A Complete Guide to Inventory Control
Understanding the importance of inventory control – and the role it plays in your order fulfillment process – can help you make better decisions regarding inventory management and supply chain. You’ll also be able to optimize your stock levels, cut costs, and better understand customer demand for your products.
With this in mind, in this post, we’ll take a look at what inventory control is, why it’s essential, and how it’s different from inventory management. We’ll also discuss its key components and explain how enlisting a 3PL helps with inventory control.
What Is Inventory Control?
Inventory control is the process of optimizing inventory storage to ensure that it maintains optimal inventory levels that are required to complete customer orders in a timely manner. In other words, it enables businesses to store only the necessary number of units in their warehouse to avoid overspending on storage space or running the risk of stock-out.
Optimizing inventory storage enables you to minimize costs, increase sales and profits, efficiently utilize capital, and maintain customer satisfaction. Aside from this, here are some of the different ways inventory control benefits online businesses:
Accurate stock levels. Inventory control gives you precise information about the number of units in your inventory. You can do this by electronically scanning items before they are stocked and keeping records of their status (i.e., whether they’re in-stock or out-of-stock). As a result, you’ll always have access to accurate, real-time stock level information.
Better demand forecasting. Getting inventory right enables you to hold the correct amount of inventory in your storage space, including the safety stock. Through demand forecasting, you’re able to keep storage costs low as well as meet customer orders on time.
Improves inventory management decisions. Inventory control also deals with inventory turnover – that is, how fast you sell and replenish your stocks over a given time period. It helps you bridge the gap between purchasing raw materials, manufacturing finished goods, and fulfilling customer orders. It also enables you to find the right suppliers and speed up your supply chain.
While inventory control and inventory management may seem similar, they both serve different purposes.
Inventory control deals with hands-on operations such as taking in new products as they arrive at the storage facility and assembling them into the finished products. It plays a significant role in warehouse management.
On the other hand, inventory management involves conducting high-level supervision of inventory such as ordering raw materials, restocking products, inventory forecasting, and carefully choosing storage locations and equipment to store stock.
Key Components of Inventory Control
Inventory control affects your costs, sales, profits, income, operations, and customer happiness. By establishing an efficient inventory control system, you’re able to optimize operations and identify the ideal time for placing purchase orders.
#1: Real-Time Inventory Tracking
Inventory tracking involves monitoring stock levels and keeping a note of where each product is stored at the warehouse. By tracking inventory in real-time, you’re able to quickly determine the number of items that can be shipped to complete orders. It also enables you to let customers know about any shipping delays in case you’re running low on stock.
For instance, you can display the number of items available in your inventory directly on your e-commerce site. This way, customers will know precisely how many items are available and in-stock.
#2: Establishing Reorder Points
Reorder points involve setting the stock level at which you’ll need to order more inventory to avoid an out-of-stock event. These points are established for each product SKU because some products sell faster while others stay on the shelf longer. When this process is automated, timely purchase ordering and less manual tracking of inventory levels become possible.
So, in the case where seasonal demand of a product can lead to a higher number of orders, you can set reorder points of that product to a higher amount. This way, you’ll always have enough items in your inventory to meet customer demand.
#3: Determining Stocked/Non-Stocked Items
Your inventory requirements fluctuate throughout the year and depend on several factors including seasonal demand and product popularity.
For example, companies that sell snow gear will have to stock inventory right before the winter season. Doing so would be a much more cost-effective way to complete orders than to store them throughout the year. Similarly, products that don’t receive frequent orders will need a different method of inventory control. Simply put, different SKUs need to be stocked and replenished according to their order frequency.
#4: Product Zoning
If you handle your order fulfillment internally (instead of enlisting a third-party logistics company), you’ll need to take additional measures to bring scalability to your warehouse operations. And, for companies that maintain a high SKU number and diverse product listings, proper product zoning is essential to keep things organized.
The process of storing items, the layout and design of your warehouse, and how far apart certain items are to each other will affect your work operations, picking lists, and efficiency. Product zoning assigns spaces for specific types of products such as flammable goods or perishable items. You can even classify products based on their expiration date or simply place SKUs that are most commonly ordered together in the same location.
#5: Quality Control
Quality control involves:
Working closely with your suppliers.
Supervising each batch of inventory.
Properly planning upcoming purchase orders.
Complying with quality regulations and standards.
Improving customer satisfaction.
Knowing how many items you have in your inventory and where to locate them can help you act quickly in case of product recalls. This will also allow you to cross-check your records with the actual number of units in store.
So, in case you receive a customer complaint about their ordered product reaching them in poor condition, you’ll be able to identify what went wrong in your storage and handling operations and how you can replace the product quickly to keep the customer happy.
#6: Inventory Auditing
Inventory control enables you to intelligently audit your inventory, allowing you to identify potential problems just in time or before they even happen. Properly organizing your storage space, maintaining accurate records, and using inventory management software enables you to automate stock levels and regularly audit your inventory.
For instance, inventory auditing can help you determine whether or not you’re effectively utilizing your storage space by handling your operations internally or whether you’d be better off outsourcing them to a third-party logistics company.
How Enlisting a 3PL Helps With Inventory Control
Third-party logistics (3PL) providers offer services that are often difficult and time-consuming for businesses to perform and manage in-house. In addition to this, they have multiple fulfillment centers which handle storage, picking, packing, and shipping for online businesses.
Symbia uses VeraCore Fulfillment Software to integrate order management and inventory software in your business operations. This helps you:
Maintain inventory accuracy: It helps you keep track of all your transactions and offer an audit trail letting your customers view both present and past stock levels.
Improve inventory control: It offers inventory control functionality and supports UPCs, serial numbers, and lot tracking.
Inventory control plays a critical role in your order fulfillment process. Understanding the key components of inventory control can help you make informed decisions and improve customer satisfaction.
How do you stay on top of your inventory control needs? Let us know by commenting below.