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How to prepare for peak season

Inventory challenges

The peak season for sales is nearly upon us, are you ready? For retailers, the golden quarter starts now. You may think your processes can cope but the reality may surprise you. The pressure on disposable income and shifting consumer preferences mean that we cannot accurately predict consumer demand. We need to ensure our processes are agile enough to cope with the unexpected. Seasonal demand is met with a host of internal challenges around fluctuating needs for warehouse space, labour and reliable inventory information. Other issues will come from outside: suppliers not meeting due dates, bottlenecks in receiving and despatch and distribution problems. 

“The goal of inventory management is to minimise the cost of holding inventory while keeping stock levels consistent and getting products into customers’ hands faster.”                                                      

What to do now 

  • Review your current processes and equipment to eliminate obvious inefficiencies
  • Adjust processes as required and have the right equipment in place
  • Remove obsolete and slow-moving stock to make more usable space
  • Plan your labour and other resource requirements

Why automate?

Stock items need to be of the right quality, positioned in the right place, at the right time, and in the right quantity. The difficult task of inventory management is to balance and satisfy all these needs. Tracking your inventory levels accurately is the key. Knowing exactly what you have on hand avoids both stockouts and the purchasing of too many items. If your data is accurate, you can immediately see what is available and therefore what needs to be sourced. A reliable and accurate inventory management system is vital to take the guesswork out of the process. Most peak season problems can be managed using automation tools that provide information in real-time. Do you have the right solution in place?

An automated inventory management system can significantly reduce the potential for errors, failures and bottlenecks. It will provide a tracking system for each item and streamline the picking, packing and returns processes. This means fewer supplier issues, delivery failures and supplies a way to address unforeseen market disruptions.

Inventory management (IMS) or warehouse management system (WMS)?

An inventory management system records and tracks stock availability across all warehouses and storage facilities. A WMS has a wider reach whilst including inventory management. It will monitor inventory movement within a storage facility or warehouse, produces status reports and can also include other functions including:  

  • The management and prioritisation of replenishments and the movement of goods within the warehouse.
  • receipt & put away goods into the warehouse.
  • picking, packing, dispatching and shipping orders.

More about WMS here

Automation trends

Software solutions for inventory and warehouse management are increasingly incorporating new technologies including the internet-of-things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

IoT is a network of equipment and tools used to communicate and collect data using physical devices linked to the internet. These include mobile phones, headphones, wearable gadgets, and lighting. The data collected monitors actions, processes all data and simplifies forecasting. It also helps optimise your warehouse space and decrease the time needed to locate inventory items. Automated guided vehicles AGVs, drones and robotics are part of the trend toward more warehouse automation leading to less reliance on humans to perform repetitive tasks.

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools, when integrated into an inventory management system can aid the relocating and tracking of items through to more complex tasks such as demand forecasting. AI can assist with predicting scenarios, recommending solutions, and can even perform actions. Human resources can be freed up for more specialist tasks and cost savings can be made by reducing manual inventory control activities.

Managing the peak season demands

The challenges of the high-season sales period weigh heavily on facilities that run manual processes. An IMS or WMS has the following benefits:

  • inventory data is live, in real-time
  • better optimised warehouse space
  • less paperwork, fewer errors
  • automated replenishment of items
  • improved employee productivity e.g., speed of picking
  • shorter lead times limiting the need for safety stock
  • enhanced customer service

Consumers are demanding more options, quicker delivery, and a smooth returns process. Fulfilment challenges can have a detrimental impact on customer satisfaction. A WMS system can help optimise inventory management and harness peak-season opportunities.

SCCG’s inventory management consulting team is highly skilled in inventory management and automated solutions. We have considerable knowledge and experience in defining policies, formulae and calculations that can ensure inventory levels are fully optimised, justified and balanced with all the functional needs.

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