Best Practices to Track Your Inventory
It is an important practice to regularly evaluate your business to ensure that you are on track for success. One of the most vital parts of your business is inventory management. If you have had the challenge of getting the right products in stock for when your customers need them, or if you have lost money due to excess stock in your warehouse, it is highly recommended that you improve your inventory management strategy. Here’s what you need to know about inventory management systems and some best practices for managing inventory effectively.
What Is Inventory Management?
An inventory management system is one of the most important parts of a business’ supply chain. It aims to ensure that the right products are always stocked, and that the right quantity is available for sale when customers need them. It also ensures that the business owner is fully aware of when each product comes and goes from the manufacturer, to the warehouse, to the distribution method, to the customer. When inventory management is done effectively, businesses can lower their costs while maximizing sales and streamlining the process.
Inventory Management Best Practices
Here are some best practices to help you manage inventory effectively.
Use the FIFO Approach
The FIFO approach stands for “First In, First Out”. You should sell your goods in the same chronological order as they were purchased or created. This is extremely important if you are selling perishable products like food, makeup, and flowers. The best way to apply FIFO in a warehouse or storeroom is to add new items from the back so that older products are the first items that are picked.
Fine Tune Your Forecasting
Accurate forecasting is vital to ensuring that you make the right decisions about your inventory and are always prepared if there is an issue. You should base your projected sales calculations on factors such as historical sales figures, marketing trends, predicted growth, the economy, promotions, marketing efforts, and more.
Identify Low-Turn Stock
If you have stock taking up space in your warehouse because it hasn’t been sold in the last six to 12 months, it is best for you to stop stocking that item. Instead, you should consider different strategies to clear the space of that stock. You can offer it at a special discount or promotion. Excess stock wastes your space and capital, so it is best that you get these items moving as quickly as possible.
Audit Your Stock
Even with the best inventory management software and strategy it is still important for you to periodically counter inventory to ensure that what you have in stock matches what your records say. There are different techniques for auditing your stock including an annual year-end physical check where you count every single item. You can also do an ongoing spot check which can be useful for products that are fast moving or have stocking issues.
Use Inventory Management Software
Inventory management software can help you track your products in real time and provide you with accurate counts so you can give your customers current information. It also helps you know where items are in your warehouse so that you can make the best decisions for organizing and route planning. When choosing a good inventory management software, you can expect to reap the following benefits:
- Reduce costs, improve cash flow, and boost your bottom line
- Track inventory in real time
- Forecast customer demand
- Prevent product and production shortages
- Prevent excess stock and raw materials
- Easy inventory analysis on any device
- Accessible from your point-of-sale (POS) system
- Optimize warehouse organization and employee time
- Quick and efficient barcode scanning to speed up intake
- Multi-location management (tracking inventory across several locations or warehouses)
Hire a Stock Controller
If you have a lot of inventory it may be in your best interest to hire one person and make them responsible for managing it. A stock controller will process all purchase orders, receive deliveries, and ensure that everything that enters your warehouse matches what was ordered.
Remember Quality Control
No matter what industry you are in, you must ensure that all your products are in great condition and work as they should. Quality control is a vital part of inventory management because you do not want to be sending your customers defective items. Ensuring quality control can be as simple as having your employees quickly examine the items during stock audits. They should follow a checklist for signs of damage and correct product labelling to make sure everything is in order.
Get Inventory Management Help from Lean Supply Solutions
Proper inventory management requires the right processes and tools. Simply tracking everything with pen and paper will consume your time and will produce serious errors. Setting up a quality inventory management system will save you the hassle, save you money, ensure accuracy, help you prepare for any potential issues, and improve the way you run your warehouse. When you partner with a third-party logistics provider (3PL), you’ll have incredible cloud-based inventory management solutions and the manpower to run your warehouse for better optimization.
If you’re looking for the right 3PL partner to help you implement your inventory management solution, look no further than Lean Supply Solutions. We can help you if you are looking for a 3PL company with the latest technology and cloud-based software systems. Our 3PL and 4PL services include pick-and-pack, inventory management, delivery, and more, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve consistent, accurate, and quality results. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL distribution team, or to ask any questions, contact us today!
