Good inventory Management practices in the company help by adding value in terms of having control over and maintaining lean inventory. Inventory should not be too much or too less. Both the situations are bad for the company. However often we see that inventory is not focused upon by the management and hence lot of inefficiencies build up over a period of time without the knowledge of the management. It is only when we start a cost reduction drive that the inventory goof ups and skeletons come out of the cupboard and results in revamping the entire operations.
However those companies, which have always focused on inventory as a principle function and recognized that the inventory effects their sales, as well as the books of accounts and profits, have managed to introduce and improve inventory management processes. Many business models work on lean inventory principle or JIT inventory along with other models like VMI etc. Inventory management to a large extent is dependant upon the supply chain efficiency as well as operations.
Inventory management is a management cum operations function. It requires operational processes to be followed and maintained on the floor and in inventory management systems. Coupled with operations, it entails continuous study; analysis and decision making to control and manage inventory levels.
We have covered below briefly few of the points which when followed, can go a long way in ensuring that the inventory is lean and clean.
Review Inventory periodically and revise stocking patterns and norms
Inventory is dependant upon the demand as well as the supply chain delivery time. Often companies follow one stocking policy for all items. For example, all A, B & C categories may be stocking inventory of 15 days, which may not be the right thing that is required. While some items may have a longer lead-time thus affecting the inventory holding, the demand pattern and the hit frequency in terms of past data may show up differently for each of the inventory items. Therefore one standard norm does not suit all and can lead to over stocking of inventory as well as in efficiencies in the system.
Get into detailed inventory planning - One size does not fit all
Understand the inventory types and the specific characteristics of the items you are carrying. Then build the inventory stocking parameters taking into account the unique characteristics of the particular inventory.
From amongst your inventory list, you will find that all types of materials are not of the same value. Some might be very expensive and need to be carried in stock for a longer period, while another item might have a shorter lead-time and may be fast moving. Quite a few items often have shelf life and hence require separate norms and focus to manage such items.
Getting into the detailed understanding will help you identify the inventory-stocking norm required to manage these characteristics to ensure optimum efficiency. The solution quite often may not be to carry stocks, rather it may involve setting up the customer service standard for such items and specifying a delivery time depending upon the frequency of demand. Quite a few items often have shelf life and hence require separate norms and focus to manage such items.
Study demand pattern, movement patterns and cycles to build suitable inventory norms for different categories of inventory
Companies which are into retail segments and dealing with huge inventories in terms of number of parts as well as value will necessarily need to ensure they practice review of inventory list and clean up operations on ongoing basis.
Popularly known as catalogue management, inventory norms review should be carried out based on detailed study of the sales data, demand pattern, sales cycles etc. Understanding of the business and sales cycles specific to the product category helps one manage inventories better. For example, in case of retail garments, with every season certain skus become redundant no matter how their demand was in the previous months. This helps identify those stocks which are required to be managed at a micro level and identify the high value and fast moving items that need to be always on the radar to avoid stock outs.
It does not help for example to carry standard stocks of all items including low value items as well as high value items. If the low value items are locally available and the lead-time is less, one can cut down on the inventory and change the buying pattern. Similarly high value items too can be managed by cutting down the delivery lead times and in turn reducing inventory.
It helps to periodically study the past data and extrapolate the same to identify slow moving and obsolete items. The dead stocks should be flushed out and active catalogue items should be made available.