Improve Your Financial Health with Better Inventory Control

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Small business owners may underestimate the importance of good inventory management. However, inventory management can be make-or-break when it comes to financial growth and long-term financial health. In this article, we explain how business owners can manage inventory to improve financial health.

What does inventory management have to do with financial health?

In essence, the more products the business can sell, the better off it will be financially. What is the key to selling more product? While the intuitive answer to this question may be to ensure customer demand is high, this doesn’t necessarily capture the entire picture.

In order to sell more product, a business must have the product on hand to begin with. That is, the business must have the right products in the right place at the right time in order to meet demand, sell the goods, and make a good return on the money expended to that carry that inventory in the first place. Essentially, the business needs to have a strong inventory management plan in place.

So now the question becomes: how can businesses stock the right type of inventory, and the right amount? The answer to this is good inventory management, which involves a number of factors a business owner must consider.

There is a positive correlation between the quality of a company’s inventory control and its financial performance. Many financial ratios incorporate inventory values to measure aspects of a business’ financial health. For example:

  • Inventory turnover ratio helps a business to plan and to more accurately forecast the cash necessary to reinvest in inventory stock based on past sales performance. It also helps to identify any underperforming product lines that are tying up cash and taking up space. Identifying these slow-moving products means you can reduce order quantities or discontinue entirely and replace with better-performing products.
  • The average days to sell ratio is a measure of the time it takes a company to buy or create inventory stock and convert it into a sale. It alerts business owners to the average length of time, in days, it takes to sell each inventory item. The importance of this ratio is based on the ‘time is money’ adage and the opportunity costs of tying up capital in holding inventory stock.
  • Holding costs are incurred storing and maintaining inventory stock and include such costs as insurance, warehousing, security and any associated equipment and labour costs. They are an important cost to monitor when making inventory decisions.

Key performance indicators

Many KPIs relate to the movement of inventory stock, such as fulfilment cycle time, order accuracy, on-time delivery and cost per order. When businesses fail to track and measure performance, they fail to identify problems. It is difficult to manage inventory levels if you don’t know how quickly inventory stock is moving through your organisation. By failing to track fill rates it is impossible to know how well you are meeting customer needs.

Monitoring and understanding inventory ratios enhance overall inventory control, improving the company’s performance and profitability. Take, for example, companies like Dell and Toyota who are considered leaders in the area of total quality management. Utilising inventory control practices such as just-in-time processes, zero waste and lean management, has in turn been credited with making these companies market leaders in their respective fields.

The effect of inventory control on financial statements

Poor inventory control has a cascading effect on financial reporting. Errors in calculating inventory will impact the costs of goods sold (COGS) and income and profit results.

Inventory costing can directly affect cashflow because a business using LIFO will have higher COGS and would be more representative of the current economic situation. Reported revenue and will therefore be more accurate, providing a better indicator for forecasting. If, however, a business uses FIFO when prices and inventories are both rising, COGS would be low with a higher net income, resulting in higher taxes and lower cashflow.

Inventory control has a big impact on the inventory line item of the balance sheet. The inventory line item not only reflects the cost of inventory but also any costs directly or indirectly incurred to prepare an item for sale. These costs include the initial purchase price of that item as well as freight, inwards goods receipt, storage, maintenance, insurance, taxes and any other associated costs.

Any changes to inventory or incorrectly recorded balances will result in the value of assets and the owner’s equity being incorrectly reported on the balance sheet. It is important, therefore, to optimise inventory control to ensure that the inventory reported on your financial statements is accurate, giving a true representation of your financial health for decision-making, reporting and taxation purposes.

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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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