to change various information. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, suppliers can change pricing; add or remove vendors and products; add, edit, or remove contacts; view account status and open invoices; and perform other such functions. Customers can adjust inventory counts to reflect audit results; add, edit, or remove employees and employee information; update payment and contact information; view account balances and make payments; and perform other such functions.

[0085] Linked Suppliers can also take advantage of many of these same features. Linked Suppliers implementing the present invention can track inventory; provide real-time inventory information to prospective customers; accept electronic orders; generate pick/pack lists; track order fulfillment process, including tracking into which containers each item in an order has been placed; generate bar-coded packing lists and shipping labels for each container; and generate invoices.

[0086] The present invention also provides Linked Suppliers with other advantages over the prior art. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, Linked Supplier inventory needs can be forecast based on prior order history, prior lead times, safety stock quantities, and the like, thereby reducing overall inventory investment. The present invention can also allow enable a Linked Supplier to track processing and shipping status for various products within an order, thereby providing a higher level of customer service. The present invention may also allow managers or other authorized individuals to electronically sign a purchase order, invoice, or other billing or order document and electronically transmit such a document to an appropriate recipient.

[0087] To achieve the functionality set forth above, a preferred embodiment of the present invention includes the following table structure. The table structure described below is included for enablement and best mode purposes, and should not be construed as limiting the present invention.

[0088] Table Name—

[0089] CLIENT_CONTROL

[0090] Table Description and function—This table can reside locally on a customer computer. It can store one or more records containing control data needed to manage on and off-line functions remotely. These records can be updated via an update applet transferring data from the Web Server's SQL database to this control. Its purpose is to provide control over the processes running on the local machine even if it is off-line, and to enable it to reconnect automatically.

Column (field) Name Description
CUSTOMER_ID Customer ID - matches Customer ID in
CUSTOMERS data in the Web Server SQL Database
IP_ADDRESS This is the IP address for this machine
DSL_PORT Connection path or port (e.g., COM2) where DSL
connection exists; null if there is no DSL line for this
machine
DIAL_PORT Connection path ro port (e.g., COM3) where dial-up
connection exists; null if there is no dial-up connection
for this machine
DIAL_CONNECTION_PHONE Phone number the software dials to establish a dial-up
connection to the Web server system. Null if there is
no dial-up connection
DIAL_CALL_BACK Phone number of the dial-up line; to allow call-back
from the web server.

[0091] Table Name—

[0092] CLIENT_ERROR_LOG

[0093] Table Description and function—This table contains an error generation history for processes originating on a customer machine. It can provide an audit trail and view of how well processes are functioning, and a place to record both fatal-error conditions and those that may not need to be displayed to customers. Its data may not be processed, but can be stored for review by system administrators and managers.

Field
Column (field) Characteristics
Name Description & Indexing
ERROR_DATE Date of error log entry Index -
concatenated with
ERROR_TIME
ERROR_TIME Time of error log entry Index - with
ERROR_DATE
CALLER Program name generating
the error log entry
ERROR_MESSAGE Error message generated by
the caller program
USER_VIEWABLE Yes - if message also
displayed on user seen
page; No if internal only
message
DATA_DUMP Data (if any) causing the
error

[0094] Table Name—

[0095] SYSTEM_ERROR_LOG

[0096] Table Description and function—This table can contain a history of errors generated by processes originating from outside a customer machine. The table can provide an audit trail and view of how well processes are functioning, and provide a place to record both fatal and non-fatal errors. Such data can allow system administrators, programmers, and managers to monitor automated, unattended processes. SYSTEM_ERROR_LOG can use a data dictionary/field structure similar to a Client_Error_Log table.

