Best Practices From Renewal Logistics:
How to Manage Your Inventory
GOOD INVENTORY MANAGEMENT IS CRITICAL
In e-commerce, inventory is at the heart of any operation. To get the most out of your inventory, it is essential to know what you have and where it is. That’s why proper inventory management is absolutely essential for any e-commerce business. In today’s blog post we’re diving into the core principles of inventory management and offering our top tips for managing inventory seamlessly day after day.
What is Inventory Management?
If you can already answer this question in your sleep, feel free to skip over this section! But let’s make sure we’re all on the same page before moving on.
Inventory is the full collection of every single item you have at your facility. Inventory management is a set of systems and procedures that ensures quality control from the moment goods arrive at your facility until they are shipped out. The purpose of inventory management is to keep track of:
- the items you have in stock
- how many of each item you have
- what stage each item is in the process
- each item’s location in the warehouse
These days, the most effective inventory management systems use software programs, like Orderhive or inFlow. These programs allow employees to digitally log information like the relocation of inventory, new inventory intake, and inventory that is shipped out of the facility. When all of these are properly tracked, a warehouse manager or head of operations can easily log into their inventory management platform and instantly see how much inventory is available, how much has shipped out that day, how much new inventory has arrived, how quickly inventory is being moved, and more.
Why is Inventory Management Important?
Proper inventory management is absolutely vital to successful operations. It can also do wonders for your stress levels. Here are just a few of the reasons why inventory management is critical.
1. Avoid losing revenue on sales that you can’t fill or can’t fill quickly enough.
All too often, we see companies that are losing out on orders for popular goods because they are either caught with too little inventory in stock to fill high demand or they think they have run out of stock – only to uncover another pallet days later after canceling orders.
No one likes canceled orders. It is frustrating for you and disappointing to customers, who may now be hesitant to return for a later purchase. You should be able to celebrate every new order you get rather than worrying about whether you will be able to fill it or not. Proper inventory management takes away any uncertainty so you can focus on making customers happy.
2. The time employees spend looking for the right items can add up - and be quite expensive for you!
Without a proper racking and scanning system, employees often have no idea where to find the items they need to pack up for each order. If each employee has to spend ten minutes hunting around for each item to fill an order, that can add up to hours of searching time everyday. Multiply that by the number of employees you have and think of all the lost hours that could be spent packing up more orders. With careful item scanning and a structured racking system, employees can locate each item in just a minute or two. Then they can move on to the next task.
3. Make sure you’re receiving the right products.
Proper receiving protocols are a major part of inventory management. Every time you
receive a new shipment of product, it is important to carefully review and record the items that you have received. Unfortunately, we cannot always take for granted that we have received the correct product and that we have not been shorted on the amount. Verifying these two things is essential.
4. The number of orders you receive daily may not always be predictable.
We at Renewal Logistics have first-hand experience with the importance of good inventory management when rising to meet an unexpected sales spike. With the growing prominence of social media and algorithms designed to produce viral content, brands sometimes see their customer base increase massively overnight. WIthout advanced predictive algorithms and sales analytics, it can be hard to predict just when this wave might hit. Brands are often caught off guard by a surge and don’t have enough time or staff to adjust their operations.
We recently worked with a company that was enjoying such a surge in online orders. They were having a hard time calculating how much inventory was at their warehouse and how much was in their retail location. Because of this uncertainty, they had staff running back and forth from the warehouse to the retail shop over and over throughout the day bringing over more and more items as the orders kept rushing in.
With a robust inventory management system, it’s easy to know how many of each item is at each location, which can save time on recounts and repeat trips. It can also help effectively ramp up operations when a big wave hits.
7 Key Principles for Inventory Management
At Renewal Logistics, we take inventory management very seriously. An air-tight system with scanning procedures and a clear racking strategy has helped us get out of tight spots and avoid getting caught off-guard countless times. By following these key principles, you can hopefully feel the same confidence in your own operations.
1. Every SKU should have its own location in your facility.
SKUs, or stock-keeping units, are barcodes found on each item in your inventory. They can be scanned to track the item’s movement. For proper inventory management, every SKU should correspond to a single location in the facility. This makes items easy to find.
2. Similarly shaped products should not be placed directly beside each other.
Have you ever gone to the store for dish soap and grabbed the wrong brand in a hurry? You think to yourself, “blue color, clear bottle, that’s the one.” Turns out there are tons of blue dish soaps in clear bottles and it’s easy to snag the wrong one when you are not paying attention. In a fast-paced warehouse where employees are filling order after order all day long, a mistake like this is always a risk.
Luckily, you have control over how your inventory is organized. By storing similar products in different parts of your facility, you can make it easier for employees to quickly spot the item they need and avoid making a mistake.
3. Every item that comes into your facility should have a barcode applied. No exceptions.
The first step when receiving new product should be applying a barcode. That way you instantly have a record of the item and can track its next movements, no matter where it heads next.
4. Diligently follow a structured intake procedure.
Getting a new intake shipment is exciting and sometimes you just can’t wait to get the product off to customers. However, the best time to catch any errors is upon receipt of the order. You may catch a problem later on and be forced to track down all the items from the shipment. It’s also easier for your supplier to make corrections to more recent orders.
A proper intake procedure should include opening a percent of the cases, inspecting and counting the contents, checking the count against the BOL or packing slip, and then checking that count against the purchase order as well.
5. Make time for dedicated inspection points before picked orders are sealed and shipped.
By building an inspection step into your inventory management process you can be extra-certain that the proper units were picked before you seal everything up in packaging. This way you can avoid customer complaints and wasting time on making corrections to orders-gone-wrong, or paying for return shipping to get back mis-shipped inventory.
6. Cutting-edge technology does not always translate to good inventory management.
We’ve seen facilities with top-notch picking technology that is not properly configured to their full warehouse layout. Investing in new technology is cool and can surely save you time and money down the line. However, when integrating any new tool – from software to robots to automated vehicles, it is important to realize that new technology can create additional bottlenecks, which can create new errors. It’s important to put extra time upfront to make sure you have a clear management plan that is compatible with the technology and can be applied to your entire facility’s processes from start to finish.
7. You have to do cycle counts. Every. Single. Day.
This is non-negotiable and will help you catch discrepancies when they are still relatively easy to correct and before they begin to snowball into larger issues.
What Are You Waiting For?
Revolutionize Your Facility With Top-Notch Inventory Management
If you can do one thing to revolutionize the efficiency, ease, and accuracy of your warehouse operations, it should be setting up (or re-setting up) an air-tight inventory management system.
If this sounds like an overwhelming task, you’re not alone. 90% of Fortune 500 companies outsource their warehousing. This is often because inventory management requires expertise and a complex set of systems that must be followed to a tee in order to eliminate errors. Need help or not sure where to start? Talk to us.
Renewal offers very rigid systems for intake, hold, and shipment that are highly effective in managing inventory. Our WMS is set up in a detailed manner that prevents inventory from ever getting lost or “disappearing.” As product is scanned into or out of inventory, stock levels update in real time. Our clients can watch this happening through an online portal. They can also use the portal to see when levels are low and set triggers to alert them that it is time to reorder.
We’ve had a lot of experience with inventory management. We’ve been able to learn how to maximize efficiency and eliminate errors. As a result, we are able to pick and pack in about 40% of the time that most companies take to pick and pack on their own.
Intrigued? Puzzled? Want to learn even more about inventory management? Give us a call or send us an email. We love talking about our systems and hearing about your facilities!