April 05, 2023 | Supply Chain Strategy
Supply chain organizations know that the struggle is real when it comes to balancing inventory levels. Enterprises don't want to overstock and risk ending up with a warehouse full of useless items. At the same time, they also don't want to run out of stock and disappoint customers. In short, it's like trying to find the perfect balance between being a hoarder and a minimalist.
Fortunately, lean inventory management provides an effective solution to this problem.
Lean inventory management is a method of inventory control that minimizes waste and maximizes efficiency. By reducing the amount of excess inventory, it streamlines the supply chain and improves profitability. The goal of lean inventory management is to eliminate waste in the supply chain by reducing excess inventory.
Lean inventory management views inventory as a liability instead of an asset, implying that excess inventory blocks the most valuable part of a warehouse, that is space. Excess inventory also ties up resources and ultimately becomes obsolete if there is no demand. Reducing excess inventory improves efficiency, frees up valuable resources and helps reduce cost.
It was Toyota that first came up with a solution in the 1950s with its lean manufacturing system, which included lean inventory management. Essentially, lean inventory management is all about viewing inventory as a liability rather than an asset.
So, how does one achieve this state of inventory nirvana? Through a combination of strategies, of course.
Lean inventory management involves implementing a range of strategies to reduce excess inventory. These include:
JIT is an inventory control method in which enterprises order materials and products just in time for production or for sale, minimizing the need to stock large quantities of inventory.
Demand forecasting is the process of predicting future demand for a product or service. By accurately forecasting demand, supply chain professionals can order the right amount of inventory to meet that demand, reducing excess inventory.
Inventory optimization helps reduce excess inventory by analyzing inventory levels and making adjustments to meet demands, thereby improving efficiency.
This is an important aspect of lean inventory management, where inventory levels are constantly analyzed, and new strategies are accordingly implemented. Regularly review of inventory levels and processes also helps reduce waste.
Implementing lean inventory management results in improved operational efficiency, improved profitability, and improved customer service. Minimizing excess inventory and streamlining the supply automatically results in improved cost efficiency.
Elimination of waste and inventory optimization through lean inventory management improves the overall efficiency of the supply chain.
Implementing lean inventory management is not without its challenges. Resistance to change, a lack of data, inadequate technology, and supplier management can all make it a bumpy road.
Implementing lean inventory management requires a significant shift in mindset and culture, especially for employees, who may at times resist changes — leading to delays in implementation.
Implementation requires accurate data to inform and aid decision-making. Any shortage of data can make the entire process challenging, leading to difficulty in implementing an effective inventory management strategy.
Outdated technology and software are a deterrent to implementing lean inventory management effectively. Next-generation technology can easily streamline the entire inventory management processes.
Collaboration with suppliers is key requirement for implementing lean inventory management. However, supplier relationships can be difficult to manage when dealing with a large number of suppliers.
Most global eCommerce giants have implemented the just-in-time inventory system to minimize excess inventory and improve efficiency. RFID has proven to be an effective technology to track inventory levels, enabling companies to quickly restock products as they are sold, thereby reducing the need to stock large quantities.
Same goes for many FMCG giants that use a combination of demand forecasting and just-in-time inventory management to minimize excess inventory and reduce waste. Accurate prediction of demand for products helps retail giants order the right amount of inventory to meet demand, with the aim to keep improving efficiency.
One of the primary challenges for supply chains is managing inventory This requires supply chain organizations to balance inventory levels to ensure inventory can meet demand, but without the need to overstock.
Enterprises consider lean inventory management a key strategy to reduce waste and improve supply chain efficiency. Through inventory management strategies such as minimizing excess inventory, optimizing inventory levels, and continuously improving processes, enterprises can reduce costs, improve customer service, and enhance profitability.
Therefore, when it comes to businesses, whether small or a multinational corporation, lean inventory management is a strategy worth considering.
So, don't be a hoarder, don't be a minimalist - be a Lean Inventory Management master!