Field
Column (field) Characteristics
Name Description & Indexing
ERROR_DATE Date of error log entry Index -
concatenated with
ERROR_TIME
ERROR_TIME Time of error log entry Index - with
ERROR_DATE
CALLER Program name generating
the error log entry
ERROR_MESSAGE Error message generated
by the caller program
USER_VIEWABLE Yes - if message also
displayed on user seen
page; No if internal only
message
DATA_DUMP Data (if any) causing the
error

[0097] Table Name—

[0098] SYS_PARAMETERS

[0099] Table Description and function—Stores system-wide parameters in a common table.

Column (field)
Name Description Field Characteristics & Indexing
PARAM_ID Identifies parameter Primary Index
VAR1 First variable
VAR2 Second variable
VAR3 Third variable

[0100] Table Name—

[0101] CUSTOMER_APPLICATION

[0102] Table Description and function—this table can have a data dictionary similar to the CUSTOMERS table, and can be used to temporarily store unapproved, unprocessed customer application data submitted by a Customer/Client Application page. When an application is processed, appropriate records can be deleted from this table.

Column (field)
Name Description Field Characteristics & Indexing
See CUSTOMERS

[0103] Table Name—

[0104] MEMBERS_APPLICATION

[0105] Table Description and function—this table has may use a data dictionary similar to PRACTICE_MEMBERS, and can temporarily store unapproved, unprocessed customer application data submitted by a Customer/Client Application page. When an application is processed, appropriate records can be deleted from this table.

Field Characteristics &
Column (field) Name Description Indexing
See
PRACTICE_MEMBERS

[0106] Table Name—

[0107] CUSTOMERS

[0108] Table Description and function—Can store a unique identifier for each customer in a permanent table. Activity logged in CUSTOMER_MAINT_HISTORY table. Can be linked to third-party applications for credit terms, bill to, ship to addresses, phones and other financial data.

Field
Characteristics
Column (field) Name Description Comment & Indexing
CUSTOMER Identifies Unique identifier Primary Index
customer (account number);
matches
CUSTOMER in A/R
system
NAME Practice Business See Practice Index
Name Members for doctor
data.
SALES_CONSULTANT Identifies sales Index
consultant
assigned to
account
IPADDRESS1 Internet address Can have multiple
used to link, computers in larger
identify offices.
computers in
customers office
IPADDRESS2 Internet address Can have multiple
used to link, computers in larger
identify offices.
computers in
customers office
IPADDRESS3 Internet address Can have multiple
used to link, computers in larger
identify offices.
computers in
customers office
IPADDRESS4 Internet address Can have multiple
used to link, computers in larger
identify offices.
computers in
customers office
DISCOUNT_CODE Identifies which Code must be in Index
discount code is DISCOUNT_CODES
used to calculate table.
prices charged for
this customer
PHYSICAL_ADDRESS Street address of
practice
PHYSICAL_STATE State in which the
practice is located
PHYSICAL_ZIP Zip code of
physical location
of practice
SHIP_TO_ADDRESS Address to which
shipments go
SHIP_TO_STATE State for ship to
address
SHIP_TO_ZIP Zip code for ship
to address
MAIL_ADDRESS Mailing address Literature, documents
(for other than only (may be a PO
shipments) Box to which UPS &
FedEx cannot ship)
MAIL_STATE Mail address state
MAIL_ZIP Zip code for mail
address
ADMINISTRATOR Administrator,
manager, etc. of
Customer

[0109] Table Name—

[0110] PRACTICE_MEMBERS

[0111] Table Description and function—This table can be linked to records in a CUSTOMERS table, and can store data pertaining to individual physicians or other health-care professionals working at or with a practice.

