Inventory management can be a puzzle for many businesses, particularly those with large and varied stock catalogues. Keeping track of thousands of SKUs can be tricky as there are simply so many moving parts. In a stock-based business, inventory is probably one of your business’ biggest assets, so it’s important to manage inventory as efficiently as you can. Here are four key tips to optimise inventory control.
Real-Time Inventory Control
Many businesses carry out regular stock takes to find out how much inventory they have in stock. A stocktake is expensive and disruptive and typically involves shutting down the entire business for part of a day or paying staff extra to count stock outside of business hours. Although an annual stocktake is required for tax purposes and to sense check inventory data, there is no reason why a business needs to carry out a stocktake just to know what inventory is in its possession. Rather, many businesses have invested in real-time inventory control systems that perpetually track inventory that is received, used and sold to keep a running total of the business’ stock. Tracking inventory perpetually instead of periodically means that inventory totals are always accurate and can be queried in a matter of seconds.
Phase Out Spreadsheets
Like the clipboards that preceded them, spreadsheets have long been a familiar friend for bookkeeping and inventory control staff. Spreadsheets are versatile and easy to use at a basic level, but they’re not designed for recording and analysing fluctuating inventory levels over time. Spreadsheets are prone to data entry error, lack accountability mechanisms and typically only support one user at a time. Many businesses are increasingly looking to specialised inventory management software as the user experience is superior, reducing staff stress during busy periods and improving engagement with inventory control. Specialised software makes it easy to quickly report inventory levels and performance, making it easier for key personnel to make informed decisions.
Make Use of Mobile Technology
Online inventory management software has ensured that inventory control is more responsive than ever before. Deploying mobile technology in the warehouse makes it possible for warehouse staff to continuously update inventory and logistics information as product is received and dispatched, while equipping sales staff in the field with a mobile device and internet access means they can log orders faster, preventing stock-outs and reducing lead times. Unleashed Software has a mobile sales app that your business’ sales team can use to view inventory and make sales on the go.
Use Inventory Data to Forecast
Predicting customer demand and supplier bottlenecks months in advance is a precarious exercise, which leads many businesses to avoid making forecasts altogether. Although decisively forecasting inventory requirements is not usually possible, well constructed forecasts allow a business to identify likely pressure points and develop the flexibility to scale up when necessary. Perpetual inventory data is much more useful for forecasting than periodic stock takes – having more frequent snapshots of the business’ inventory makes it easier to identify inventory trends.
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.