Supply chains are directly affected by supply and demand of markets. This holds true for seasonal goods but also peaks and dips throughout the business year, such as an increase in purchases over the holiday season and lower in off peak seasons. Food and beverage companies in particular need to be looking closely at inventory stock to prepare due to the largely perishable nature of goods. Forecasting is a vital tool that can either sweeten profits or devour them, and accuracy is key component. Stocking too many of items such as butter and cream can result in wastage, while shortages can send buyers to competitors. Here we look at six essential things to look out for when managing seasonal supply chains.
Close scrutiny of your business’ Sales and Operation Planning practices can help assess your ability to meet inventory stock demand fluctuations. This coupled with analysing data from past seasons, looking specifically at trends in data, is important to get a more accurate picture. When it comes to perishable goods, you must also factor in use by expiration dates, shelf life, and waste.
Profits and Forecasting
A best practice is specifically honing in on forecasting and tracking efforts on the key items from which your business reaps your largest profits. Usually the Pareto principle holds: 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your inventory stock. Fine tuning efforts here first will yield greater returns as opposed to trying to micro manage every item with pinpoint accuracy.
Employment in the supply chain can fluctuate due to the complexities of the markets. Seasonal employment can create a major obstacle because these workers in specific industries can only be employed for short periods at a time. The key to effective supply chain management throughout the seasonal season is to prepare for fluctuations throughout the year. This can be done by ensuring there is enough manpower to function effectively and having processes in place for peaks and dips. The challenge is always going to be maintaining a trained workforce that can be deployed effectively within these peak times.
Low cost models that rely on offshore producers characteristically require longer lead times. During seasonal fluctuations, adding short-term vendors with close proximity gives you the ability to fill last-minute orders and ensure Just-in-Time processes or production shipments flow relatively effortlessly. Although this may incur an extra cost, this will often offset the losses you would sustain from shortages. It has been proven better to reduce your margins temporarily to maintain a profitable customer than losing them to the competition.
Manual processes are prone to human errors and arduous, requiring significant employee time and effort. Automated processes and tools like inventory management, electronic data interchange and barcode scanning can help your business track best-selling items more closely. This can reduce the mistakes that inevitably occur with manual counts and data.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.