Effectively Managing Inventory and Operations Through Automation

For goods-based businesses, one of the most critical and challenging functions is inventory management. It’s no wonder poor inventory management is one of the top ten reasons small and mid-sized business (SMBs) fail.

Your inventory is the heart of your business, and your operational processes are the arteries that facilitate the flow of inventory into and out of your company, essentially keeping your business running. Without proper management of your inventory and operations, your company could not survive.

You may already have systems and processes in place that you believe are working for your company, but how manageable will those same processes be when you begin to scale the quantity, size, and frequency of your sales and purchase orders? And how much time and how many resources could you save by upgrading and optimizing your systems right now? Just as some people don’t realize they have a clogged artery until it requires immediate medical attention, some businesses don’t realize there is a problem until critical failings occur - unnecessarily angering customers and ultimately costing your company money.

Signs That You Need To Upgrade Your Inventory System

Don’t waste valuable time and resources on under-optimized systems and processes. If any of the following inventory inefficiencies have occurred (or worse, are regularly occurring) with your current processes, it is time to improve your systems:

  • Constantly running out of stock or overstocked
  • Inaccurate or unknown stock and order quantities
  • No access to real-time stock counts
  • Difficulty tracking inventory across multiple sales channels and/or warehouses
  • Inability to accurately forecast inventory needs

If your business is using manual processes to manage and track stock quantities, you’ve likely run into most of these issues. Wasp Barcoding has reported that 46% of SMBs either don’t track inventory or use manual processes. While manual tracking methods may work when businesses are just starting out, they are notoriously time consuming and prone to errors - not to mention that their fallibility rate will grow exponentially as your business scales. Inventory control solutions are needed to reduce errors, guarantee accuracy, and boost efficiencies.

Top Benefits of Centralized Inventory Solutions

Inventory management is a constant struggle for a lot of companies, particularly for those who sell through multiple channels. It’s a difficult balancing act of trying to make sure you always have in-demand products on-hand while also trying to avoid having unsold items draining your capital and taking up shelf space in your warehouse(s). In fact, REL has reported top public U.S. companies have $1.1 trillion in working capital tied up in inventory. And these are modern retailers who typically use expensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. Gartner has reported businesses pay an average cost of 1.2% of annual supported revenue for ERP solutions.

$1.1

TRILLION

in working capital is tied
up in inventory

If even top companies with expensive ERP solutions are unable to effectively control their stock, how are growing businesses like yours supposed to effectively tackle this complex and crucial business function?

The answer is to adopt a fully integrated and centralized inventory management solution that will not only support your existing multichannel eCommerce platforms, but also grow with your business to help you scale in the future. A streamlined inventory control system will enable your company to:

Improve Inventory Accuracy

An inventory control solution that syncs with all of your online and in-store sales channels while also tracking incoming purchase orders will allow you to eliminate the potential for human error, letting you know exactly how much inventory you have on-hand at any given time. The best automated and integrated solutions will not only give you real-time stock counts, but will also centralize all your inventory and sales data to help produce insightful business reports and sales forecasting.

Increase Efficiency and Productivity

By eliminating manual processes, reducing redundancies, and removing human error, inventory management solutions can automate and streamline your most crucial business processes. As your company grows, it will continue to gain productivity from existing and expanding integrations with not only your sales channels, but other important business functions like accounting, payments, shipping, and fulfillment.

Save Time and Money

A natural byproduct of improving efficiencies and increasing productivity is a corresponding rise in time saved. With automated integrations and the removal of time-intensive manual processes, you and your team will have more bandwidth to focus on other important business tasks.

Additionally, higher accuracy in your inventory tracking will ensure your business capital won’t be tied up in unsold inventory.

4 Best Practices to Gain Control of Your Inventory & Operations

1. Organize Your Existing Processes

It has been said that for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned. Think of all the productive ways you could use those extra hours to help grow your business.

Start to gain clarity through the chaos by doing a thorough, physical stocktake to know exactly what you have on-hand and where it’s currently located. Work to categorize your inventory in whatever way is most effective for your operational, tracking, and reporting purposes. Having well organized and defined product information is the first step to improving inefficiencies.

This should also include the organization of any warehouses you may be running. By getting your warehouse(s) in order, you can effectively optimize your operations to maximize productivity, reduce errors, and hopefully gain more visibility into and control over the nuts and bolts of your business.

2. Integrate Your Disparate Systems

Running a retail business requires managing numerous complex and interdependent systems and processes, which each present their own unique challenges. These inherent challenges are compounded if you are selling across multiple sales channels and/or operating multiple warehouses.

