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4 signs that your company has an inventory management issue

Author: Zehra Melis Teksan

 

How do most supply chain companies – from manufacturers to retailers to suppliers to distributors – safeguard their business against the impact of demand and supply volatility? They use a secret weapon: inventory.

Indeed, supply chain companies employ inventory buffers as a form of protection against the unpredictability and complexity of today’s supply chain dynamics. They keep safety stock to ensure – regardless of changing market conditions, supply chain constraints, or production disruptions – that they are always able to satisfy customer demand on time, in full (OTIF).

Many supply chain executives subscribe to the notion that, when it comes to inventory, more is better – but this conventional wisdom does not always hold true. Indeed, even if you have an inventory surplus, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to achieve higher customer satisfaction.

The ultimate goal of inventory management is not merely to have enough inventory to meet demand, but rather to have stock of the right products in the right places at the right times – to maximize demand fulfillment while minimizing inventory costs. This is what we call “inventory optimization”.

In this blog, I will highlight the four signs that you have an inventory management issue (and thus are not optimizing your inventory).

 

Sign #1:  You have inventory surpluses or shortages

The most obvious sign that your inventory levels are not being managed correctly is that you have a stock shortage or surplus – and these two scenarios are the most common inventory management pitfalls that supply chain companies encounter.

Inventory shortages – simply put, not having enough inventory where and when it’s needed in order to satisfy demand – can have a devastating, detrimental impact on OTIF performance, customer satisfaction and loyalty, and business growth.

Conversely, inventory surpluses – meaning that you are holding a significant amount of excess and obsolete stock in your warehouses – can become a huge driver of skyrocketing costs for inventory production, storage, and transportation.

Having too much or not enough inventory is the most clear and common signal that you are not managing your inventory in the right way.

 

Sign #2: Your inventory costs are rising, but your customer satisfaction levels are not

Another obvious sign that your company has an inventory management issue is that you are experiencing a spike in inventory costs (for product manufacturing, storage, and distribution), but are not experiencing a corresponding rise in delivery performance and customer satisfaction.

If you are managing your inventory correctly, there should be a direct correlation between inventory costs going up and customer satisfaction going up.

If you are pumping capital into your inventory and don’t see your customer service levels rising in parallel with your inventory costs, that is an indication that your company is not optimally utilizing the inventory that you have or perhaps that you are holding stock of the wrong goods (in the wrong places, and at the wrong times).

 

Sign #3: You are using a static “Days of Inventory” metric to measure your inventory management performance

The third telltale sign that you are not properly managing your inventory is that your planners and other key stakeholders are utilizing the wrong metrics to measure your inventory management performance.

Many firms use Days of Inventory as the main metric to gauge their inventory management performance – and are perpetually looking to increase their Days of Inventory (and build up inventory buffers) so that they will be better able to handle supply chain volatility and satisfy customer demand in any circumstance.

But using Days of Inventory to manage your inventory is a strategic mistake – and typically leads to a situation where you are holding excess inventory that you don’t need (which is tying up working capital that you desperately need to fund your business).

Instead of using Days of Inventory as the main as your main KPI target, you should use measure your inventory management performance based on your service levels and customer satisfaction – using metrics such as OTIF performance or Fill Rate. By continuously keeping track of these KPIs, you can tell exactly how well you are utilizing your inventory to satisfy customer demand.

 

Sign #4: Your inventory planning is not integrated with your supply and demand planning

The final sign that you are not managing your inventory correctly is that your inventory planning and decision making are not integrated with your supply and demand planning and decision making.

If – as is the case in many supply chain companies – various departments across your organization are operating in silos and you conducting your inventory planning and operations in isolation, then your planners and other key stakeholders probably lack end-to-end visibility and the capability to generate data-driven, optimized inventory plans that are integrated with demand plans and forecasts and take in to account supply plans and constraints.

In order to optimize your inventory, you need to foster enhanced cross-functional, cross-level, and networkwide collaboration, alignment, and agility and Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) excellence. This will enable you to perfectly calibrate inventory levels with demand and supply conditions – so that you can improve your inventory turns and ensure that you always have the right stock of the right goods in the right places at the right times.

 

Overcoming your inventory management challenges

If your company is experiencing any of the abovementioned symptoms or other similar signs, chances are that you have a serious inventory management issue – which is most likely resulting in lackluster OTIF performance and surging inventory costs.

The first step to optimizing your inventory is to diagnose the roots of your inventory management problem – which may be the issues highlighted here or other issues – and then finding a suitable solution.

Unfortunately, manual planning techniques and tools, like Excel, are simply not robust and sophisticated enough to deliver a solution to your inventory management woes.

Ultimately, to truly achieve inventory optimization – given the speed, scope, complexity, and volatility of today’s supply chains – you will need an automated, algorithmic planning and decision-making solution, like ICRON.

 

To find out more about the steps you need to take to achieve inventory optimization, click here.

To learn about ICRON’s state-of-the-art Inventory Planning solution, click here.


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