General Store Inventory Management Problems and Solutions

In an industry where disorganized inventory greatly affects customer satisfaction directly, extra effort is required when managing said inventory. This is because things are moving so fast and there are various products and multiple locations to manage. Having accurate data can greatly aid in efficient decision-making. Streamlined inventory management captures enough information to minimize expenses from overstocks and stockouts.

From the acquisition of products, to their distribution and retail, inventory management is one of the toughest tasks to handle. It requires a lot of time, and is also prone to human error.

Below are the most common problems a general store usually faces and their solutions:

Stock-outs

This sounds really costly and upsetting. When your business suffers from stock-outs frequently, especially with household items, there is a big chance you will lose customers and decrease sales.

Solution: Getting alerts or indications that the inventory in a certain location on your map has reached a certain threshold will help you be aware of the items you should include on your next replenishment.

Expired Items

Overstocking often results in expired items, but it can also be a consequence of inefficient inventory monitoring. This is very crucial, and a keen eye is needed to monitor expiration dates, not only with the existing items in your inventory but also for the incoming products. For General Stores, the First-in First-out (FIFO) process is common in inventory management. Failing to follow this may cause the expiration of old products.

Solution: Similar to the solution for stock-outs, getting alerts for expired items, or items that are about to expire is a great way of knowing the order in which items should be sold, disposed, or replaced. This will help you avoid selling expired items and the costs of spoiled goods.

Data Inaccessibility and Miscommunication

Everyone involved in the business should have access to data that is important to their roles. Information should be available whenever they need it. Lack of access may affect their productivity.

Miscommunication causes chaos in business data and can result in bad decision-making. There are updates that are not being extended to every member of an organization. There are also mistakes that are not accounted for due to a lack of activity records in the store. This can cause misunderstanding and confusion.

Solution: A centralized inventory monitoring can be achieved by having a system that increases the accuracy of operations. With the help of a centralized system and employees having access to it, everyone in the business will know every update in the business. It also holds enough information for employees to identify products and other information about changes made within the business.

Disorganized Inventory

When there are numerous products as well as multiple locations, keeping track of every item and location becomes really challenging. Ineffective inventory management could lead to missing/lost products, low visibility, and poor inventory replenishment decisions. 

Solution: Investing in a good inventory management system that does not offer random features but meets your actual needs will be a great help. Barcoding, product information optimization, centralized inventory management, and inventory visibility are great features you’ll get in exchange for a small price compared to the possible losses you may encounter due to poor inventory management.

Final Words

All the problems above are common and mostly encountered when doing manual inventory management. An inventory management system can ease the trouble of managing a store’s inventory. The system that best fits your needs can simplify your day-to-day operation.

Life at Emergency Medical Service (EMS)

Emergency medical services (EMS) have always been a vital part of any community, and with today’s pandemic, they have become even more essential. For some, they are the thin line between life and death. EMS responders have been working tirelessly since the pandemic started. Some are already used to the workload caused by the increasing number of infected people, while some are still struggling.

EMS Problem

Emergency medical services have two things to be mindful of each time an emergency arises. It is to respond to said emergency immediately with all the necessary equipment, and to monitor what goes out and goes back every time.

Manual tracking and accounting of all equipment and supplies is both confusing and exhausting, to say the least. Even on regular days, EMS are called out to multiple locations to help. Every time EMS responders go out, they will bring supplies and equipment to help them treat patients or to provide first aid before transporting them to a hospital. In situations like this, keeping supplies and equipment is the least of their worries, which sometimes leads them to accidentally leaving essential items on the scene.

Using the traditional way of inventory management, accounting for missing items is difficult. Making use of a tool that can keep up with the fast-paced environment the EMS is facing every day would be very beneficial.

EMS Inventory Management System

There are hundreds of EMS inventory management systems. If you’re tired of inventory problems and ready to invest in an inventory management system that can make everything easier. The common features of an IMS are inventory control, barcoding, accessibility, etc., but you have to look out for certain IMS that has the following features:

  • Centralized inventory management
  • Easy monitoring of expiration dates
  • Inventory movement history
  • Inventory Visibility

Centralized inventory management

This helps keep everything synchronized, especially when there are multiple locations to manage and multiple users that update the system simultaneously.

