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Is inventory availability disappointing your customers - here's how to fix it

Written by Simon Abi Saad
Created: 20 February 2019

A young man using his laptop and looking over his notes while working in a warehouse

Missing inventory is a common nightmare in disorganised warehouses, leading to inconvenience and losses with a massive knock-on effect for the rest of the organisation. How can you avoid this dilemma in the future? 

 

With the technology available today, there is little reason why inventory item should not be found within minutes of the time an order is waved and a picking task created. If inventory goes missing frequently, serious re-evaluation is required to resolve issues quickly.

 

Over the past decade, effective warehouse and inventory management has become increasingly complex. Rapid changes in business models, shipping logistics and the impact of technology present both challenges and opportunities to ensure success.

 

It is important to consider the top warehouse trends in the Middle East and Africa for 2019, and to align yourself with industry trends. Two main challenges faced by MEA businesses in 2019 will be the rising cost of operations and labour productivity and skills availability.

Uncertainty is a killer

Imagine you're in sales and your system tells you there are 10 items available, but from experience you know this can be unreliable, so someone should rather first go and check before you make the sale. Or do you simply process the order, only to take the wrap later?

 

Every minute wasted searching for inventory has an impact on some other part of the business, the worst of which being unhappy customers and coworkers.

 

Not only does missing inventory hamper productivity, but also creates unnecessary internal stress amongst workers and management.

 

Over time, this negatively impacts organisational culture and the ability to perform effectively. Trust and loyalty carefully built with customers over time can disintegrate over lost inventory.

 

Confidence is a great factor to ensure a well-oiled organisation and it's important that you know how your organisation benchmarks against the best in the world?

Time for introspection

Knowing what is in your warehouse and where it can be found is a critical factor to success. It is pertinent to optimise this process to be aligned with performance metrics in order to manage staff and inventory effectively.

 

If things are not ticking over in your warehouse, it's time to have an in-depth look and do a root cause analysis as to why this is not the case. The problem often does not start in the warehouse or with inventory itself.

 

Let’s look at a couple of potential problem areas by asking some uneasy questions.

 

1. Does management have a clearly defined inventory control and cycle counting strategy?

2. Are processes and procedures well designed, defined and visible?

3. What is the current state of internal communications and escalation?

4. Does your WMS fully underwrite and enable your business processes?

5. Are all players in your organisation aligned to keep the wheels rolling?

6. What performance metrics are being monitored and evaluated?

7. What is the state of your continuous improvement programme?

Prevention rather than cure

Being in control of your inventory availability is a competitive advantage.

 

Truly successful warehouse insights and management is not a question of whether or not you can quickly resolve problems, but rather about having the ability to prevent things from going wrong in the first place.

 

The following three processes will ensure you increase and maintain a high level of inventory availability so that the next time your customer places an order with your organisation you can confidently say “yes we have that”

 

1. Implement a cycle count program

2. Ensure your WMS is the master of physical inventory

3. Eliminate the ability of your employees to perform single-sided entries in systems that aren’t the inventory system of record

 

Stay up to date with the latest trends in the supply chain industry. Subscribe to Supply Chain Matters, and we’ll send all of our latest helpful tips and tools, straight to your inbox.

 

If you have any further questions on how to improve your inventory accuracy and availability, chat to our supply chain experts.

 

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