Inventory control is quite possibly the most important aspect of the supply chain. The inventory manager acts similarly to a heart, pumping inventory throughout the system. If things move too fast or too slow, problems arise, and the whole business suffers. Maintaining the correct speed – or flow – of inventory proves to be difficult mainly because it is subject to change often. The information accompanying the goods that make up the inventory can be quite a lot to remember and organize.
Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken to simplify inventory control. These actions will help a warehouse manager corral the inventory, but it should be noted that they are not permanent. Businesses, technology, and inventory are all constantly changing; it would be unwise to think otherwise. However, the following measures can be reapplied year after year in order to increase inventory control.
In-Depth Management of Safety Stock
Many businesses use a sort of classification system to divide/categorize the products in an inventory. These businesses will then use the categories to determine the proper safety stock for each item. This may seem clever, but it greatly limits the control a manager has over inventory. If a business expands the classification system to include numerous product characteristics, it will be able to better understand the ebb and flow of specific items.
As a result, businesses gain a much better understanding of how much safety stock is needed for each product. This process will eliminate unnecessary stock, and it can also help determine where more stock is required. Inventory control is much easier when the manager understands the specifics of each product.
Hold Suppliers Accountable
Warehouses are often at the mercy of their suppliers. If a supplier is late, or doesn’t deliver the correct amount of a certain item, the business will suffer as a whole. It is up to inventory managers to make sure everything is delivered as promised. Most warehouses have ways to track inbound supplies. If a certain supplier is not meeting expectations, it is up to the inventory manager to decide what to do. The best course of action is to work with the supplier, and settle any problems.
Traceability allows the inventory manager to track all of the products that pass through his/her company. Traceability helps with inventory control because it gives a clearer picture of a product’s current location. In the event of a recall, knowing exactly where a product is can save a lot of time and money. In addition to speeding up the supply chain, traceability gives the manager more control over how the customer sees the business.
The best way to maximize traceability is through the use of barcoding. In addition to neutralizing human error, barcodes can be used to easily track products as they move through the supply chain. A barcoding system can let an inventory manager know where an item is located, and how much of that item is in stock.
Keep Technology Up to Date
Some types of software have the ability to do something no human can – look at the inventory as a whole. Technology is more important than ever, and it is almost impossible to get through a day without relying on some form of it. Technology is already being used to speed up many stages of the supply chain, and inventory control is more complex than ever. Inventory optimization involves taking control of every aspect of the inventory. In order for that to happen, a business can also employ the use of a barcoding system. Although inventory control systems can’t hold suppliers accountable in the way a human can, it can do many things better than people. It can’t hurt to update your business for the sake of inventory control.
Maintaining control of inventory isn’t a task for the faint of heart. Inventory is always changing, and many of the things that worked in the past might not work in the future. These four steps should continue to work, but they may need reapplied every few years or so.