April 18, 2016      3 min read

It’s not always easy for small business to survive and thrive in a competitive business world. Similarly, for start-ups looking to hit the ground running, there are a number of factors to consider. If your business is inventory-centric then inventory management is essential to consider. From inventory tracking and safety stock levels to assembly, purchasing and shipping, getting inventory management right can increase your chances of success. Let’s delve into some basic tips for small businesses and start-ups.

Choose the right software

The very first thing that any small or start-up business can do to ensure good inventory management is to find a good software platform. With a whole ton of recent innovation in cloud computing solutions, even businesses with very limited capital can have access to cutting-edge software for a monthly subscription.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is changing the way businesses access not only their software platforms but also their data. This is a great way to cut down on IT costs, as SaaS providers host the software at their end, as well as perform updates and upgrades.

Accurate tracking  

One of the key functions of inventory management is to track inventory across every node of the supply chain. The more accurate the tracking is, the better it is. Accurate inventory tracking is an essential part of efficient and cost-effective inventory management.

The best software solutions work in real-time, often with barcoding and mobile technology. This works to provide the most accurate and meaningful inventory management available.

Streamline and optimize from the start

Streamlining and optimization of inventory practices doesn’t need to be left until your business has matured. In conjunction with good inventory management software, these techniques can be utilized from the start, saving you both time and much-needed capital.

There is a wealth of information out there so it pays to do your research early. This way you can figure out which techniques will be most helpful to your business. If you’ve got a budget for this, consider hiring an inventory management consultant to get you started.

Perform regular manual stock counts

While the best software utilizes real-time stock accounting, the need for regular stock counts remains, especially if some of your products have a shelf life. Manual stock counts provide a way to reconcile what stock you really have with what stock you think you have. This is the only reliable way to check for obsolete, stolen or damaged stock.

Consider utilizing software that has integration possibilities

For small businesses in particular, a safeguard against complicated and wasteful processes is to choose inventory management software that has integration possibilities. If you will be using accounting, POS or warehouse management systems, look for integration options that will make life easier. In order to have a sustainable business, there needs to be some tangible reality of harmony between the different parts of your systems and processes.

Consider standardizing processes from the start

It’s very common, and understandable, for new or small businesses to arrive at best practice via trial and error. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but even better than this is to put in place some consciously realized standardization. Each process can be looked at in advance and mapped out for greater efficiency and process harmony.

Everything from the way orders are placed and stock is received, to how stock counts are carried out and sales are rung through can be assessed and standardized. While this may change over time, a plan in progress is better than no plan.

Organize your stock room or warehouse

A lot of money can get needlessly tied up or lost in the stock room or warehouse. It pays to organize this early. When well managed a warehouse can operate in a streamlined manner, helping to ensure smart use of inventory and cut down of stock wastage. For example, if there are products or parts that often get used together, then they need to be near each other in order to optimize processes.

Final thoughts

Both starting, and running a small business, can be a seriously challenging job. There are many factors to consider and many decisions to weigh up. All industries are competitive but with the right preparation and planning, success and sustainability are possible, and inventory management can help you get there.