Easy monitoring of expiration dates

With the expiry date monitoring feature, expired supplies will be a thing of the past. You can prioritize using items that are about to expire and reorder to replenish expired goods to make sure essential items are always available.

Inventory movement history

Stocking each mobile, replenishing low-level supplies, and counting supplies and equipment right after an emergency needs to be tracked each day. With the help of the Activity History, you can also check what comes out and comes back from a vehicle, or anything for that matter, to make sure everything is accounted for.

Inventory Visibility

Lack of visibility is a common problem faced not just by EMS but also other businesses. This is also a feature missing from most inventory management systems.

Inventory visibility is knowing what inventory you have in what location, at any given moment. This is a vital feature, especially for EMS inventory management. In times of emergency, you will never know who took which items from what location or storage, and if something goes missing, no one will be accounted for and will just be assumed as a loss.

Inventory visibility can come with an actual visual map that represents the exact locations of your business. With a map, you can easily drag and drop items between multiple locations. Just a glance, you will see the content of each location, whether it is a closet, a room, a vehicle, or bins.

Inventory visibility allows for accurate information as it relates to inventory levels and locations, accountability, and data-driven decisions.

Conclusion

The EMS industry has been a great support in the healthcare sector but EMS responders are getting over worked and people who manage the resources are exhausted in keeping track of supply and equipment every day. Inventory management is an underestimated but key component to the success of an EMS. 

Whether traditional or innovative approaches to managing inventory, you must consider things that can make everything easier not only for inventory managers but also for the responders. Tracking, monitoring, and accounting in a fast-paced environment without missing anything is simply impossible. You need something such as inventory management software to look after supplies, equipment, and multi-locations.  

EMS inventory management is as important as having enough people and equipment.

Inventory Visibility for Fire Stations

Consider this image: It’s been a while since the last time someone called your station for an emergency. You wake up and proceed with your everyday routine. You get a cup of coffee and turned on the tv, you watched the news and learned about the pandemic. You just found out that hundreds of thousands of people have already been infected and that your country just closed its borders. You were in shock and you ask yourself: “what’s my life as a firefighter going to be?”

Your current ways or techniques in handling problems are no longer efficient these days compared to the regular old days. You may be thinking of new ways to make your job more efficient. Who knows, maybe the things you’re used to in the past can be improved, maybe you just haven’t explored modern techniques yet.

What can you do to make things easier?

There are consumable and non-consumable supplies in a fire station.

Consumables include truck wash, alcohol, paper towels, hand soap, and other supplies, whereas non-consumable items are gears, equipment, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) products.

Even if you’re motivated enough to record and monitor everything manually, there’s still a big chance of you encountering problems or mistakes. To handle these things more effectively and to avoid chaos in the station because of missing and lacking supplies, you need an efficient tool to help you do things perfectly. 

Items in every station move fast everyday, whether there are drills, emergencies, or even on regular days. A powerful tool such as an inventory management software will help you record, monitor, and access data anytime, thus making your job more efficient and accurate. 

How can Inventory Management System (IMS) make things easier?

An IMS requires a little more investment than your traditional inventory management. However, the features and the help it offers far outweigh the cost. It can give you more visibility in the overall movement of inventory. A properly-managed inventory is crucial for a seamless operation and is a big help in responding quickly during emergencies. Organized supplies help the firemen to more efficient during emergencies and prevent the loss of lives and further damage to properties.

What makes everything visible is an actual map of the locations, a visual picture of your day-to-day operations. With a map, you can monitor supplies as they move around the station and during any operation.

Below is a sample inventory map where you can find all the locations in your station:

A visual map makes you see exactly what you have on hand and where each item is located.

Everything and anything in your office that has items inside it is a location. From small bins to cabinets, shelves, and rooms. Even a fire truck can be considered a location. Every person in a fire station has his/her own supplies, and these supplies have to be monitored to avoid losses. 