You’re likely using disparate systems to handle all your business-critical tasks such as purchase orders, stock quantities, invoices, shipping, and fulfillment. The amount of time and resources it takes to separately manage, maintain, assess, and optimize all these systems is killing your team’s productivity and holding you back from business growth. To begin increasing efficiencies and start driving greater productivity, you must find ways to bring your disparate systems together.

Start by evaluating all the different software and manual systems you’re using, mapping out the interdependencies among them. Once you’ve pinpointed where all these systems need to connect, you can begin exploring different ways to integrate them.

Many cloud-based software programs offer plugins and integration capabilities with other widely-used technologies. With a little bit of research on relevant software marketplaces and app stores, you should be able to identify which of your systems offer integrations. If few or none of your systems have existing integrations, you might be able to develop your own (with the help of technical experts), or you could adopt a centralized inventory and operations solution that can sync all these disparate systems for you - more on this in a bit!

3. Unify Your Inventory and Operations Data

While integrating your operational systems will improve efficiencies, it will also help you start unifying the data around your inventory and operations. Each of your individual systems and spreadsheets contain valuable data you rely upon to make important business decisions. But, as we’ve already established, all these interconnected systems and processes affect each other. Having your key business data and reports disseminated across disparate systems makes it difficult to get the full picture of what’s happening in your business.

Whether you create your own master dashboard spreadsheet or implement a comprehensive solution to pull all these data statistics into a single location, you need focused business intelligence to gain a deeper understanding of what’s working and what’s not when it comes to your operations. Where do you need to cut inventory and operational costs? What sales channel is generating the most revenue? Which products are selling the most across all your sales channels? Unifying your business data will give you easy access to these answers and allow you to develop more actionable plans and smarter business decisions.

4. Implement an Inventory Management System

To have the utmost confidence in your stock quantities as well as automated, streamlined, and optimized operations, you need a centralized inventory management solution. All the steps discussed above - organizing your processes, integrating disparate systems, and unifying business data - can be enabled and simplified with a comprehensive inventory management system.

Wouldn’t you like automated alerts for low stock quantities to avoid disappointing customers with “out-of-stock” messages? Or a single system to track everything from purchase orders to sales and fulfilment information? Top inventory control systems automatically sync with all of your eCommerce platforms and tools, providing you with a business command center to manage and analyze all your retail operations.

How To Find The Right Inventory Control Solution For Your Business

To avoid costly out-of-stocks and overselling while improving efficiencies and operational visibility, you need an inventory management solution that connects to all your retail systems and sales channels, while also consolidating your data for comprehensive tracking and superior business intelligence.

As we mentioned in the first chapter of this guide, finding the right technologies to scale along with your business can be challenging. You must go through the process of determining your business needs, researching available technologies, and assessing each option for scalability and quality technical support before making a decision. As experts in inventory management, we’ve complied a list of features growing retailers need to effectively manage their inventory and operations:

Standard Needs Advanced Needs
Automated Inventory Tracking Multi-Warehousing
Multichannel Integration and Order Tracking Barcoding
Low Stock Alerts Amazon FBA
Publish Listing Functionality Third-Party Logistics (3PLs)
Sales Channel Reporting Product Bundling
Sales Forecasting Drop Shipping
Shipment Tracking Predictive Analysis
Historical Order Imports and Reports Wholesale Management

If any or all of these capabilities were on your list of business needs, Stitch Labs can help!

Stitch’s inventory management solution helps modern retailers automatically track inventory, purchase orders, sales, and fulfillment across various multiple channels, providing unparalleled visibility into your operations and a holistic understanding of your business. It’s this kind of comprehensive control and transparency that improves accuracy and productivity while driving operational efficiencies.

With a centralized and integrated inventory solution like Stitch, you can:

  • Accurately track your inventory across all your sales channels
  • Avoid out-of-stocks and overselling with low stock alerts
  • Boost revenue by easing expansion into new channels
  • Reduce costs with proximity-based order fulfillment from multiple warehouses
  • Refine purchase order efficiency
  • Effectively forecast sales during peak seasons
  • Anticipate when to invest more in a hot selling product

Retailers achieve massive time-savings across all aspects of their businesses with Stitch, making it easier than ever for them to expand into new sales channels and marketplaces.

The less time you spend worrying about your inventory, the more time you can spend focusing on the things you actually want to do - like growing and scaling your business.

Things You Can Do Today:

  • Do a comprehensive stocktake to assess the current state of your inventory
  • Identify the biggest inventory and operations challenges your business is facing
  • Research solutions that integrates with your core retail systems
  • Get a custom demo from Stitch Labs or start a 14-day free trial to start streamlining your inventory and operations

How Stitch Helps Tiggly Interactive Toys Manage Its Multichannel Inventory

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