Not long ago, the idea of ‘trends’ in inventory management might have seemed out of place. Trends? How can you have trends in a business operation that hasn’t really changed for decades. You count your inventory, make sure you have enough to fill your orders and order more when you need it. Simple.
But inventory management in 2018 is anything but simple. With the advent of lean manufacturing, just-in-time delivery and the need for fast, accurate and reliable data to make them all happen, your inventory management must evolve at an ever-increasing pace if you want to keep your business competitive and profitable.
More than just doing the same things better, companies must constantly be on the lookout for new ideas, techniques and technologies to help adapt their operations and process, and adopt new ones, to remain at the top of their game.
Here are just a few of our predictions for inventory management (IM) in 2018 to help you stay ahead of the curve.
1. Drop Shipping
From allowing companies to offer a wider range of products and getting new product offerings to market faster, to reducing the need for warehousing and transportation logistics, drop shipping offers many benefits that will see it continue to rise in popularity through 2018.
For your inventory management, drop shipping can eliminate many of the points at which you need to track inventory, including as it moves through your facilities.
But you still need systems in place that can manage your dropship ordering, backordering and inventory, including handling partial drop shipments, and the corresponding vendor bills and customer invoices.
2. B2B Web Portals & Shopping Carts
While your customer may be another business, there’s usually still a human being placing orders. And we humans are growing increasingly accustomed to the ease of shopping online where we can place an order within seconds of deciding to buy.
B2B enterprises will need to make their online ordering experience more like a retail ecommerce experience by using ecommerce-style web portals and shopping carts.
But that’s easier said than done. While there are dozens of retail ecommerce platforms, they aren’t well-suited for B2B sales in many ways, including customer-specific product catalogues, managing different price and discount points for different customers, and easy order duplication
3. IM Data on the Cloud
Cloud-based inventory management will increasingly let you realize cost reductions in many areas including those entirely outside traditional inventory management.
The ability to access your IM data from anywhere, at any time, on any device and operating system not only makes it faster and easier to manage inventory, it will reduce your requirements for IT infrastructure, support and overall spend
4. Deeper Analytics
The ability to track and analyze more granular inventory data will give you new, more meaningful insights into your costs and how to manage them.
For example, in addition to tracking multiple SKUs, the ability to track individual parts and components, including vendor-specific barcode schemas, increases the detail of the information you use to make IM decisions.
5. Integration with CRM and ERP
IM will be less independent of your other business systems and processes. As businesses get deeper insights into the number and extent of IM costs, including those incurred in areas like accounting, administration and customer lifetime value due to IM inefficiencies, the need to integrate IM with your CRM and ERP systems will be more crucial. The good news is that integration itself will help you identify cost areas faster and in greater detail while also confirming that the steps you take toward improvement are actually working, and how well they are working.
If there is one overriding prediction we can make for inventory management in 2018, it is the need to maximize inventory visibility as a means of identifying more IM costs and the effect they have on your company’s profitability.