Aside from having inventory visibility, the standard features found in an IMS are:

  • Inventory Management
  • Inventory Alerts
  • Barcoding
  • Transfer Management Capabilities
  • Easy Access and Real-Time Updates

Conclusion

Firefighters can’t go inside fires naked, there are necessary equipment that will help them fight the flames and keep them from becoming victims. The job of inventory personnel is to optimize the inventory, to make the jobs of firefighters a little easier. 

Inventory management System (IMS) is worth it, but you have to find a system that best fit your needs. If you have problems with inventory visibility, then you would need an IMS that has a visual map feature.

5 Best Features to Look for in an Inventory Management System

Almost every business out there has some kind of inventory, it can be in the form of supplies, raw materials, and some business even consider human resource as inventory. There are businesses that would benefit more with an Inventory Management System (IMS), some examples would be a manufacturing business, retail stores, distribution business, and warehouses. If you are part of this industry, you might be well aware of the usual problems such as stock-outs, missing inventory, and time-consuming inventory quantity monitoring.

Inventory Management System

Inventory management systems are one of the most acquired applications of today, simply because the amount of help they give to businesses involved in buying and selling products is immeasurable. These systems help businesses supervise the flow of their operations. This ‘flow’ has different stages, namely: acquisition, manufacturing, warehousing, and retail & distribution.

There are thousands of software you can choose from. The following are the top key features to consider when getting an inventory management software:

  1. User-friendly and accessibility
  2. Easy transfer between locations
  3. Inventory level alert
  4. Barcode scanning
  5. Real-time tracking/Visibility

User-friendly and accessibility

Not everyone is tech-savvy. so it makes sense to get a system that is easy to use and understand to avoid costly mistakes and reduced expenses on training. It would also be helpful if the inventory data is accessible on different devices such as laptops, desktops, or even mobile phones. This way you can view information and make decisions anytime and anywhere.

Easy transfer between locations

Transferring items from one location to another is a tedious process, mainly because it also requires different information to be transferred as well. When this task is done manually, you will need to type in a lot of information from both locations, so everything will be accounted for. But with the help of a software, collecting information like this can be done in just a few clicks.

Inventory level alert

To avoid stockouts, having a warning or alert whenever the inventory level reaches a certain threshold is a big plus. This will prompt you to reorder more items to fill in the low-level inventory.

Barcode scanning

With a barcode scanner, you can do pretty much everything. You can simplify inventory management by tracking your products and location with the use of a barcode scanner. By simply scanning a barcode you can transfer items and check them in or out of a location.

Real-time tracking/Visibility

Having visibility over your inventory is a huge time saver. You can find an item and see where it is in the warehouse by simply typing in its details on the search field.  There’s a new and very innovative way to have visibility over your entire inventory, even if you have hundreds of locations, and this is called an Inventory Map.

The Map

Having multiple locations with different systems can lead to poor data sharing and poor decision-making. But by using a centralized map that represents the business, whether you have multiple warehouses, manufacturing facilities, or retail locations, makes everything connected and accounted for. It will also help decision-makers have a better understanding of what’s going on with the business operations by being able to access accurate and timely information.

Aside from the smooth flow of information, having a map greatly helps in inventory visibility. You can easily check items in different locations and find things quickly in just a few clicks. 

Summary

Businesses with an enormous inventory requires more manpower if they will rely on manual inventory tracking. Doing everything manually also leads to human errors, and errors in business are synonymous to costs/expenses.

Relying on an inventory management system can help businesses reduce costs in the long run. Businesses will have less requirement for manpower in the management of their inventory, which means less expenses in salary. Everything can be automated, and you can get all the information quickly wherever you are in just a few clicks. 

Using the Inventory Map, you can get all the visibility you need to locate everything in your inventory. It helps save a lot of time and effort.

Inventory Management in Time of Pandemic

Different organizations have already adjusted most parts of their business strategy because of COVID-19. These organizations include counties that manage different departments such as police, fire stations, schools, and health units that have big roles in suppressing the spread of the pandemic.

County health departments play significant functions in making the everyday flow of COVID-19 response go smoothly. The management should make sure that there are personnel, devices, and equipment available at all times.

COVID-19 Response Common Problem

There has been success in flattening the curve and people are starting to go back to their normal lives. However, there are still government organizations in some counties that are still having trouble in responding to COVID.

