Though I can give you a list of inventory management best practices, the reality is, not all of these practices are going to be the best for your business.
Inventory management differs from business to business, from department to department, from product to product — they depend heavily on what you already do, what you have the ability to do, what your employees have the ability to do, what your employees have the time to do, and what your customers’ wants and needs are.
Naturally, this amounts to hundreds of possible best practices that might work well for one business – but not another.
That being said, there are a few things we can say for sure are not a good idea in the modern age.
For example, something like half of all business owners still use pen and paper to track inventory.
Pen and paper is probably fine if you’re taking notes or sketching out a project or a solution for a client, but it’s not going to hold up long term as an inventory management practice for your business.
After all, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably trying to learn how to make the leap — how to integrate modern automations and software into your existing business and flesh out a true inventory management system.
That’s a good thing, and as long as you try to keep in mind the unique needs of your business, this can only serve to help you in the future, especially as you grow.
You need to put processes into place now to keep things moving smoothly and the way you want them to, before the entire system gets out of your hands as you focus completely on the work of running the business as a whole.
Inventory Management Best Practices — Modern Software Is Your Friend
The year may be 2017, but many of these practices have been in use for a very long time — we’re just a lot better at it these days through the use of software.
Obviously, we recommend our own software, Now Commerce, for manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors who need B2B online ordering capabilities for their customers. One of the primary ways we help our customers to grow and become more efficient is to have counts managed automatically by integrating orders directly into QuickBooks, which means that stock is always known.
How powerful would that be for your business – always knowing exactly what you have in stock, and your customers always knowing if their order can be processed exactly when they place it?
That being said, the majority of these best practices are amplified by software and systems. A good warehouse management system, combined with products like Pick-to-Light or Pick-to-Voice, can make a world of difference to inventory management. The better that your ecommerce software integrates with your other systems – such as QuickBooks, and your WMS – the better that your entire process will perform.
So, here are some inventory management suggestions and best practices:
- Decide between a push, pull, or hybrid inventory management strategy: decide if you want to order/manufacture to fill anticipated demand (push) or if you want to order/manufacture products in response to customer orders (pull) or combine the two (hybrid).
- Decide if you need to implement other systems to further manage the flow of product: which software or technology will be needed to streamline your process? I’m talking about ERPs, MRPs, WMSs, etc.
- Implement quality control/quality assurance practices: procedures for examining product at different stages, along with protocol to handle any damage, imperfections, or other issues. Make sure to document your quality control practices – this ensures your entire team knows exactly what to do and what to be looking for.
- Implement review systems and/or cycle counting: will you continuously review stock and replenish product or will you do so periodically? Will you set minimum stock levels or will you implement just-in-time/just-in-sequence systems to get product constantly out the door? Will you automate these processes? Will your counts be visual, part of an ongoing tally, or will you use a click sheet? Will you implement a barcode and reader system?
Now, you can go on and on with this kind of stuff, but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to list, in great detail, all the different inventory management best practices around as things vary so much from one business to another.
The key is to evaluate your business, to learn the general principles, and to apply them in a way that makes the most sense, that meshes well with your existing processes, and that involves your employees and empowers them to help make the new system work.
After all, without their buy in, you can implement all the processes you want, but they’ll never be as efficient as they need to be — for that, you need everyone on board.
One way to get them on board is to automate the tedious portion of inventory management, making their lives easier.
We’ve talked about how much a simple piece of software can improve the lives of your employees before – just click here to read about it.
Plain and simple, your employees won’t help you improve your inventory management if they don’t have a reason to care. That reason could be something as basic as just getting home on time – and can you blame them?
Learn How Now Commerce Can Help You Automate Portions of Your Inventory Management
The more you can automate, streamline, and improve your inventory management , the better off your business will be. In addition to improving how your back end inventory management takes place, using a tool like the ordering portal that Now Commerce provides allows you to offer ecommerce to your customers, as well.
Not sure if ecommerce is right for your business? We created an ebook to help you weigh the pros and cons of offering online ordering for your business - to download, just click below!