How To Improve Inventory Visibility, And Why You Should
Find out how you can improve inventory visibility in your supply chain to enhance efficiency, cut costs, and boost customer satisfaction.
Use Circuit for Teams to streamline your order management and enhance your inventory visibility with real-time delivery updates.
When you’re constantly getting and shipping items, keeping an accurate count of your inventory is quite a challenge.
Things move fast, and you’re constantly asking: What’s coming in? What’s going out? How much stock do we have left? When should we order more?
No matter how many stock-keeping units (SKUs) or warehouses you have, inventory management is complicated.
But I’m here to make it easier!
You’ll even walk away with four practical tips for making your inventory management better than it was before.
Let’s get started.
- Inventory visibility is your ability to see inventory levels and locations in real-time.
- Enhanced inventory visibility helps your team to track and locate inventory items, reducing the time spent searching for products, minimizing the risk of errors, and optimizing the packing process. Doing this saves time, cost, and energy.
- Common roadblocks to inventory visibility include inefficient warehouse setups, lack of automation, poor system integration, and high software costs.
- You can improve your inventory visibility by using barcode scanners, implementing the right software, and regularly auditing your inventory.
What is inventory visibility?
Inventory visibility is your ability to see and manage your inventory using real-time data. Through inventory visibility, you can quickly determine how much inventory you have and where it’s all located at a given time.
It’s a key aspect of a good inventory management system. Knowing exactly what inventory you have and where to find it prevents out of stock items and late deliveries.
You can take steps to enhance your visibility, and that’s what I’m covering today!
Why should you improve your inventory visibility?
Beyond inventory accuracy, enhanced inventory visibility helps your team track and locate inventory items, which reduces the time spent searching for products, minimizes the risk of errors, and optimizes the packing process. This efficiency results in time, cost, and energy savings.
Below, I’ll go into detail about these benefits of inventory visibility and why each one is important for your business.
Good inventory visibility increases operational functionality and helps employees be more productive with their time and energy.
For starters, when you maintain accurate inventory counts, you’ll have an easier time with consumer demand forecasting and planning.
Since you can easily see everything you have available, you won’t accidentally order more stock than you need. You also won’t let your stock get too low and risk running out of key items.
You’ll also be much faster at getting deliveries ready for shipment. You won’t have to go through the step of locating specific items (or the right quantity) each time you get a new order.
You’ll know exactly where to find everything you need, which means you can quickly get shipments ready to go.
Lastly, because you aren’t relying on outdated or inaccurate data, you’ll improve your fulfillment process by completing more on-time deliveries.
Inventory visibility saves money by reducing storage and operational costs. With an accurate count of your inventory on hand, you won’t mismanage your storage space or pay for space in a distribution center that you don’t need.
Your workers also won’t have to spend as much time searching for items as they prepare deliveries, which can cut operational costs.
If you can improve your inventory management, you’ll also enjoy better communication with customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders.
You’ll always be able to share accurate information with all your supply chain partners and internal teams about what products are in stock and what supplies are low.
Whether you’re sharing updates about product availability or forecasting future sales, inventory visibility puts your real-time inventory data at your fingertips, making these conversations quicker and more informative.
Enhance customer satisfaction
Better inventory visibility can improve customer satisfaction by improving order accuracy and meeting fulfillment demands.
Customers won’t mistakenly order an out-of-stock item, and you won’t have to cancel any deliveries. You’ll also be able to offer them accurate delivery ETAs since you’ll know exactly where an order is at all times.
Inventory visibility helps you consistently meet customer demand, and you won’t have to worry about shortages or poor resource allocation.
You can use the data from your real-time inventory visibility to make decisions about which products are the most profitable. These decisions are much easier when you can see at a glance which items move off the shelves fast and which products take longer to sell.
It also improves your demand forecasting abilities so you can make sure your future inventory dollars are spent on items that you actually need — not the ones that will gather dust on the shelf.
Reduce stockouts and overstocking
Stockouts and overstocking happen when you don’t accurately forecast future demand. If you buy too much, your inventory days on hand will go up, and you’ll have too much money tied up in excess inventory you don’t need.
This is where inventory visibility comes into play. Improving your inventory visibility and having up-to-date data means you’ll maintain optimal stock levels.