What is the common problem aside from the lack of budget and unruly citizens? It would be managing the overwhelming resources and multiple locations they have. Failure to manage the essential supplies is a huge problem and having a lot of departments that have different vital roles is a real challenge.

What could have been done?

Relying on manual tracking of resources in this time of world problem is a no-no. How would organizations such as counties and other local governments keep up to fast-paced and fast-moving resources?

These days, items like vaccines, medical devices, and PPEs are very essential. So what could have been done by those counties and local governments who fail to flatten the curve because of messy inventory management?

Instead of doing the inventory monitoring manually, organizations should use an inventory management system that makes everything easier by automating things out.

How will inventory management systems help? 

With the overwhelming number of items that need to be monitored every single day, it is helpful to have these features at the tip of your fingers:

  • Eagle-view of the inventory
  • Drag and drop items
  • Search items in multiple locations
  • Activity history

Eagle-view of the inventory

When you operate an organization such as a county or any local government agency, you know that you are not just dealing with a single location. Everything that can hold an item is a location, as well as every department, are locations. Having a visual image that represents the actual location in the office is a great way to locate a single item in a ton and tons of products.

Drag and drop items

Instead of manually typing repetitive item names and locations on a spreadsheet, it would be more efficient to be able to drag and drop items between locations. It would save a lot of time and effort. 

Search items in multiple locations

There are several ways to search for a certain item or location in your inventory depending on what information you’d like to check.

Activity history

After a long day and a lot of movements happening on your inventory, there’s a way to check all the changes made. This information includes the item name, date and time, and the name of the user who made the change. This way everything is accounted for and will lessen missing items and the costs along with those.

Even just on regular days, managing everything in a single organization is already challenging. What more in the time of pandemic when everything and every cost need to be utilized efficiently because it’s not just another regular day that we need to get by. It’s a matter of life and death of all the citizens and brave front-liners who rely on good organization management.

Summary

The use of traditional inventory management is never the best way to respond to any emergency especially when an organization has to manage a diverse and a countless number of products and locations. Having an inventory management system will help you with everything–viewing the item location at a single glance, transferring products in just a few clicks, searching items in your inventory in different ways, and having access to every change made in the inventory.

Managing Hotel Inventories

Hotel inventory is one of the things we’re trying to perfect when it comes to hotel management. We don’t want our guests to have a bad experience just because their room had no shampoo or soap, do we?

Hotel inventory can be divided into two categories, namely primary and secondary inventory. Primary inventory refer to rooms that generate revenue and the Secondary inventory covers other important things such as complimentary items and supplies for each room, restaurant, gift shop, and cleaning service.

Primary inventory can be monitored by keeping an eye on how many rooms are available for booking and rooms that are currently occupied. Secondary inventory is just as important as Primary inventory, but it’s more complex to monitor, especially if the hotel offers extended amenities such as restaurants and gift shops.

What is Inventory Visibility and how does it help hotels in managing their secondary inventory?

Inventory visibility is being able to track your inventories real-time and knowing where everything is located at any given moment. Having this kind of visibility has some perks you’ll enjoy:

  • Efficient use of your time
  • Improved forecasting and allocation of resources

Efficient use of time

Manual tracking of inventory is a long and tedious process. It takes time and can cost you a lot especially when you have multiple locations and your items are moving a lot. Being able to find an item and knowing its location in just a few clicks saves a lot of time, imagine having the ability to see the actual location of the item you’re looking for.

Inventory Map is a new approach under inventory visibility. This is when you have a map, a visual representation of all locations in your warehouse or storage. This helps hotels in keeping track of moving items such as bedsheets, linens, blankets, and other items. This will also effectively reduce loss and theft and it will allow you to monitor demanding products for different seasons, to forecast the need for room supplies, cleaning materials, products in the gift shop, and many more.

Another advantage of having inventory visibility is that it can help you cut on cost. This inventory map can be managed and monitored by a single person only, and it can be done in the comfort of your office or home. This eliminates the need to check the actual locations, thus significantly reducing the number of people required to manage the inventory.

