Inventory management is a necessary, but sometimes tiresome function in your business. With multiple moving parts and human supervision, this objective, calculated area is sometimes prone to errors and difficulties—but thankfully, new technology is beginning to solve these issues.
Inventory management software, like Sellbrite, is giving manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors cloud-hosted platforms, automatic data collection, intuitive UI, and in-depth analysis to not only compensate for the problems of an overly manual past, but completely revolutionize the inventory management process.
Biggest Headaches to Overcome
These are some of the toughest inventory management challenges that new technology is starting to correct or ameliorate:
1. Human error.
According to a SalesForce report, about 90 percent of business spreadsheets have at least one error in them. It’s not you or your business that’s to blame; it’s just human nature. Basic spreadsheets have been a step-up over pen-and-paper tracking for many years now, but they, too, have grown obsolete. Eliminating human error as much as possible– through scanning equipment, automated calculations, and data analysis with AI–is leading businesses to more accurate projections, fewer missed items, and more reliable daily functions.
Inventory management doesn’t take place in one location. Many suppliers have a production floor, a warehouse, shipments going all over the country, and managers and account reps who are frequently on the go. All these people would, in an ideal world, have access to all inventory information at all times—and technology is making that dream a reality. Thanks to the remote servers of cloud-hosted software, inventory information can be updated semi-automatically, and collaboratively from mobile devices—no matter where they are.
3. Separating your stock.
Most manufacturers deal with different types of stock, including different product types, but also products in different stages of production. Those unique clusters of items may be intended for separate customer orders, and so may be categorized in multiple different dimensions. Inventory management software is making it easier to “tag” certain items like this, so you can keep track of each of their dimensions without creating an organizational nightmare for your physical storage.
4. Integrating sales forecasts.
Sales forecasts help you predict how much stock you’ll need to produce and keep on hand, but they aren’t that valuable if you aren’t using them in close coordination with your inventory tracking. Fortunately, new platforms are allowing business owners to take data from multiple areas at once—including sales and accounting—and incorporate them into your inventory management.
5. Recalculating “safety stock” levels.
Most companies have some level of “safety stock” that they like to keep on hand as a kind of emergency reserve. However, when relying on manual calculations, few businesses update this figure over time, so they fail to respond to new changes in demand, availability, and other factors. Automated platforms allow you to recalculate safety stock faster and more routinely.
6. Ensuring accountability.
Who’s responsible for overseeing your daily production numbers? Who entered the wrong shipping information for your latest batch? With manual processes, accountability relies on best guesses and assumptions. With modern platforms, separate user logins, and segmented access to certain types of information, you can document changes more thoroughly and know exactly who was responsible for what.
7. Accommodating account changeover.
Ideally, you’d maintain good relationships with your suppliers indefinitely, as account changeover can be a nightmare. In addition to worrying about quality, you’ll be dealing with new systems, new expectations, and possibly different tracking mechanisms. Fortunately, because there’s an advantage for software developers to build compatible products, it’s easier to streamline the account integration process than it’s ever been before—though you’ll still likely struggle with some of the changes that come with new suppliers.
8. Dealing with excess stock.
New tech may even be able to help companies better manage their excess stock. Real-time updated numbers and greater accessibility means you’ll have a lower chance of acquiring excess stock in the first place, but if you do accumulate it, you’ll be able to find new room in your warehouse, connect with new potential customers, or liquidate those goods much more proactively and with fewer disruptions.
Choose the Best Platform
There are many companies developing inventory management software, and all of them offer different functions, price points, and user experiences. While technology is, overall, correcting most of these issues, your choice in individual platforms could have a significant bearing on which are addressed more efficiently. You may also find that certain platforms are able to solve problems unique to your industry, or even to your individual business, so shop around and take advantage of free trials before deciding on a platform for your company.