Inventory Control Methods: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Inventory Control

What is the best way to manage your inventory? In the end, you are the most-qualified person to answer that question. But you need all the facts so you can make the right decision for your business.

Here is an analysis of four popular methods of inventory control:

ABC System. This system includes three groups of products. The first group (A) includes large, costly products; the second group (B) includes somewhat less-costly products; and the third group (C) includes small, cheap products. The ABC System focuses on product types, not quantity. If you use inventory tracking software, you should be able to use this system just fine. The ABC System will help you know how long it will take to reorder certain products, based on their group.

Min-Max System. This is the simplest method of inventory control. You simply draw two lines, which represent a maximum amount of inventory and a minimum amount. When your stock of a certain product reaches the minimum line, it’s time to reorder. However, you can’t order more than the maximum line. The simplistic approach of this method can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s easy to use, but it could leave you with shortages or overstocks, if you’re not careful.

Two-Bin System. As its name suggest, this system includes two bins: One bin with products you sell day to day, and another bin with products that are sold only when the first bin is empty and an order has been placed to refill it. This is also a fairly simple approach, though it can still require a lot of work. Be sure to rotate through the backup bin fairly often and try not to stock up too much on products or your carrying costs will rise.

Order-Cycle System. In this system, every 30, 60 or 90 days you go through your inventory and check product levels. You order more of products that you suspect will sell out before the following scheduled inventory checkup. This is the worst of the four inventory control methods. It is fraught with danger. If you only look at your inventory levels every 30 days or so, you could run into overstock problems or shortages. You should steer clear of this inventory control method.

The decision of how best to control your inventory is up to you. No matter what method you use, you should also use inventory management software. This will allow you to have all the facts you need to make smart decisions.

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