Field
Characteristics
Column (field) Name Description Comment & Indexing
CUSTOMER Customer to Must be in Index -
whom the CUSTOMERS table concatenated
Practice Member already with
is associated MEMBER_NAME
MEMBER_NAME Name of healthcare Together with With
professional CUSTOMER, forms CUSTOMER
or physician unique record key
linked to
CUSTOMER
MEMBER_TITLE Title (e.g., Exec.
Director) of
member
MEMBER_MAIL_ADDRESS Separate mailing
address for
member
MEMBER_MAIL_STATE Member mail
address state
MEMBER_MAIL_ZIP Member mail
address zip
MEMBER_LICENSE_NO Professional
license for
member
MEMBER_LICENSE_EXPIRE Expiration Date
of member's
professional
license
MEMBER_DEGREE1 First degree of
member
MEMBER_DEGREE2 Second degree of
member
MEMBER_DEGREE3 Third degree of
member
MEMBER_DEGREE4 Fourth degree of
member
MEMBER_NOTES Text/comment
field
DATE_NEW Date this member
was added to
table
DATE_LAST Last activity date

[0112] Table Name—

[0113] DISCOUNT_CODES

[0114] Table Description and function—can contain decimal values representing a unique price to be charged or discount to be granted to each customer. Any number of customers may use a discount code. When a decimal value associated with a given code is changed, the result is that all prices for all customers using that code are changed. If a customer's discount code specifies a discount value greater than allowed for a given product, the present invention may limit a price to the maximum discount.

Field
Column (field) Characteristics &
Name Description Comment Indexing
DISC_CODE Discount code Identifies specific Primary Index
discount; numbering
should be 10, 20,
30, etc. to allow
for insertions in
future, e.g, 14
DISC Decimal value
VALUE for the discount
to be given.
NOTES Notes; text
field for
commentary
about a
particular
discount code

[0115] Table Name—

[0116] CUSTOMER_INVENTORY

[0117] Table Description and function—stores inventory at customer office. One record for each customer/SKU combination, including all that have been used in past, or which are to be used for next ordering cycle; Permanent table. Activity logged in CUSTOMER_INVENTORY_TX table.

Column (field) Field Characteristics &
Name Description Comment Indexing
CUSTOMER Identifies customer Index -
concatenated with
PRODUCT
PRODUCT Identifies product at Indexed with
customer's site CUSTOMER
ON_HAND_QTY Quantity of an item
on hand at this
customer
ROP Reorder point When on_hand_qty
quantity falls to or below this
quantity, a new
order is triggered for
the product.
ROQ Quantity to be Ordering process
ordered uses this quantity
when a product is
“triggered”
STATUS Activity status of Values: Index
item Active (default,
normal setting)
NoOrder (continue
to use up inventory,
but no more orders)
NoUse (do not
accept scanned
usage of product)

[0118] Table Name—

[0119] PRODUCTS

[0120] Table Description and function—identifies products available for sale at any point in time. Includes products no longer active. One record for each product/SKU/item Number.

Field Characteristics &
Column (field) Name Description Comment Indexing
PRODUCT_ID Identifies Primary Index
product; SKU;
also is“item
number”
SHORT_DESCRIPTION Short description Index
appearing on
most printed
outputs &
screens
LONG_DESCRIPION Long description Index, built so each
for additional word is indexed
description separately.
MANUFACTURER Company Index
making product;
Must be in
MANUFACTURERS
table
MANUFACTURER_ITEM Manufacturer's Index
NUMBER product identifier
STATUS Item status Values:
Active (default,
normal usage)
NoOrder (accept
usage scans, no
orders)
NoUse (do not
accept usage scans;
no activity; obsolete
or discontinued)
PRODUCT_CLASS Marketing/sales Index
classification of
product
PRODUCT_GROUP Commodity Index
classification of
product
PRODUCT_LINE Financial Index
reporting
classification of
product
SELL_START_DATE Date that new Prior to this date
orders for this orders will not be
product can be processed (new
processed product so not
available yet)
SELL_END_DATE Date after which After or on this date,
new orders for orders will not be
this product processed
cannot be (discontinued
processed product)
PRODUCT_PICTURE Product Picture JPEG or GIF
bit map image

[0121] Table Name—

[0122] MANUFACTURERS

[0123] Table Description and function—This table stores all manufacturers whose products may be carried in the PRODUCTS table. It serves as a reference and validation table for products.