- Published in Blog
Top 6 Tips to Effectively Implement a Warehouse Management System
It’s easy to get excited at the prospect of improving your warehouse organization and management with a new Warehouse Management System (WMS), but there are some important things to consider to ensure you are using this software as effectively as possible. Here are some tips from the experts to help you get the most out of your WMS, and how a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can offer this and much more.
Evaluate and Choose the Right WMS
The first step is choosing the right WMS for your needs. Unsure of where to begin? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you narrow down your options:
- What problems have you been facing in your warehouse?
- What opportunities for improvement have you yet to take hold of?
- Do you need to access data from multiple sources to gather an accurate inventory count?
- Has your inventory grown to the point where you have difficulty locating items in your warehouse?
- Are you struggling to create efficient and time-saving paths for your employees to retrieve and store items?
- Which processes of your warehouse need improvement?
Choose a Deployment Method
There are three deployment models to choose from with WMS. Here’s what you need to know about each of them to help you choose the best option:
In this model, the WMS is installed directly onto your company’s system and you are responsible for sourcing and running the program. These roles include network infrastructure, power supply, servers, etc. You may also need to pay for updates in the future.
A hosted WMS is like the on-premise model, but the infrastructure requirements are rented on an as-needed basis from your provider or a third-party. In other words, although your WMS is remotely hosted, you still own the software on your system.
If you’re familiar with Software as a Service systems (SaaS), cloud-based WMS is quite similar. You can access the data from the software using your personal login, regardless of what computer you use. You own this software and can access it if the program has been installed on other devices. Many WMS providers today offer cloud solutions as they are a safer and more efficient way to store information so managers can always have real-time updates without paying extra.
Build an Implementation Team
Once you have chosen the best WMS model for you, it’s time to get the system in place and build your implementation team. Here are the people involved in the process:
This is the high-level decision-maker who requested the WMS and determines the scope of the project, budget, etc.
The project manager is responsible for daily activities related to implementing the WMS. They are the primary contact between the vendor and the company and will delegate tasks, create schedules, and monitor deadlines to make the WMS as seamless as possible for IT and operations teams.
The person responsible for the technical aspect of the WMS is the system or data administrator. They will ensure it integrates with the company’s existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and that the data is safely migrated from the current system to the new one.
Business Unit Leaders
These people are employees you assign from your operations team, IT, and warehouse staff, who will be part of the implementation process. They should attend meetings and daily activities and stay informed to train other workers later.
Provide Training Sessions for Employees
The provider of your WMS should properly train your employees involved to ensure they are familiar with the system and receive hands-on support. These employees will become the internal experts to train and assist other members of your organization. Proper training is vital to ensure you are getting the most out of your WMS and streamlining warehouse processes.
Create a Communication Plan
Since implementing WMS can mean a lot of changes for each of your departments, schedule a company-wide meeting to explain this change. Without clear communication of how to use and access the WMS data, you’ll have confused or disengaged employees that don’t know how to adapt. At worst, implementing without communicating could lead to an increase in worker turnover and slow you down, defying the whole purpose of your goals. Here are some tips:
- Appoint spokespeople who provide updates to your teams
- Market the project internally, explaining why this implementation is beneficial to everyone
- Communicate in-person as much as possible
- Create a dialogue and let your team weight in on their thoughts, questions, or concerns about the new system
- Use multiple communication channels
Review Your WMS
Once you’ve implemented the WMS and a month has passed, it’s time to evaluate. Have there been any issues with it so far? Has it been helping you plan and budget better? How have the forecasting features and data collection helped you stay organized and improve customer service? Have a team meeting to see how everyone is doing and do regular follow ups until everyone is on the same page.
Get Warehouse Management Help from Lean Supply Solutions
A warehouse management system is an asset to help you optimize your operations and prepare for any potential issues. When you partner with a 3PL provider, you’ll have access to WMS and much more, plus, they will help you and your team get trained on how it works and benefits everyone.
If you’re looking for the right 3PL partner to help you implement a WMS, look no further than Lean Supply Solutions. Our 3PL and 4PL services include pick and pack, inventory management, delivery, and more, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve consistent, accurate, and quality results. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL distribution team, or to ask any questions, contact us today.
- Published in Blog
WMS or ERP? Which Is Right for Your Business?
