We have the expertise you need to optimise inventory, reduce cost and improve service

Inventory is a requirement to protect supply and is one of the most important assets of any supply chain. Inventory ensures continuity of supply and service requirements during procurement or manufacturing lead times. It also serves to protect against unplanned variations to demand and supply within those lead times.

All inventory levels must be justified and minimised. Every business needs to have a clear inventory management policy that ensures inventory levels are bridged with required service levels. ‘Just in case’ and ‘x-weeks of supply’ approaches  are wholly inefficient and risk, not just higher inventory investment, but also poorer customer service levels, higher warehouse operating costs and stock obsolescence.

Principally inventory targets should be comprised of two elements: cycle stock and safety stock. Cycle stock is there to cover the normal expected demand during the replenishment lead time, whilst safety stock is an additional buffer to protect against unexpected demand and supply variations. The assessment and calculation of cycle stock and safety stock can be complex, requiring a detailed understanding of probability and statistics. The is where our inventory consultants excel; we not only bring the knowledge and methodology for inventory optimisation, but we also combine this with our real-world experience of supply chain operations.

How our inventory consultants can help your business get control of inventory levels

Our inventory consultants can undertake a full inventory analysis for you. Using historical and forecast data we can establish the optimum inventory target for every product, based on the target service levels required and any working capital restrictions that need to be observed.

There are many approaches to establishing optimal inventory targets we can take, depending on the client requirements and the industry sector. Click on the tabs below to read about a typical 8 step approach our inventory consultants would take with a retail operation.

Inventory modelling requires extensive statistical analysis and consequently requires a solid foundation of transaction and forecast data. It is crucial to the process of inventory modelling to establish at least a 12-month data profile reflecting product sales, product purchase costs, planned lead-times, actual lead-times and supply variations.

Building the data profile is the first task our consultants undertake. Of course, we understand that, for many businesses, data extracts from their systems aren’t always perfect. To negate potential data errors our consultants are adept at cleansing and validating transaction and forecast data. We ensure outliers are assessed and removed and all data sources are cross-checked to provide the most accurate platform for inventory assessment.

Investment into inventory has to be prioritised according the products with the greatest commercial or strategic value. Not all products in a company’s portfolio will achieve the same margin, and it is logical to balance inventory levels in favour of products with higher margins or higher strategic importance.

In order to classify the importance of individual products, an ‘ABC analysis’, sometimes referred to as ‘runners, repeaters, strangers analysis’, must be undertaken. There are many factors that should be considered in this type of analysis, including margin, sales frequency, strategic fit and volume. Portfolio classification is a critical step in optimising inventory levels.

A probability analysis needs to be undertaken using a combination of historical transaction and forecast data. A detailed and fully assessed model must be created to establish the probability of events such as supplier delays, variations in supply volume, manufacturing delays and non-forecast demand.

Each product needs to have a service level assigned. The service level is typically set as a percentage and relates directly to ‘on-shelf’ availability.

The service level assignment should be aligned with the portfolio classification. So potentially products that are classified as ‘A’ may be targeted at 99% on-shelf availability, whilst products classified as ‘B’ may be targeted at 95% availability and so on.

Varying the service level according to the product classification ensures that working capital is deployed in proportion to where the most value is returned.

There are two elements of an inventory target: cycle stock and safety stock. These two elements added together provide the reorder point (ROP). The ROP is the level at which the stock must be before a replenishment order is placed.

Using the probability analysis and service level targets, the ROP will be the optimum level of inventory that will ensure supply during the replenishment lead time and protect against any unforeseen fluctuations in supply or demand.

As a focus for improvement, it is of value to undertake ‘what-if?’ scenario modelling against the calculated inventory targets. Typical scenarios to model include the impact to inventory costs of lead time reduction or varying service levels.

Of course, we understand that every clients needs are slightly different and we always modify our inventory optimisation approach according to those needs. Our experience in inventory control extends across many sectors – from high velocity ecommerce operations, to global manufacturing companies and raw material producers. Whatever the sector, our inventory optimisation consultants will develop the approach that your business needs.