Field
Column (field) Characteristics &
Name Description Comment Indexing
MANUFACTURER Short Primary Index
ID abbreviation
for manufacturer
MANUFACTURER Normal business Indexed
NAME name for
manufacturer
DATE_ADDED Date this
Manufacturer was
added to the table

[0124] Table Name—

[0125] ORDERS

[0126] Table Description and function—stores orders generated by nightly process and/or by critical ordering process, which are then downloaded to distributor. Serves as order “header” record. Linked to ORDER_DETAIL table where line items are stored. No maintenance history log table. One record for each order generated and downloaded.

Column (field) Field Characteristics &
Name Description Comment Indexing
ORDER_NO Order Number; Generated by Primary Index
unique identifier for ordering processes;
the order increments
SYSTEM_PARAMTER
for order
number
ORDER_DATE Date order Index
generated
ORDER_TIME Time order
generated
ORDER_SOURCE How order was Sources are:
generated AUTO —nightly
process
MANUAL —
manual order
entered on terminal
in customer's office.
CUSTOMER Customer on the Index
order
LINKED_SUPPLIER Linked Supplier to Index
whom the order was
downloaded
ORDER_STATUS Status of the order; Values: Index
shows latest status GEN —generated
only, sequence is PLACED —
presumed downloaded to
supplier
S_BILLED —
supplier has
invoiced Med-e-
Track
C_BILLED —
system has
converted supplier
invoice to customer
invoices
STATUS_DATE Date which status
changed
SHIP_TO_ADDRESS Address to which
orders is to be
shipped; appears on
downloaded order
data
ORDER_PRODUCT Total value of order
TOTAL for product only; not
including tax,
shipping, other
charges

[0127] Table Name—

[0128] ORDER_DETAIL

[0129] Table Description and function—stores line item detail on ORDERS. One record for each line item on an order.

Field
Characteristics &
Column (field) Name Description Comment Indexing
ORDER_DTL_ORDER_NO Order number to Index -
which this detail concatenated with
record belongs ORDER_LINE_NUMBER
ORDER_LINE_NUMBER Line number for With
order. Order_Dtl_Order
no, forms
a unique
identifier
PRODUCT Product identifier Index
for item ordered
ORDER_QUANTITY Quantity of the
product that is
being ordered.
SHIP_QUANTITY Quantity of the
item shipped; as
reflected on an
uploaded,
processed
supplier
invoice/packlist
CUSTOMER_UNIT_PRICE Price to be
charged to
customer
CUSTOMER_UNI_SALES Sales tax, if any
TAX to be charged
customer
PRODUCT_ORDERED_SUBTOTAL Value = Order
Quantity * Customer
Unit_price
PRODUCT_SHIP_SUBTOTAL Value = Ship
Quantity * Customer
Unit_Price
LINKED_SUPPLIER_UNIT Price to be paid
COST Linked Supplier
for this item
LINKED_SUPPLIER_PRODUCT Value = Ship
SHIP_SUBTOTAL Quantity * Linked
Supplier
Unit_cost

[0130] Table Name—

[0131] LINKED_SUPPLIER

[0132] Table Description and function—Stores and sets up each linked supplier, i.e., distributor that is linked into the web site. One record for each supplier that will be, is now, or has been linked at one time into Med-e-Track. Activity logged in LINKED_SUPPLIER MAINT_HISTORY. Account is linked to Supplier table in the SOLOMAN Accounts Payable subsystem.

Column (field) Name Description Comment
SUPPLIER Supplier's ID Unique
identifier
SUPPLIER_IP_ADDRESS IP Address where
linking process occurs
OPEN_DATE Date the relationship was
setup/started

[0133] Table Name—

[0134] SUPPLIER_INVOICE

[0135] Table Description and function—stores uploaded invoice/pack lists from linked suppliers. Serves as “header” record for invoices. A given Order can have multiple invoices. Linked to SUPPLIER_INVOICE_DETAIL records which carry line item detail. Invoices uploaded from distributor reflect orders they have shipped and are then used to generate Customer invoices. The uploaded invoice data is also transferred to the Accounts Payable module of the Solomon IV software for corporate accounting/tracking. Customer invoices generated and recorded in this table are also transferred to the Accounts Receivable module.

