Latest in Inventory Management Trends
31 March 2022
Why is inventory management such a contentious subject?
Sales want the organization to hold as much inventory as possible. They want to meet all customer requests – big and small. Accounts want zero inventory. No work in progress. No cash tied up in assets that are not generating profit. Operations want inventory in the system to hide inefficiencies such as unplanned stoppages, material shortages, labor shortages, and process inefficiencies.
The role of the Supply Chain Professional is to create balance between enough inventory to meet sales demand without costing the business money. This is a big responsibility.
One of the key principles of Lean Manufacturing is to create flow. Inventory needs to move to add value to your business. Inventory that is idle ties up cash that could have been invested in a bank and earned interest.
Added to this standard complexity, is the disruption we are currently experiencing on global supply chains due to COVID, Brexit and the Russian invasion in the Ukraine.
So, what are some of the latest inventory management trends?
Cloud Based Solutions allow businesses to access data from anywhere tracking inventory movements in real time. It enables remote working so that staff can access data from home, enabling faster decision making and response times. In addition, cloud-based solutions mean that both suppliers and customers can access information critical to their decision-making processes. Cloud Services grew from US$145Billion in 2017 to US$397 Billion in 2021 globally (Jenkins, 2021; Roughan, 2021).
Distributed Warehousing has made a comeback, as it means that the risk of inventory loss is reduced because inventory is stored in multiple locations, yet still controlled centrally. This means inventory is kept closer to the customer reducing lead times and overcoming transportation challenges of the disrupted Supply Chain. Additional benefits include reduced carbon footprint (Roughan, 2021).
3PL Services Providers are being used for both warehousing and transportation, enabling organisations to quickly scale up or down their requirements. This increases the ability to respond quickly to changing circumstances. Cloud-based software has increased the efficiencies of 3PLs as real time data is visible and accessible everywhere. An additional advantage of the shift to 3PLs is that they can negotiate discounts based on the scale of services offered by providers (Roughan, 2021).
Data or Inventory Analytics allow organisations to mine the organisation’s data and present it in a way that enables improved fact-based decision making. Analytics allows leadership to analyse profitability by warehouse location, product group and many other permutations to improve decision making. Inventory Analytics allows organisations to forecast inventory flows by warehouse, manufacturing facilities and across a 12-month period (Roughan, 2021)
Control Towers increase end-to-end visibility of inventory in the Supply Chain across business silos and different systems. They monitor inventory from raw material to end customer providing accurate real time data for improved decision making (Barlow, 2020).
Barlow, J. 2020. Navigate disruption with an Inventory Control Tower. [Online] https://www.ibm.com/blogs/supply-chain/ibm-supply-chain-disruption-with-an-inventory-control-tower/
Jenkins, A. 2021. 14 Top Inventory Management Trends to Know in 2021. [Online] 14 Top Inventory Management Trends to Know in 2021 | NetSuite
Roughan, G. 2021. 11 Inventory Management Trends to watch for in 2022. [Online] 11 inventory management trends to watch for in 2022 – Unleashed Software
Written by Special Guest Writer, Chanti Wilson. Executive Leadership Coach |Business Consultant | SAPICS Director