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Inventory Management: your business' backbone

19 April 2016

Inventory management tips

Inventory management isn't about the storage and shipping of goods. It's an essential function with a broad impact across the business, from the warehouse floor to customer service, product development to finance.

Get it right and your customers (and your CFO) will be particularly thankful; get it wrong and you're certain to feel a high degree of pain with messy processes that can be hard to unpick.

Great inventory management boils down to efficiency, accuracy and visibility.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be hard and there's plenty of help to be had.

Here we have outlined five areas which will ensure inventory management earns itself a good reputation within the business and with your customers…

Communication is key

Communication can be a major obstacle. A lack of effective communication throughout the various inventory touchpoints is often cited as one of the biggest struggles.

How much warning do customer service have if a parcel won't arrive on time? Even worse, do they have to find out from the customer? How good is customer service at passing on the pain of negative customer experiences to the operations department?

Identifying these issues and the weakest links is the first step and when it comes to improvement, technology can go a long way to enabling a better process.

Make the most of technology

As mentioned, inventory management isn't just for those in the logistics department, and technology is a perfect example of a tool that extends benefits to other business departments - particularly those in customer service.

Don't think of technology as pieces of hardware and wires - think of it as a control tower for greater inventory visibility, control and planning.

It's absolutely possible to create a single platform which holds real-time visibility over your entire inventory and is accessible across the organisation. Information should be within easy-reach and easily sharable between departments.

Technology isn't just useful for the here and now either - the critical data it captures becomes your fact-based business case for continued improvement.

Let data guide you

If you can't see it, you can't monitor it. If you can't monitor it, you can't measure it. And if you can't measure it, you can't better it! Essentially, data capture and visibility is the first step to making better strategic decisions for the business.

Contrary to a recent article we read, data does not, and certainly should not, take you five years to access from your extended supply chain to then convert into action.

Data can help you answer questions from the simple, 'What's selling/moving?' and 'Do we need to hold as much of product x in our warehouse?' to 'How can we get stock back into the inventory loop faster?' and 'Which stock locations enable the fastest service for a European client-base?'

Improve your labelling

You might think everybody uses barcoding to some extent but we've found that even when barcoding is in place (and it isn't always), companies aren't necessarily taking full advantage of the benefits - if you have pain in reverse logistics, unique labelling might just be the key.

Many have experienced the pain of poor inventory labelling and the wasted time, or even worse, money as a result. Small errors at the warehouse can heavily impact a customer's experience, creating a network of delays that ultimately negatively affect your brand.

Barcoding and other methods of unique, accurate labelling, makes the most of technological advances to help paint an accurate, real-time picture of what's happening with your stock at all times. This puts you firmly in the driving seat.

Do your research

Logistics is a diverse industry with a vast variety of options, and even what appears to be the simplest of logistics processes involves many hands and systems.

Ultimately, you want to be able to get stock to your customers quickly and efficiently, delivered with a service that stands out from your competitors.

Knowing all of the options available to you - and/or finding a partner who can work with you to create and manage a personalised logistics solution - is a great starting point to making inventory management an asset for customer service and the backbone of your business.

If you'd like to talk us about any of the above points, we'd love to hear from you. You can call us on 01795 413 602 or fill in our quick form and we'll call you.