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The 5 Basics of Stock Control & How to Improve it

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If you are considering optimising your inventory stock system, then read on for an overview of the basics you’ll need to address. Here we will cover:

  1. What is stock control
  2. What are the methods of stock control
  3. Choosing the right software
  4. The inventory ordering process

What is stock control?

Stock control, also known as inventory control, is the process of maintaining the appropriate quantity of stock, so a business can meet customer demand without delay while keeping the costs of holding stock to a minimum.

Businesses dealing with physical products need stock to sell. The purpose of stock control is to make sure the business always has enough stock for their customers, while balancing the amount spent on acquiring and storing stock. Though this might seem simple in theory, it can involve factors outside of the business’ control such as the weather, economic downturns, union action and more.

Stock control is important because it can be the difference between loss and profit. Done right, it keeps costs down while increasing your profitability on every sale.

What are the methods of stock control?

There are many stock control methods, including:

  • Just-in-time (JIT)
  • FIFO
  • Economic Order Quantity
  • Vendor-managed inventory
  • Batch control

Regardless of which method you use, you need to have a stock control system in place.

Stock control systemsStock control systems range from the traditional pen and paper to the modern cloud software.

What is a stock control system?

A stock control system, also known as an inventory control system, incorporates all the functions are associated with inventory management and maintenance. It should encompass everything from purchasing, product tracking, and product turnover, to storage inputs, shipping and receiving and re-ordering products.

The most basic, manual system is writing it down in a stock book, on a stock card or using spreadsheets. While this works for a business just starting out, it cannot be sustained as a business grows. For that, you need an automated stock control system.

Features of a stock control system

An automated inventory control system helps businesses maintain a competitive edge and maximises productivity. An automated system should:

  • Support real-time, perpetual inventory tracking. This means keeping track of inventory as it moves; you don’t want to run your business using outdated stock figures as it can harm your supply chain
  • Support sales and shipping. You’ll want a system that can generate fulfilment documentation such as picking and packing notes, and invoices
  • Support procurement. Features such as automated reordering and supplier price lists reduce friction in the purchasing process
  • Integrate with other programs. If you’re looking for maximum efficiency and accuracy, make sure your chosen system integrates with your CRM, ERP, accounting or other management systems
  • Generate useful reports. Important types of inventory reports include inventory summaries and totals, transaction reports and order history

Choosing stock control software

Now that you know what to look out for in your inventory control system, you need to decide what software works best for your business.

Talk to the relevant people in your business, then come up with a checklist of features you want. It may include the following:

  • Ability to use multiple currencies
  • Ability to cover multiple warehouses
  • Can adapt to your business as it grows
  • Serial/Batch tracking
  • Support multiple users at once

Growing businesses should look to cloud software for stock control. There are many benefits to having your business in the cloud. Businesses that have scaled their business efficiently with cloud-based software include:

  • Traders Warehouse, a UK-based electronic security equipment distributor
  • Montana Colors AU, the leading supplier of graffiti art products in Australia
  • Good Buzz, kombucha maker and retailer based in New Zealand
  • La Tortilleria, makers and suppliers of authentic Mexican corn tortillas, tortilla chips in Australia
  • Seven Bro7hers Brewery, UK-based brewery run by seven brothers who all share a passion for beer

The stock ordering process

Getting the stock ordering process right is an important part of effective stock control. When reviewing your stock ordering it’s recommended that you:

1. Stick to a single inventory control system

It is important to ascertain from the beginning what type of inventory system would best suit your business. The two options are periodic systems or perpetual systems, of which the latter is highly recommended for accuracy and ease of use.

2. Review current inventory

You need to determine what you have on hand and its value – including finished goods and raw materials. Look at your sales reports to identify your best sellers, which are making the most gross margin, and which items are slow-moving and old.

3. Determine your ideal stock levels

Now you need to identify stock you always need and decide on what your maximum and minimum stock levels are for each item; it’s also important to determine the minimum re-order level for each item. Once you’ve identified the parameters, it’s easier to know what you have to work with.

You’ll also need to keep accurate stock records and make sure they match what you actually have on hand with a stocktake.

4. Constantly review inventory control

Ask yourself how stock management impacts the other areas of your business. Consider:

  • Monitoring inventory metrics. One way to tell how well your current process is working is to look at the stock turn rate
  • Reviewing your purchasing patterns. Purchasing should be based on sales history and demand forecasting
  • Ordering less stock more frequently. This can improve liquidity without reducing sales
  • Consider the impact of marketing and promotion. Before launching a sales promotion, make sure you have enough stock to meet an increase in demand
  • Having a back-up plan if items don’t sell as well as you wanted it to. Regardless of whether you return it to suppliers or donate it, make sure you know how to dispose of excess stock quickly
  • Reviewing your sales policies. Your sales team can strategically sell fast-moving items and clear slow-moving items
  • Storing your items more efficiently. Correct warehousing techniques are essential for best practice. Make picking and packing streamlined and efficient by storing slow-moving products at the back of the warehouse, and fast-moving goods close to the front where they are more readily accessible

Stock control in a nutshell

These are just some of the many aspects of stock control that should be considered. It is a good idea to start how you intend to carry on, that is, by implementing an inventory management software system that is expertly designed to facilitate excellent stock control.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

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.

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