Choosing the right software solution to manage and streamline your warehouse processes is essential to productivity and efficiency. Without a proper management system in place, your warehouse cannot function in a way that works for your team and your customers. The two main options for warehouse management include the traditional warehouse management system (WMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Although they have some similarities, these two systems are distinctly different and have their own benefits. Here’s what you need to know about each of them, and how to find out which is the best option for you.
What Is WMS?
As mentioned before, WMS stands for warehouse management system. This system is used to manage the storage, order processing, and movement of inventory in your warehouse. It helps you track the progress of each item at each stage: receiving, picking, packing, and shipping. With this real-time data, you can optimize based on historical trends and information. You can make better decisions during peak times and slower times. With WMS, you can reduce shipping errors, which account for 54% of returns. It also establishes a seamless link from order processing and logistics to the physical movement of the product out of the warehouse. The very best WMS will allow you to seamlessly connect your e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, accounting platforms, shipping carriers, and more.
Pros of WMS:
- Adaptable to the needs of each business
- Focuses on real-time operations—changes and grows with your inventory
- Makes your warehouse efficient and productive with multi-functional components
- Reports help you predict your inventory needs, even during high peak events
- Lower risk investment
Cons of WMS:
- You will need to set aside time to update and set up your warehouse locations with the WMS
- WMS only covers your order fulfillment, inventory, and warehouse management
What Is ERP?
The second option for your warehouse management is enterprise resource planning, or ERP. Both small and large businesses can use this to stay competitive and efficient with the way they store and access information. ERP seeks to achieve this by streamlining all processes and information into one solution. WMS focuses on the warehouse inventory alone, while ERP automates every department in your organization including inventory, service, sales, human resources, purchasing, customer relationship management (CRM), material requirements planning (MRP), financials, and products. ERP contains some of the same capabilities as WMS as well, but they are not as thorough. With ERP you can track inventory and get information about when items are picked, packaged, and shipped, but it focuses on creating a streamlined flow of information between all areas of business.
Pros of ERP:
- Streamlines all platforms
- Makes the warehouse functions seem like a “free bonus” since it includes all processes
- Able to automate different aspects of your business—increases productivity and efficiency
Cons of ERP:
- May cost more in implementation and in the long-term
- May not be as flexible in terms of sharing data with vendors
- Lacks an in-depth look at inventory and reporting to maximize warehouse space
- Rigid and transactional because they operate across multiple departments
Which Management System Is Right for You?
The benefit of having two options is that you can choose the right system for your goals, challenges, and budgets. A few aspects to keep in mind before you choose the right system for you include the following.
Consider the long-term goals of your business. What is required to get you there? Take time to define the measurable outcomes you hope to achieve and the functional requirements your business needs to get there.
You should also consider the technical requirements for storing and moving your products. What equipment do you need to integrate? This assessment will help you avoid problems related to your storage and delivery processes.
Return on Investment
Finally, you should calculate the return on investment (ROI) of each system by matching the costs of your long-term goals and needs to the implementation and integration costs. Consider how the increase in productivity will affect your bottom line. Each operations area of your business will be affected by your software, so it is important to carefully assess the pros and cons to make the best decision.
Get Help Managing Your Manufacturing Process with LSS
Both systems are important aspects in helping you manage your supply chain, but to meet your goals in the best way possible, you need to decide which of them is best for you. It is important to note that you can set up one of these systems on your own, or partner with a third-party logistics provider who can offer you these systems and more.
Lean Supply Solutions can help you if you are looking for a 3PL company with the latest technology and software systems. We are aware of the rising trends in the logistics industry and always strive to stay up to date. We commit to being aware of our clients’ operational challenges as they arise and help them get the most out of their supply chain processes. Our 3PL and 4PL, packaging, and supply chain management can streamline your processes for better success, as we deliver your products to your customers on time and help you achieve consistent, accurate, and quality results. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL distribution team or to ask any questions, contact us.
