February 15, 2018

Inventory Control and Management

I was in a large do-it-yourself supply retailer recently and the assistant couldn’t find the last two items that I needed but which showed as being “on-hand” in their inventory system. The assistant was not sure exactly where in the facility these items could be and the two of us walked up and down the aisle looking hopefully up into the shelf-and-rack area.

Wasted time, lost sale, dissatisfied customer and a potential product that might be out of date - if and when it is eventually uncovered.

I have been running warehouses for over 35 years, with 14 of those years at i2i fulfillment, and one of the triggers I use to indicate we have a problem is whenever I see an associate walking around the facility looking up and down. Thankfully, it rarely happens since our IBIS system tracks every product’s movement by requiring staff to scan bar-codes on the product and on the storage locations so that we have a record of every item’s trip through our facilities: from receipt, to storage, to picked, to packed, and finally to shipped.

Having purchased valuable stock, it is essential to know exactly where that asset is. Visibility is essential – and thankfully one of the great strengths of our IBIS system, which not only tracks every movement but provides this information in real time, 24/7 to our customers anywhere in the world. The accuracy of this data is crucial. Customers make purchasing decisions based on this data since they trust the information - placing on our shoulders a responsibility that we take very seriously.

As a consultant working for small- to medium-sized customers, I often noticed sales staff (not warehouse staff) physically checking inventory because they just didn’t trust their inventory system or processes. With i2i fulfillment our customers can sell based on the data they see in real time. We show what inventory is on-hand, what has been committed to orders (yet to be picked but Hard-Allocated) and also orders that have been imported from the sales web-site but not yet committed to the customer (Soft-Allocated). This means that stock shortages can be managed to have the minimum impact on important or repeat customers. The greater visibility allows you to determine who gets what and when!

I wonder if that sales assistant ever found those items I was looking for!