Improves forecasting and allocation of resources

Being able to access the records of the hotel inventory at any given time will allow you to see where and how the supplies are moving, it will also allow you to easily see the purchasing behavior of your guests. This ability will help you predict the number of certain supplies each department would need, which would ultimately prevent you from overstocking or understocking your supplies.

This cost-efficient method will give you more funds to use on improving other aspects of your business and help you achieve your strategic goals.

Summary

The primary inventory of hotels is very essential because it generates the revenue, while the secondary inventory supports the flow of the business, which makes it just as important. 

The new approach of having a map for inventory visibility avoids overstocking, understocking, and customers’ negative experiences by improving the predictability and allocation of resources. 

As a hotel inventory officer, have you ever experienced problems with missing items because of unattended custodial carts?

Inventory Visualization for a Cosmetics Store

Every customer has that one makeup store they keep coming back to. It’s usually because they would always find their favorite products there or they just simply love the décor or the employees. Imagine a store with hundreds or thousands of products available, how would they manage their inventory? The traditional way of managing inventory via spreadsheets may no longer be effective. Messy inventory data leads to mistakes in decision-making. 
 

With the use of an intuitive inventory management system, I reimagined the layout of my favorite store. This software offers an incredible mapping feature and here’s how it can help the store with their inventory management:

Setting up the store map

First, we need to create an account for the inventory management software. If you are hesitant to spend right away, they offer a free trial, and it’s usually enough for you to explore everything that the software offers. Follow the prompts to complete the setup.

The Map

After setting up the account and name of the store, we can proceed to create the layout of the map based on the actual locations of isles, storage, and displays in the store.

Creating Locations

Here, I created some of the most noticeable sections in the store. Most stores have their products categorized and displayed in different isles and sections. When creating locations, it would be a good idea not to limit ourselves to the interior of the store, we can also create other locations such as manufacturing sites, warehouses, and even vehicles, depending on how extended the business is.

To add a sub-location for the Dream Shade location, we need to click on the yellow button with a plus sign.

If you prefer a new main location, click the yellow button at the bottom-right corner of the screen

Creating Products

After creating a map layout of the store, let’s create some products for the product catalog. The catalog will record all the products available in the store.

Proceed to the ‘Products’ tab on the map and click the green button with a plus sign.

A window will pop up. Fill out the details as needed on the fields. There are default fields available for use but we can add more fields in the ‘Custom Fields’ section in the settings page. Click the ‘Check’ icon, then save.

Adding a product to a location

  • In the ‘Products’ tab – select the item you want to place into a location. A window like the one in the picture below will appear. Click the location, change the quantity, then hit ‘enter’. The color of a location changes when you put products inside it.
  • In the ‘Map’ tab – select the location and click the check-in icon which is the green forward button. Select a product and change its quantity according to the amount you want to check in. Click ‘select’. We can leave a comment such as a vendor name, batch number, or the reason for the transaction. This can help us filter out information that the store may require in the future. 

Awesome Features

After setting up the map, filling in some products into the catalog, and placing products into locations, the store can proceed to the day-to-day operations. We did not make all these efforts without knowing how this software can help our favorite cosmetic store in managing their inventory.  There’s a lot of features available but we will focus on the most important ones:

  • Collect data remotely
  • Drag and drop transfer
  • Bird’s-eye view of inventory
  • Barcoding

Conclusion

Cosmetic items are products that customers can’t wait to use and this means delayed deliveries and stockouts can damage the business’ image. One bad order experience can cause negative feedback that can push away your potential buyers. Having a reliable inventory management system with inventory visibility, an easy way to transfer products, an option for barcoding, and an option to access your data remotely can help businesses avoid such problems.

Managing the Inventory and Equipment in Your Medical Laboratory

In a medical lab, keeping an accurate record of inventory items (supplies and equipment), their quantity, and location will ensure that things run smoothly and can prevent expensive mistakes. Some tips below will help you out!

Take Stock of Everything

Whether starting a new laboratory or just simply working to improve the inventory process, you need to take stock of everything to make sure every lab item is accounted for. You can do this the old-fashioned way using a pen & paper/spreadsheet or you can be smart and make use of a software.

