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Inventory is one of the most crucial aspects of any business model. A close tab on the movement of inventory can make or break your business and that’s why entrepreneurs always emphasise on effective inventory management. While a few business owners do understand the significance and criticality of tracking inventory on a regular basis, some fail to realise its importance making their business fall through the unseen cracks.
Managing adequate stock is key for managing inventory successfully. Overstocking will lead to cash flow blockage and the additional cost for managing excess stock. On the other hand, understocking leads to loss of sale due to non-availability of stock at the right time. As a result, a business needs to implement inventory control so that the right product at the right place and the right time is available.
Inventory control helps the business in knowing the shortfall and quantities to be ordered considering the net stock available. Thus, it ensures that enough stocks are maintained to meet customer needs, at any point in time.
Before you can tackle effective inventory management, you'll need to understand exactly what inventory comprises. These are some of the many different types of inventory:
Here you'll find the 10 essential tips to effectively manage your inventory for increased profitability and cash flow management.
Categorizing your inventory into priority groups can help you understand which items you need to order more of and more frequently, and which are important to your business but may cost more and move more slowly. Experts typically suggest segregating your inventory into A, B and C groups. Items in the A group are higher-ticket items that you need fewer of. Items in the C category are lower-cost items that turn over quickly. The B group is what's in between: items that are moderately priced and move out the door more slowly than C items but more quickly than A items.
Make sure to keep records of the product information for items in your inventory. This information should include SKUs, barcode data, suppliers, countries of origin and lot numbers. You might also consider tracking the cost of each item over time so you're aware of factors that may change the cost, like scarcity and seasonality.
Some businesses do a comprehensive count once a year. Others do monthly, weekly or even daily spot checks of their fast-moving items. Regardless of the frequency, make it a point to physically count your inventory regularly to ensure it matches up with what you think you have.
An unreliable supplier can cause problems for your inventory. If you have a supplier that is habitually late with deliveries or frequently delays an order, it's time to take action. Discuss with your supplier and find out what the problem is. Be prepared to switch partners, or deal with uncertain stock levels and the possibility of running out of inventory as a result.
As a general rule, 80% of your profits come from 20% of your stock. Prioritize inventory management of this 20% of items. You should understand the complete sales lifecycle of these items, including how many you sell in a week or a month, and closely monitor them. These are the items that make you the most money; don't fall short in managing them.
It may seem like common sense to make sure incoming inventory is processed, but do you have a standard process that everyone follows, or does each employee receiving and processing incoming stock do it differently? Small discrepancies in how new stock is taken in could leave you scratching your head at the end of the month or year, wondering why your numbers don't align with your purchase orders. Make sure all staff that receives stock does it the same way, and that all boxes are verified, received and unpacked together, accurately counted, and checked for accuracy.
Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but it goes beyond simply adding up sales at the end of the day. You should understand, on a daily basis, what items you sold and how many, and update your inventory totals. But beyond that, you'll need to analyze this data. Do you know when certain items sell faster or drop off? Is it seasonal? Is there a specific day of the week when you sell certain items? Do some items almost always sell together? Understanding not just your sales totals but the broader picture of how items sell is important to keeping your inventory under control.
Some vendors offer to do inventory reorders for you. On the surface, this seems like a good thing – you save on staff and time by letting someone else manage the process for at least a few of your items. But remember that your vendors don't have the same priorities you do. They are looking to move their items, while you're looking to stock the items that are most profitable for your business. Take the time to check inventory and order restocks of all your items yourself.
If you're a small enough business, managing the first eight things on this list manually, with spreadsheets and notebooks, is doable. But as your business grows, you'll spend more time on inventory than you do on your business, or risk your stock getting out of control. Good inventory management software makes all these tasks easier. Before you choose a software solution, make sure you understand what you need, that it provides the analytics important to your business and that it's easy to use.
Inventory management software isn't the only technology that can help you manage stock. Things like mobile scanners and POS systems can help you stay on track. When investing in technology, prioritize systems that work together. Having a POS system that can't communicate with your inventory management software isn't the end of the world, but it might cost you extra time to transfer the data from one system to another, making it easy to end up with inaccurate inventory counts.