Inventory management is an integral part of running any business — a management system that isn’t optimized can damage efficiency and make it harder to complete orders. If you’re concerned about inventory management and optimization, here are four tips to help get you started.
1. Analytics and Machine Learning
Analytics are a vital tool, regardless of the kind of inventory you’re managing. Analytics help you track sales, profitability and inventory movement — among other things — and allow you to make decisions about the future of your business. Basic analytics can help you keep track of things like items that are currently in stock, items that are on order and the current status of your inventory.
Machine learning and predictive algorithms can take analytics to the next level by using computers to analyze the information. Once you collect it, you can use this information to make predictions about the current and future state of your inventory. The more information the system has, the more accurate your predictions will be. It can also be used to suggest purchases to help your current inventory keep up with changing demand, without leaving items sitting on the shelf for extended periods.
An increased focus on analytics can help to optimize your inventory management without changing your current operating procedures dramatically.
2. Temperature Controlled Storage
Depending on the kind of inventory you’re moving, climate-controlled storage might be a perk — or it might be a necessity.
For food, medicine or other materials that need to stay at a certain temperature, a climate-controlled storage unit can help to keep your inventory within that range, regardless of exterior conditions.
Even if your product doesn’t need to be climate-controlled, being able to control the temperature and humidity inside your storage facility can prevent your inventory from growing mold or mildew, which is a definite risk if your warehouse or storage facility is in a humid environment. A climate-controlled storage unit can also help you keep out things like pests, dirt and dust that could damage the inventory.
Upgrading to temperature-controlled storage might require a substantial investment, but it can significantly simplify and streamline your inventory management processes — making it worth the investment in the long run.
3. Smart Alerts
When there are unexpected changes in your inventory or supply chain, they can upset the flow of product both into and out of your warehouse or facility. Whether you’re late in placing a purchase order, your order is delayed, or you received an incorrect order, mistakes like this can make it hard to meet your quotas or ensure you can fill any orders received in the meantime.
Smart workflow alerts can send you an alert — either via email or phone — the instant something happens to upset your workflow. This will give you the tools necessary to stay on top of problems and keep your supply chain moving smoothly, while also ensuring consumer confidence is still high.
This extends to proof of delivery for consumer orders, too. Some systems even allow the delivery service to take pictures of the package to prove it was delivered.
4. Cargo, Inventory and Sales Tracking
Everyone loves being able to track their packages when it comes to online orders — as soon as the shipping label is created, customers track their packages from the point they leave the warehouse to the moment they arrive at their doors. Why not do the same thing with your inventory?
Cargo tracking allows you to track components that are on the way to your warehouse or factory, just like customers can track the items they’ve ordered. Inventory tracking will enable you to track individual pieces within your warehouse, either by scanning each piece into an assigned bin or attaching an RFID tracking chip to each item in your inventory.
RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification, allows you to keep track of your inventory in real-time. It does require the use of hand scanners or other tools to read the RFID chip, but you can also synchronize it with your in-house inventory management system to make sure your in-stock numbers are always correct.
This can also be helpful on the customer-facing side of things — it allows you to be transparent about your current inventory. Consumers are more likely to place an order if they are sure the product they’ve ordered is in stock and will be sent out, rather than waiting for a back-ordered item that could take weeks or months to arrive.
Prioritize Your Inventory Management Processes
Inventory management is the backbone of most businesses. You need to be able to manage your inventory smoothly — both incoming and outgoing — to make the most out of your business, regardless of the industry you’re a part of. Some of these steps, such as upgrading to climate-controlled storage units, may take a more significant investment, while you can implement others without much change to your standard operating procedures.
Whichever way you choose to go, one thing remains certain — optimizing your inventory management will help you keep your business running smoothly.
If you haven’t already started implementing inventory management optimization practices, now is the perfect time to start. If you’re starting a new business or opening a new facility, the best idea would be to start from the ground up with an optimized management system already in place. Training existing employees isn’t difficult, but it isn’t as efficient as starting with a well-thought-out system already in place.
Guest Blogger – Megan Ray Nichols
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance technical writer. She also runs her own blog, Schooled By Science, a blog dedicated to making complicated scientific topics easier to understand. You can follow Megan on Twitter @nicholsrmegan to keep up with the latest news.
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