Major businesses have reaped the benefits of specialised inventory management systems since the 1970s. Small and medium sized businesses, such as niche market food and beverage producers, have historically been unable to benefit from advances in inventory management technology, such as barcoding and the development of manufacturing inventory management systems. Online inventory management software has made it possible for inventory managers in smaller businesses to improve their inventory management capabilities. Let’s look at three ways that inventory management software can benefit an artisan food or beverage business.
For a growing business, running out of inventory could be a critical mistake. If you are an energy bar producer, for example, your customers are likely ‘on the go’ and short on time. In a world where customers have an almost confusing number of choices in any category of products, your customers are unlikely to wait for your product to come into stock. Running out of inventory simply means missed sales. Understocking also means failing to meet the expectations of existing, loyal customers, both supermarkets and individual grocery shoppers.
Online inventory management software simplifies the process of keeping stock levels in balance; real time stock counting and reporting makes it easy to see how much of a given product you have in stock, and integration with ordering systems makes it easy to know exactly how much stock you’ll need in the near future.
Determining the ingredient mix for a new product can be an iterative process, especially where food technologists and accountants are trying to balance flavour and price. This tension has become particularly important as food businesses are experimenting with more complex flavour profiles and trying out new ingredients. In the 1990s, snack bars generally consisted of simple ingredients such as oats, chocolate, sugar and nuts. More recently, snack bar producers have responded to customer demand for high quality, natural ingredients such as carob chips, shredded coconut and chia seeds.
For a boutique snack bar producer, managing the inventory requirements of several diverse production lines can be a major challenge. Most inventory management software products have manufacturing inventory management modules such as Bill of Materials and Assembly functions. These tools allow the team designing the product to enter product specifications into the inventory management software; when orders come in for a given mix of products, the inventory management software can use these recipes to work out what inventory is required to fill those orders.
For many health conscious consumers, it is of paramount importance that food manufacturers know where every ingredient has come from. If something goes wrong, such as an ingredient recall, inventory management software makes it very easy to trace which batches of product have been contaminated by the affected ingredient. In a food safety scare, the ability for your business to respond quickly and decisively to customer concerns is likely to affect customer perceptions of your products long after the crisis has passed.
With many innovative Australian food producers turning to specialised ingredients from overseas markets, there is a risk of ethical issues relating to certain commodities affecting a company’s image. Traceability functions in manufacturing inventory management software make it easy to document where each ingredient has come from and what products those ingredients have been used in. This is especially important if, for example, your company offers both fair trade and regular product lines.