Column (field) Field Characteristics &
Name Description Comment Indexing
INTERNAL_INVOICE Internal, system Insures unique
ID generated invoice invoice
identifier identification in
case of similar
supplier invoicing
schemes/numbers
ORDER Order number
which the invoice is
a shipment/bill for.
SUPPLIER_INVOICE Invoice identifier Uploaded invoice
from supplier data
SUPPLIER_INVOICE Date of/on supplier
DATE invoice that was
uploaded
SUPPLIER_INVOICE Time that supplier Invoice time may
TIME invoice was not appear in
uploaded supplier database.
AP_DATE Date supplier
invoice data posted
to AP tables
AP_TIME Time supplier
invoice data was
posted to AP tables
CUSTOMER_INVOICE Invoice ID Presence indicates
generated by nightly that nightly process
process to bill has run, generating
customer for this separate invoice
shipment number.
CUSTOMER_INVOICE Date customer
DATE invoice generated
by nightly process
CUSTOMER_INVOICE Time of customer
TIME invoice generation
process.
AR_DATE Time
SHIPMENT Shipment document May be separate ID Index on this field
number from invoice no. for packing slip data
retrieval.
SHIP_VIA Shipping method;
e.g., UPS Ground

[0136] Table Name—

[0137] INTERNAL_INVOICE_SHIP DETAIL

[0138] Table Description and function—This table contains shipment information for the shipment covered by the Internal_Invoice. There is one record for each carton comprising the shipment covered by the Invoice. It is linked to the Internal_Invoice table.

Column (field) Name Comment
INTERNAL_INVOICE_ID
SHIP_CARTON_ID Together with invoice id,
comprises unique record ID
TRACKER_NO

[0139] Table Name—

[0140] SUPPLIER_INVOICE_DETAIL

[0141] Table Description and function—this table carries the line item level detail for invoices uploaded from the linked supplier/distributor. Some line item level detail is used to update Order data to support quick order status inquiries and track back-ordered items.

Column (field) Name Description Comment
INTERNAL_INVOICE_ID Identifier for internal
invoice no
INTERNAL_INVOICE_LINE Line number for internal Together with Internal
NUMBER invoice Invoice identifier, forms
unique key
SHIPPED_PRODUCT Product shipped
SHIP_QUANTITY Quantity shipped
UNIT_PRICE Supplier's Unit price
UNIT_TAX Sales Tax (if any)
EXTENDED_PRICE Value = Ship Product only subtotal
qty * Unit_Price
LINE_TAX_TOTAL Value = Ship_Qty * Unit
Tax
LINE_TOTAL_AMOUNT EXTENDED_PRICE + Line
Tax_total

[0142] Table Name—

[0143] SUPPLIER_COST

[0144] Table Description and function—Stores prices to be paid to each Linked Supplier in the system. One record for each linked supplier and SKU. Permanent table. Activity logged in SUPPLIER_COST_MAINT_HISTORY table.

Column (field) Field Characteristics
Name Description Comment & Indexing

[0145] Table Name—

[0146] SUPPLIER_COST_MAINT_HISTORY

[0147] Table Description and function—records changes made to SUPPLIER_COST records. One record for each field changed during an update of a given record.

Column (field) Field Characteristics
Name Description Comment & Indexing

[0148] Table Name—

[0149] PRODUCT_MAINT_HISTORY

[0150] Table Description and function—records changes made to PRODUCTS table. One record for each field changed during an update of a given record.

