November 18, 2019      1 min read

If optimal inventory control is imperative to maintaining a successful, sustainable and profitable business, then it’s obvious that capable inventory managers play a crucial role in achieving this.

Inventory managers are responsible for leading a team of workers as they manage the flow of inventory stock in, through and out of the business. To do their jobs effectively, great inventory managers need to have a general understanding of nearly every aspect of a business and need to know and follow best practice inventory control.

In addition, an inventory manager is responsible for hiring staff, developing schedules, monitoring stock levels and knowing when to replenish inventory stock, ensuring that there are no stockouts and that every stock item gets to its destination on time.

Great inventory managers

To be effective in their roles, great inventory managers need to possess the following skills and expertise to achieve optimal inventory control:

Leadership

Effective leadership is a necessary skill for inventory managers who are tasked with the hiring, firing and management of employee teams. They need to lead their teams and overcome all the relative challenges this entails, and to also themselves take direction to work effectively as part of a larger team.

Most inventory managers will need to work with other functional teams such as marketing and sales departments and procurement managers to organise the efficient flow of inventory in and out of the business.

Keeping stock

Inventory stock is crucial to a business’ long-term success, customers can’t buy what you don’t have and when they can’t find an item in-store or online, they will generally go to your competitors to get it.

It is extremely important to be able to connect inventory to sales because companies can do major damage to their reputations selling items they don’t have. Customers are particularly less forgiving if this happens around important peak holiday periods.

Inventory managers, therefore, not only have to ensure that the right stock is available at the right time, but that it is also in the right place. Having the stock is only part of the job, it’s just as important to ensure it is on the shelves where it needs to be.

Product knowledge

It is important for inventory managers to understand what products they are managing. That knowledge doesn’t necessarily need to come with total expertise in each area of operations but a great inventory manager will always try to understand the types of products they sell, and any processes involved in making them.

Beyond industry-specific knowledge, inventory managers should understand the essential difference between the types of inventory stock beyond raw, in-progress and finished goods. Such as the subtle differences between various assembly goods, or those groups of components needed to assemble another item, family groups of similar items and bulk packaging of multiple items. This knowledge can play a big role in how inventory stock is approached and tracked.

Great inventory managers will also keep abreast of industry news so they can spot any supply and demand issues or relevant trends that may impact inventory scheduling.

Inventory forecast capabilities

Of primary importance for an inventory manager is tracking inventory flows to help predict future needs. Great inventory managers understand the importance of using software solutions to understand and track the constant highs and lows of product demand. Including seasonal or holiday peaks and working with marketing and sales teams to track promotional activities to ensure there is enough inventory stock on hand.

A great inventory manager will be constantly abreast of inventory volumes, aware of inventory stock that is running low or overstocked and employ the correct steps to address the issue.

Supplier relationship management

Some companies will have separate purchasing departments that negotiate and sign contracts with suppliers. However, for many smaller companies and SMEs, that responsibility falls to the inventory manager. Meaning inventory managers are responsible for finding reliable suppliers, ordering goods and ensuring the product received is the product the company wanted.

To provide the business with the goods needed to operate and be profitable inventory managers need to know who the suppliers are and to build strong relationships with them. This is not just good practice, but it also facilitates better communication, site visits and collaborative problem solving where circumstances indicate potential issues that may impact supply needs.

Inventory cost analysis

Inventory control is more than simply tracking inventory stock. Capable inventory managers understand the importance of factoring in the company’s ability to store, move, and sell that inventory stock.

Inventory can’t be moved without somewhere to move it to and tracking assets such as storage spaces, employee capacity and the tools and equipment involved in moving and transporting inventory will enable significant improvement to inventory scheduling and associated needs.

Recordkeeping and documentation

Inventory managers are responsible for managing inventory documentation and accurately recording the quantity, quality, type, style and any other characteristics of the inventory stock to have a clear understanding of what is and is not available at any given time.

Precise inventory documentation helps a company avoid shrinkage due to damage, loss or theft because the inventory manager has current, up-to-date stock figures. Detailed documentation improves financial reporting accuracy and can also be valuable for marketing purposes or when determining strategies to effectively move inventory stock.

A capable inventory manager

Ultimately, an inventory manager has responsibility for ensuring an organisation has the right quantity of stock on hand to meet customer needs while avoiding overstocking inventory items, which ties up cash and creates storage issues.

Effective inventory control is critical to the success of any business, and as such it’s vitally important that companies hire a capable inventory manager.

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