Because you can accurately forecast future demand, you’ll make sure you’re only buying the products you actually need (and nothing else). Unless, of course, you need to have some extra safety stock on hand, which is often a smart move!
Manage multiple sales channels
If you have an omnichannel business, you need an accurate view of your inventory at all times across all sales channels.
That’s because stock management can be especially challenging when you have orders coming in from multiple places at once. Otherwise, you run the risk of overselling and stockouts, which can hurt customer satisfaction.
Inventory visibility helps you adapt to shifting trends and unexpected events like supply chain bottlenecks and disruptions.
These can happen for a number of reasons, and inventory visibility may not eliminate the chances altogether. However, if a supply chain disruption does happen, you can stay agile and flexible because you’re always operating with current data.
Inventory visibility helps you make confident decisions because you have a good understanding of what resources you have on hand. In turn, that also helps you meet customer expectations — and exceed them!
Common roadblocks to inventory visibility
While inventory visibility can certainly be helpful, putting it in place isn’t always easy. Here are some common challenges you may face along the way:
- Inefficient warehouse setup: If your warehouse isn’t designed to facilitate good inventory visibility, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.
- Lack of automation: Relying on manual processes makes it tough to keep up ongoing inventory visibility. These days, solid inventory tracking includes features like automatic stock level adjustments and replenishment triggers to keep your process on track.
- Poor system integration: When your inventory systems aren’t integrated, they don’t keep each other up to date with your latest, most accurate inventory levels and locations.
- Software costs: Good software isn’t cheap. You’ll spend both time and money getting things up to speed. Still, improving inventory visibility can boost your return on investment (ROI).
Four ways to increase your inventory visibility
While there are some challenges to inventory visibility, the potential benefits far outweigh any issues you might face. Here are a few actionable tips to consider:
1. Use RFID/Barcode scanners
Radio frequency identification (RFID) and barcode scanners help you track inventory in real-time by scanning product tags with a handheld mobile device. When you scan the item, your inventory database automatically updates the count.
Using a barcode or RFID scanner keeps you from having to manage inventory manually. In addition to saving you time on inventory management, this tech can also help your team keep inventory more accurately.
2. Use the right software
Different operations might need different types of software, but here are a few of our favorites that may work well depending on your business needs:
- Warehouse management system (WMS): A WMS tracks the flow of goods through your warehouse, cutting down on the amount of human input needed and helping your team process inventory more accurately and efficiently.
- Inventory management software: Inventory management software automates your inventory processes so your team isn’t tied up in tedious manual tasks. This can not only increase profits and your bottom line, but also improve the customer experience by ensuring product availability and order accuracy.
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform: ERP software helps with inventory visibility by centralizing and integrating data from your various departments and processes, giving you real-time insight into inventory levels, stock movements, and demand patterns.
3. Integrate data throughout your supply chain
To streamline your supply chain, consider automatically sharing inventory information with your supply chain partners in real-time, including:
- Inventory numbers: How many items do you have on hand? How many days could you get by with only the supplies you currently have available (also known as inventory days on hand)?
- Sales data: How long does it take items to sell? What are your best-performing and worst-performing items?
- Order status: How long does it take to fulfill the average order? How many orders do you get during a given timeframe (such as per day or week)?
Integrate your systems with those of your manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, and other relevant stakeholders to help automate these processes. When you give everyone visibility into your stock levels, you enhance coordination and make collaborative decision-making easy, leading to a more efficient supply chain.
4. Regularly audit inventory
While you hope that your system never breaks down or gives inaccurate information, it’s still a good rule of thumb to manually confirm you have the correct data from time to time.
Make regular inventory audits a priority. Consider doing an inventory audit at least once a year, and think about bringing in an outside auditor to help. On the off-chance that something isn’t right, you’ll be able to use the right information going forward.
Improve your inventory tracking with Circuit for Teams
Keeping up with inventory visibility certainly takes work. But now that you understand the value of inventory visibility, it should be clear that it’s worth all the effort.
An important part of inventory visibility and order management, as well as enhancing the customer experience, lies in tracking packages in transit all the way to your customer’s door — the heart of last-mile delivery.
Enter: Circuit for Teams. It automatically creates optimized driver routes and lets you track your packages in real-time so you can tell customers exactly when to expect delivery.
Try Circuit for Teams today! You’ll love how it helps with your supply chain management, order fulfillment, and customer satisfaction.