Column (field) Field Characteristics
Name Description Comment & Indexing

[0151] Table Name—

[0152] PRODUCT_CLASS

[0153] Table Description and function—Identifies valid product classes; serves as a reference table.

Column (field) Name Description
PROD_CLASS_CODE Code for product class description
DESCRIPTION Text/descriptive name for product_class code

[0154] Table Name—

[0155] PRODUCT_GROUP

[0156] Table Description and function—Identifies valid product groups; serves as a reference table.

Column (field) Name Description
PRODUCT_GROUP_CODE Code for product group description
DESCRIPTION Text/descriptive name for Product
Group Code.

[0157] Table Name—

[0158] PRODUCT_LINE

[0159] Table Description and function—Identifies valid product lines; serves as a reference table.

Column (field) Name Description
PRODUCT_LINE_CODE Code for product line description
DESCRIPION Text/descriptive name for product line
code

[0160] Table Name—

[0161] CUSTOMER_INVENTORY_TRANSACTIONS

[0162] Table Description and function—transaction history table for activity altering data in Customer_Inventory table; one record for each change recorded; main use will be recording inventory activity, although transactions will be generated for changes to status, ROP, ROQ and Notes values, i.e., non-on-hand quantity values. Each transaction affects only one data field. Transaction code indicates what update/change activity was performed, and therefore which data field was updated.

Column (field)
Name Description Comment
TRAN_NO Unique identifier for each Functions like a
transaction; non significant check number.
TRAN_DATE Date transaction processed
TRAN_TIME Time transaction processed
TRAN_ID Code identifying transaction Values:
TBD
PRODUCT Product identifier of item
affected
QTY
CUSTOMER Customer whose inventory data
was updated/changed
USER_ID User performing transaction
BEFORE_VALUE Value of data field prior to
update action
AFTER_VALUE Value of data field after update
action

[0163] Table Name—

[0164] CONTACT_LOG

[0165] Table Description and function—this table accepts transactions from the consultant request function, enters and tracks them for followup and management purposes.

Column (field) Name Description
SALES_CONSULTANT_ID ID in Sales_Consultants table.
REQUEST_DATE Date customer initiated request
REQUEST_TIME Time customer initiated request

[0166] Table Name—

[0167] CUSTOMER_USERS

[0168] Table Description and function—This table stores information about each user at a customer's site. There are two classes of users, supervisor and staff. Only a user with supervisor rights can add new users. The web page “hard-wires” who the customer is so customer users are kept associated with the correct customer.

Column (field) Field Characteristics
Name Description Comment & Indexing

[0169] Table Name—SALES_CONSULTANTS

[0170] Table Description and function—This table stores data about each Sales Consultant. It is essentialy a reference table.

Column (field) Name Description
SALES_CONSULTANT_ID Unique identifier * record key
CONSULANT_SHORT_NAME Short name, nicknemame,
initials to be used
on screens, reports
CONSULTANT_FULL_FIRST_NAME First name of consultant
CONSULTANT_LAST_NAME Last name of consultant

[0171] It should be obvious to one skilled in the art that the present invention allows inventory tracking and management through a combination of manual, semi-automated, and automated means. The present invention also allows a manager to purchase in bulk and take advantage of promotions and other special offerings, thus reducing inventory costs. In addition, the present invention reduces the amount of inventory which must be kept on-hand by accurately modeling and predicting inventory needs. The present invention further provides customers with the ability to review new equipment, communicate with each other, and buy and sell excess inventory, refurbished equipment, and the like.

[0172] While the preferred embodiment and various alternative embodiments of the present invention have been disclosed and described in detail herein, it may be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope thereof, including applying the present invention to fields other than healthcare.

Referenced by
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Classifications
U.S. Classification705/28
International ClassificationG06Q10/00
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q30/0613, G06Q10/06, G06Q30/0601, G06Q10/087, G06Q10/0875
European ClassificationG06Q10/087, G06Q10/06, G06Q30/0613, G06Q10/0875, G06Q30/0601