Best way to manage inventory and warehouses

Retail, manufacturing, and distribution enterprises must ensure stock availability while minimizing costs. Stock-outs, lower productivity, and higher logistics expenses are due to bloated inventory buffers, inaccurate forecasting, inefficient layouts, and outdated processes. A holistic approach is required to transform legacy inventory and warehouse management. Plan, forecast, replenish, receive, store, fill, and dispatch this strategy.

Implement perpetual inventory management

Many enterprises still rely on periodic inventory counting through annual stocktakes or intermittent cycle counts. This leads to inaccurate on-hand numbers, losses, and stock-outs in between counting, disrupting operations. Transitioning to perpetual inventory management provides real-time accuracy by capturing every transaction – receipts, issues, transfers, and adjustments – via tracking. Continuous visibility across the supply chain is possible with barcodes, RFID sensors, and integrated systems. Judgment-based demand forecasts built on gut feel or rudimentary techniques like averages often miss trends or seasonal patterns. Chronic stock-outs result from excessive buffers. Analytic methods uncover seasonality, phase-out profiles, and cross-product affinities. Granular segmentation by product, geography, channel, customer, and other attributes provides tailored accurate forecasts. Multi-scenario simulations and machine learning enable continuous improvements. Reliable forecasts of right-size inventory.

Optimize inventory buffers strategically

While demand variability necessitates inventory buffers, excessive buffers inflate carrying costs. Lead times, replenishment frequency, forecast accuracy, product shelf-life, and supply risks must be examined. Inventory should be stratified based on demand variability and supply reliability for tailored buffering – high-volume staples need tighter buffers than lumpy, offshore-sourced items. Dynamic buffer tuning adjusted to market trends balances service levels and efficiency. Haphazard warehouse slotting leads to inaccessible items, excessive put-away and picking times. Data-driven slotting places faster-moving products in easily accessible primary pick zones, while slow movers go to reserve storage. Inventory dimensions and demand patterns determine storage facility layouts. Keep storage density high with regular layout resets.

Revamp picking processes 

Optimized picking processes like cluster picking, batch picking, and zone picking enable efficient order consolidation. Mixed picking modes – discrete orders, batched waves, case picks – provide flexibility aligned to product characteristics and order profiles. Technology solutions like pick-to-light, put-to-light, pick-to-voice, wearables, etc. accelerate fulfillment productivity. Workflow orchestration balances wave sequencing, batches, storage layouts, staffing, and equipment for maximum throughput. Fragmented warehouse management with siloed inventory, outdated software, and bolt-on apps leads to poor coordination across functions like receiving, putaway, order processing, fulfillment, and dispatch. Transitioning to modern cloud-based WMS integrates inventory planning, optimization engines, Deliveree workflows, and mobile apps on a unified platform. Achieve agility and efficiency across distributed warehouses with end-to-end visibility and orchestration.

Implement warehouse automation

Automated storage and retrieval systems, automated guided vehicles, goods-to-person picking, and autonomous mobile robots handle repetitive tasks faster and more reliably than humans. Automation support, automated exception handling, and troubleshooting enable scale and precision while redeploying labor. Manually handling exceptions, resolving issues, improving processes, and promoting productivity are all necessary. Employees are more likely to become motivated and disciplined through regular skill training, internal job rotation, daily huddles, interactive feedback on performance, and recognition. Unmatched agility and optimization come from cross-trained teams.