- Published in Blog
Strategies for Success with an Omni-Channel Fulfillment Service
Steve Jobs once famously said “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” For apparel manufacturers and retailers, this idea could not be closer to the truth. A good advertiser knows what their customers are looking for and delivers it. In this day and age, consumers want to search for the items they want, compare prices, and move between purchasing channels fluidly. Without seamless purchasing experiences, manufacturers and retailers miss incredible opportunities for sales. Learning to move with your customers, however, is more challenging than it sounds. Creating an omni-channel fulfillment solution through a third-party logistics (3PL) provider is the best way for you to achieve this goal. How do omni-channel supply solutions help you achieve success? Here’s how.
Invest in Fulfillment Technology
Today’s supply chain has access to multiple technologies that can optimize your processes. Some of these underutilized technologies include Transportation Management Systems (TMS), Distributed Order Management (DOM), and demand planning. With technology, you can become more efficient as you allocate inventory to your stores, warehouses, and customers in an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective manner. In addition, you can capture all information in the order management process and make it available through your channels to those who need visibility.
Use the Right Technology
When choosing technology to support your omni-channel fulfillment solution, don’t simply purchase the newest solution. You need to find out what works best for your specific needs. If customers are expecting fast shipping, your wholesale accounts and retail partners will also require quick packaging and fulfillment of orders. You can use the services of a 3PL provider to help you keep up with demand. Every brand is unique and depending on your business partners and where consumer demand is, you should seek a best fit strategy to meet these expectations.
Choose the Best Talent
Having the right talent is key for a successful strategy. Identifying the necessary skill sets and jobs required to help your business run properly is important. Take the time to consider what roles are crucial to your organization’s long-term success and find a partner that can help you achieve them.
Maximize Sales with Automation
Every business knows that to increase sales, manufacturers need to accurately forecast demand for each channel. The process of allocation can be tedious yet leveraging an intelligent Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is essential to making this work. ERP software helps to automate the allocation process and make smart decisions that lower your costs and resources. For example, if you are scheduling a flash sale, your solution should make this event more important over other channels and you should have allocation rules for a specific time frame to ensure that all these orders are fulfilled. Automation, robotics, and actionable intelligence can help you reduce the amount of labour-intensive aspects and make omni-channel fulfillment a reality.
Target High-Growth Markets
The omni-channel fulfillment market is expected to grow at a fast pace, reaching over $3.7 billion by 2020. To help boost this growth, companies like yours need to target high-growth markets. One way to do this is to consider the Tier 2 market. While most of the big businesses are actively targeting the Tier 1 market, there are increasingly more small companies that are switching over to omni-channel fulfillment solutions. This second tier of customers provides an excellent area of growth for suppliers.
Why You Need Omni-Channel Fulfillment Solutions
The omni-channel paradigm is not a fad that will go away. In fact, omni-channel commerce is only expected to grow. Whether you are a practitioner or a software supplier, you must establish and follow a road map for success to prevent yourself from getting left behind. By getting on board now, you can keep up with the changing nature of the e-commerce and omni-channel paradigm.
As mentioned above, if you invest in technology and adjust your operations to make your solutions more accessible, robust, and user-friendly, you will improve your customer reputation and see exceptional growth. Additionally, by reading and understanding data about your customer demands, you can adjust to meet their expectations and turn new customers into faithful clients. Even if you are a small company, there are ways for you to access this strategy to improve your business.
How Does Lean Supply Solutions Differ from Other 3PL Providers?
With so many 3PL providers to choose from, it can be challenging to find the right one for you. There are some aspects a good 3PL provider should have:
- Proven knowledge and experience that meets your needs
- Collaboration abilities with suppliers, customers, intermediaries, and other 3PL services
- Problem-solving skills
- Variety of Services
- Custom Solutions
- Technology and Software
At Lean Supply Solutions, we strive to stand out from the competition by offering all the above services, as well as our Lean Methodology principles. This mindset and value of our organization focuses on eliminating any operations, equipment, and resources that do not bring success and value to our clients’ supply chain. We ensure that your customers get their products at the right time, and offer you consistent, accurate, and quality results.
Our services include contract logistics, manufacturing support, consulting and project management, product and order fulfillment, warehouse and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, pick and pack, and more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!
