Inventory management is one of the keys to business success. Knowing when and how to order inventory so you never run out of stock may sound like a no-brainer — but it takes some effort, and some smarts.

As a big asset, inventory can be a big expense as well. Disorganized inventory management can put a company right out of business. It also ties up quite a bit of cash, so expenses must be optimized to carry just enough to satisfy the projected demand but not too much — that becomes potentially outdated.

Brandow Consulting invites you to ponder these five pointers on warehouse management and inventory management. They could save you time and expense:

How’s your technology?

Automating inventory tracking will save time. Mobile devices such as iPads or barcode scanners can keep the inventory updated smoothly and quickly. It means better accuracy, too. Suddenly, shipping, storage, and delivery come together in one cohesive, portable, package. As you get more accurate real-time information your material requirements strategy will greatly improve.

Suppliers are your friend, not your enemy
Find out what their schedule is to avoid surprises. Remember that they may shut down for the holidays. Or be slower to respond. Give them a heads up when you know you’ll have an unusually full order, or something special. Figure out when they have gaps they’d like to fill; then see about getting a special rate to help them fill that gap with your orders. Make nice with them, but always have a backup supplier handy in case they can’t fulfill your orders.
Create inventory niches
Find a common element, such as fastest-moving, or slowest restocks, or your most profitable inventory. Tweak the warehouse logistics so fast-moving inventory is where you can get right at it, and so forth. Keep updating this kind of grouping, as the dynamics of your warehouse and shipping change. Putting inventory into distinct niches makes generating reports much simpler. It’s how most major companies keep track of inventory trends to see if the actual sales match up with projections.
Use an annual review
An annual hands-on review should be mandatory, no matter what kind of warehouse/inventory automation you’re using. Also employ spot checks to keep the system working properly. A spot check helps discover things like obsolete inventory or coding errors, or even sticky-fingered employees.
Don’t be afraid to use consultants
If you’re getting bogged down with your software, logistics, and balancing internal systems like stocking policies and reordering policies, consider bringing in a special consultant to help upgrade things like management software. A consultant will see to it that any new software you install integrates completely with every other internal system. They also have the latest updates in the warehouse and inventory industry, and can also clue you in to what may be going the way of the dodo bird when it comes to software you’re still depending on.