Assess the Current Stock

The next thing to do is to evaluate which products are being used daily, in surplus, out of date, or expired, and locations where you lack items. This will help you in setting inventory thresholds and prevent stockouts in your lab.

Product Location and Assignment

Product location and assignment are usually the most important parts to look out for, yet people usually neglect these when managing the inventory in laboratories. Storing products in a way that allows you to locate them among hundreds of other items can be challenging – especially when you have multiple locations.

Barcoding

The easiest way to assign products to locations is by using barcodes. You can assign barcodes to different areas of your storage such as bins, cabinets, rooms, and even vehicles.

  • when stocking products, you can create a barcode for each item and scan them to their designated locations.
  • when removing products, just scan them out and they will automatically be removed from your inventory.

Inventory Mapping

Barcoding is very useful and intuitive when assigning different products to different locations, and locating those products. But what is the best way to find certain products or items within your laboratory in just one glance? It’s by looking through a visual map with graphical representations of the actual locations in your lab.

  • by zooming into a specific location, you will see its contents.
  • by selecting an item or product, you will its details and locations across your inventory map.

Multiple Locations

When you have multiple labs or have a mobile on the go, it’s best to have a system that can help you get accurate and synchronized data from different locations. Being able to transfer products just by dragging and dropping between locations is a plus and a great way to save time and effort. 

Summary

Challenges in managing a lab inventory are inevitable. What we need is to be smart and adaptable. The old-fashioned way of maintaining your inventory is still a thing but no longer that effective. Inventory Mapping is a brilliant thing that we never thought we needed. 

How about you, how do you maintain control of your inventory?

Inventory Concerns When Buying and Selling a Business

Inventory has the potential to be a point of contention when buying and selling a business. Taking inventory is an essential component of completing a transaction of this magnitude. However, there is the potential for the inventory count to prove divisive between the buyer and seller. If you sense there will be an argument about inventory counts or valuation, it might be best to rely on an outside party like an inventory management software to perform the inventory on your behalf. Otherwise, you run the risk of having the deal fall through simply because trust is lost over inventory count and/or quality.

Screenshot 2019-05-20 at 10.30.42 AM

How Much is the Inventory Worth?

If you do not know how much your inventory is worth or whether your inventory valuation is accurate, it will be a point of conflict with prospective buyers. Sales agreements often specify dollar values for inventory as well as stationary property, intangible assets and equipment. The buyer might question whether the current inventory valuation is accurate. As noted above, the better course of action might be leaning on an unbiased, completely objective third-party to perform inventory counts and valuation to ensure accuracy.

Inventory Changes After the Count

Inventory is likely to change between the point at which it is counted and the actual sale date. If there is less inventory or more inventory than estimated, either the buyer or seller will feel as though an injustice has occurred. Adjust the closing price as necessary to reflect alterations in inventory and the deal will prove mutually beneficial.

Be Careful When Selecting an Inventory Counter

If you decide it is prudent to let an objective third-party inventory specialist perform the count, do not hire any old business for this important project. Ideally, the business buyer and seller will agree on an inventory specialist to perform the count. The inventory counter selected should be licensed by the state and have years of industry experience.  This company should have a database, the latest inventory counting technology and a track record of success.

What Happens if the Inventory is Higher Than Expected?

If it turns out the inventory is more than expected, the buyer can request for the inventory to be reduced. The other option is for the buyer to ask the seller to eat the cost of excess inventory. Plenty of sellers are willing to provide slightly more inventory than anticipated to grease the wheels of business and keep the deal moving along as planned. It is also possible for inventory to be high due to the inclusion of obsolete inventory. If inventory is no longer useful or egregiously slow to sell, the seller will be pressured to discount part of the current stocks.

Strive for a Mutually Beneficial Solution

Contention over inventory prior to the point of a business’s sale should not be a deal-breaker. The buyer and seller should be able to reach common ground without the deal falling apart. If each side is willing to budge a little bit on the issue of inventory counts and valuation, the sale can move forward, proving mutually beneficial to both sides.

 

About the Author:

Marla DiCarlo is an accomplished business consultant with more than 28 years of professional accounting experience. As co-owner and CEO of Raincatcher, she helps business owners learn how to sell a business so they can get paid the maximum value for their company.

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