How inefficient inventory management could be limiting productivity across your wholesale business
Poor productivity doesn’t just rest with staff, it’s caused on a deeper level by poor processes.
More efficient inventory management can be key to improving productivity — and, ultimately, profitability — for any wholesaler. After all, this is a business that’s built on purchasing the right amounts of inventory at the right time and then getting that inventory to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible, cutting out errors that will lead to expensive and time-consuming returns.
Automating productivity gives wholesalers a competitive advantage
In a marketplace where supply chains are becoming increasingly complicated and customers are ever-more demanding, how do wholesalers improve their inventory management in order to drive up productivity? The answer lies in greater process automation, reducing manual interventions to speed up execution and improve its accuracy. This will require an integrated, easy-to-use IT system.
Get such a solution right and the potential for improvement is huge. Clearly, wholesalers who are able to improve business operations through automation and better use of technology can make significant advances. Below, we take a look at areas of productivity that can be boosted when the right system is put in place.
By integrating operations through a new software solution, major advances are possible, with customers able to place their orders in any way they see fit.
Barry Group found that developing a user-friendly web portal helped them to offer and deliver chilled products, which can be difficult to serve given the need to keep produce below a certain temperature until it reaches the customer.
The warehouse is one area where inventory management inefficiencies can cause major problems. Slow and inaccurate picking can cause delay and expense — and even damage customer relationships. Systems need to provide full visibility of where stock is being held to help with stock replenishment, delivery routes, type of products and picking operations.
It can also be difficult to cope with suppliers’ practices — a promotion from a manufacturer to a wholesaler selling, 10 units for the price of eight, may end up with the final customer being supplied with the promotional stock. This can be the result of poor picking practices, whereby the warehouse picker hasn’t go up-to-date picking and stock information on current promotions. Eventually, this leads to a loss in profits.
Picking solutions such as voice-directed systems can make a huge difference. Automating order processing in the warehouse by providing pickers with tools to do their job much more quickly and accurately will improve the efficiency of the whole operation.
Improved demand forecasting can help wholesalers ensure they have enough stock to meet customers’ requirements, but not so much that they risk being left with unsold inventory or stockpiles in which cash is tied up.
Modern inventory management tools use sophisticated data and analytics technologies to substantially improve demand forecasting — not only anticipating customer demand but also identifying opportunities to drive sales.
At Hardy Brothers, turnover has increased from £3m to £8m. Using real-time information from the system enabled the company to proactively respond to a decline in sales, while also boosting margins courtesy of a 10% reduction in debtor days, an improvement in stock picking compliance to 97%, and more streamlined purchasing and sales processes.
By improving the information flowing round the business — its availability, accuracy and timeliness — wholesalers can make much smarter decisions about their future priorities. The data flowing from more efficient inventory management can be the key to unlocking new growth opportunities.
These are just some examples of where improved inventory management can deliver greater productivity. The key is to look at processes in the whole, rather than maintaining silos, and to automate wherever possible. Wholesalers that successfully put in place a single, integrated system at the heart of inventory management can look forward to increased revenues, lower costs, improved profitability and enhanced levels of customer service.
Topics: Wholesale Distribution Solutions