Ultimately, the goal of inventory management is to match supply with demand. However, establishing and maintaining the perfect balance can seem virtually impossible. Insufficient or surplus stock, high demand or oversupply, the seesawing effects of supply and demand are a major challenge when trying to effectively manage your inventory stock.
The impact of omni-channel markets also present new challenges for inventory control and distribution centre operations. With consumer demand for faster and better service putting additional pressure on supply chains, anything your website says you have for sale must be on hand and ready to ship.
So how do you keep just enough inventory stock to service customers promptly and fill orders without having too much product left depreciating on the shelf?
Accurate inventory control is critical for omni-channel fulfilment and direct-to-consumer consignments. A real-time, automated order processing system can guarantee orders reach your warehouse within seconds of your customers placing their order.
Automation also improves inventory accuracy and is the leading resource that managers are now adopting for their company’s inventory control, distribution and logistics. Automating inventory management benefits your business through greater mobility and ease of use, and it can integrate with other systems, providing better transparency and improved workflows.
Automated inventory management systems have the advantage of improving visibility of inventory, they update in real time and are easy to access from any location. Additionally, they provide an opportunity for a coordinated approach across functional areas from purchasing and production to operations and sales.
Businesses should look to identify ways of streamlining internal practises that help to improve productivity. Are there any steps within your inhouse processes that can be reduced to create a leaner operating environment in your organisation?
This could be a complete reorganisation of the warehouse for more efficient picking or simply eliminating one step in your approval process. Are your employees continually completing a task that could be undertaken more efficiently by an automated inventory management system?
Inventory control requires specific job skills. The overall responsibility for inventory control should be assigned to the person employed or trained in inventory management. Ideally however, all staff should be trained and familiar with the company’s inventory system.
With automated and cloud-based inventory management systems, staff training is relatively simple and ensures an easy to control, consistent approach to inventory management. Proper training improves the organisations ability to keep up with orders, check stock and track inventory.
A balanced inventory is essential to delivering good customer service to customers purchasing through any channel. SMEs seldom generate the volume necessary to negotiate daily deliveries or a rapid response from suppliers meaning they often need to hold excess stock to avoid stock outs.
The analytical capacity of inventory management technology can factor in customer buying habits and seasonal sales histories, helping your company to forward plan and buy only what inventory stock is currently required.
Technology is also a dynamic enabler of new consumption and delivery methods for many organisations. This is helping to create a seamless approach that provides a cohesive customer experience across all channels.
Matching inventory closer to demand is critical to enable rapid respond to cross-channel fulfilment options, including online purchases, store pick ups and same-day or next-day deliveries.
Consumers are continually seeking cheaper goods and more convenient ways of procuring them. It is imperative for managers and business owners to achieve their most optimal balance between supply and demand. You can’t deliver what you don’t have.