- Published in Blog
8 Tips for Better Shipping Services
E-commerce businesses need to pay attention to the quality of their shipping services. Savvy retailers in the online retail market know this goes beyond just sending a box to a customer. Shipping gives you the opportunity to impress your customers with tidy, well-packaged items that arrive to their address earlier than they expect or right on time. However, guaranteeing this service every time can be complicated and costly as you try to avoid shipping mistakes. Here are some helpful tips for e-commerce businesses and a breakdown of how our third-party logistics company can help you avoid common shipping mistakes.
1. Choose the Right Packaging Size
Packaging is very important as it protects your products during shipping. It also builds your brand’s image and identity, and depending on the size and weight, it determined how much carriers will charge to ship the product. Packaging and size are important aspects to consider with any item you plan to ship. If you try to save money and ship your product in a box that is too small or doesn’t have enough stuffing and bubble wrap, you could risk damaging the product. A good rule of thumb for packaging size is to choose a box that has two inches of cushioning room.
2. Don’t Overpay for Shipping
You can save yourself from wasting money by taking the time to research your shipping costs. Some shipping carriers have a network that allows them to offer faster delivery, weekend delivery, discounts on fuel charges, and more. You may need to pay for these extra services, which is why it’s important to understand them in advance. Only choose a package or carrier that brings features that are valuable to you and your customers. Don’t waste money on services you don’t need.
3. Be Prepared for Changes
The prices and policies for shipping change every year, and although they tend to change at the beginning of the year, they can still happen mid-year. Always be prepared for changes from your shipping carriers. For instance, USPS recently decreased their prices for electronic postage, while UPS and FedEx are now charging by DIM weight.
4. Check That the Address Is Correct
One of the most common shipping mistakes is sending orders to the wrong customers. It’s important that shippers take the time to ensure that the right destination address stated on the bill/invoice is reflected on the packaging, so the package ends up where it needs to. Even the wrong ZIP code can result in a lengthy process of tracking down the shipment and sending it to the correct customer.
5. Take Note of Customer Reviews
You should always pay attention to what your customers are saying about your products and service. Their feedback can help you improve your services and indicated where you need to make adjustments. For example, if your customers are dissatisfied with delivery times, you can consider providing a better shipping option. If your customers are always praising you for quick delivery times, it’s a good sign that the services you’re offering are meeting and exceeding their expectations.
6. Track Your Shipping Supplies
Managing product inventory is crucial for an optimized warehouse, but what about your shipping supplies? These supplies are necessary for sending customer orders out, so if you don’t pay attention to the number of boxes, packing supplies, tape, and labels you have, you run the risk of delaying customer orders as you wait for more shipping supplies. When you track your shipping supplies, you can create re-order points to keep more supplies coming in as you need them.
7. Audit Your Shipments
Studies have shown that 10% of packages arrive late, but shippers only refund a portion of these arrivals. By doing regular audits of your shipments, you can be reimbursed for any carrier shipper errors including late deliveries, incorrect charges for Saturday delivery, duplicate charges, and issues with incorrect address deliveries. Checking each shipment on your own can get extremely time consuming, which is why it is beneficial to partner with a third-party logistics provider and have this process automated.
8. Automate Your Shipping
If your business is growing or if you have a lot of product inventory and customer orders, you won’t have time to create shipping labels by hand. Automating this process can save you valuable time. With e-commerce shipping software, most of the manual tasks involved can be automated (ex. retyping addresses). You can also create customized invoices and packing slips to make your packaging and products look more professional. Automation lets you save hours each day and makes shipping processes run smoother and more accurately for you and your customers.
How a Third-Party Logistics Company Can Help You Improve Your Shipping Processes
Choosing the right shipping carrier is a big decision, which is why you can benefit from the advice and connections of a third-party logistics provider. They will have the services you need to exceed your customer expectations, get better tracking of your inventory and supplies, prepare and forecast changes, and more. They can help you thrive in challenging situations and predict errors so you can make changes to avoid them. When it comes to shipping, there is little room for error if you want your business to grow and profit, so get in touch with a 3PL provider soon and seek services that can help you.
If you are looking for the right company to partner with, Lean Supply Solutions is the answer. We rise to the challenge of meeting our clients’ needs through our services which include product fulfillment, warehousing and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, warehouse pick and pack, order fulfillment, shipping and delivery, and more. To learn more about outsourcing to us, or to ask any questions, contact us.
- Published in Blog