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Inventory Performance Improved with Inventory Optimization & Analytics
In simple terms, inventory optimization balances the investment in an inventory to achieve a targeted service level or order fill-rate. There are also financial considerations, constraints that can also be applied in the development of the algorithm. These highly complex algorithms work behind the scene so as not to confuse the user or make them fearful of using optimization to help manage their inventory.
Advanced inventory planning and optimization solutions enhance the MRP process by automating inventory planning and replenishment. It automatically selects the best forecast algorithm for every item at every location and creates a rolling forecast of from 12 to 36 months. The solution then calculates an optimal stocking quantity for each item based on many critical variables like the lead time, order frequency, and target service level. Variability in demand is also considered along with other key factors ensuring the right amount of stock is available without creating an overstocked situation.
SAP Business One includes an MRP module for planning needs in a manufacturing environment. retailers and wholesale distributors also use the on-board functionality. Discover an affordable, seamlessly integrated inventory optimization solution to SAP Business One from Valogix.
However, you may want to explore how a more advanced inventory planning and optimization solution can further improve your supply chain performance. NetSuite recognized Valogix with their 2013 Supply Chain Partner of the year Award for successfully providing dynamic, automated multi-echelon planning and optimization.
Organizations with large inventory operations work with multiple levels of supply. Central sites purchase and stock most of the items. Slow-moving and less important items can be sent quickly to remote sites when needed, while fast-moving items are stored closer to the customer to enable more rapid customer service.
Advantages of the “multi-echelon” supply chain planning include:
- Consolidating inventory reduces the quantity required
- Consolidating purchasing gives greater leverage to obtain discounts from suppliers
- Balanced stock mix at all locations
Inventory planning for finished goods has become more complex and costly. The ever-increasing number of new Items (SKUs), changing demand patterns, and increasing transportation costs are taking a toll on a distributor’s bottom line. Especially difficult is planning items used both in kits and sold separately. Further complexity comes from planning for multiple locations and accounting for substitutes and supersedes.
Assume we have three locations supplied by a master warehouse, which has a planning horizon of 90 days. It also has a forecast of 90 units for that three-month period for an item.
Through the advanced algorithms in VALOGIX Inventory Planner, we can predict that:
• Location 1 will place a replenishment order for 30 units 16 days from now;
• Location 2 will place an order for 20 units in 27 days;
• Location 3 will place an order for 40 units in 7 days.
It is not just about having visibility and the capability to manually set safety stock and min/max levels for multiple locations. It is about having the right, balanced mix of items at the proper location at the right time. Using inventory optimization to dynamically plan and replenish multiple locations is a much better, proven method. That fact that the optimization is automated dramatically improves productivity and reaction time to changing demand.
What inventory optimization does is balance the investment in an inventory with the fill-rate (service level) goals of a company across all locations. There are also financial considerations, constraints that can also be applied in the development of the algorithm. These highly complex algorithms work behind the scene so as not to confuse the user or make them fearful of using optimization to help manage their inventory.
We have determined that you can dramatically improve the effectiveness of the optimization algorithms by adding heuristics into the overall process equation. Heuristic refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution, where an exhaustive search is impractical. Valogix incorporates heuristics into all processes.
So consider the capabilities carefully when planning multiple locations:
Valogix automates the entire inventory planning process:
- Forecasting & Planning – every item at every location
- Stock Level Setting – considers forecast, lead time, order frequency,
- Desired service level and variability in demand
- Replenishment - Purchase Orders, Production Orders, Stock Transfers
- Easy to use and highly effective
- Avoids disruptions from costly stock-outs
- Exception based – alerts warn of potential future issues
- Planning Groups give unparalleled planning control & flexibility
- Items used in B.O.M.s and Kits as well as those sold independently
- Back-schedules to cover longest lead time of components
- Considers substitutes and supersedes
- Synchronized planning for smooth-flow inventory availability
- Reduced inventory by 20% to 40% or more usually within 6 months or less
- Reduced expediting and emergency shipments by 35% or more
- Improved productivity by reducing planning time by 60% to 80% or more
- Controlled and reduced replenishment spending by 15% or more
- Improved service levels by having the right items available when your customers want them by 5% to 15% or greater
- Reduced stock-outs by 15% - 30% or higher
- Increased sales of 15% to 15% or more
- Reduction in cost of goods by 5% to 10% due to improved vendor relations
Companies approach their inventory planning in many different ways - from seat of the pants guessing, to team collaboration, to spreadsheets that may invoke more team collaboration and manual changes, to forecasting software and some to advanced planning solutions.
Business software solutions like accounting packages or ERP systems come with some level of inventory management or inventory control functionality but rarely do they include forecasting or demand planning. They rely on the user manually setting min and max levels and safety stock to control the inventory. There are stand-alone forecasting packages that offer dozens of statistical models that allow the user to select the one or ones they want to use, and some even provide automated forecasting in which the solution uses a best-fit approach.
Spreadsheets and Reports – The Only Alternative?The vast majority of companies that own an inventory invariably use spreadsheets to control, manage, and report. The types of companies vary from manufacturing, to wholesale distribution, to retail, to aftermarket services, to maintenance and repair operations. In addition, this is true geographically and for companies from the very small to the largest. So why the fascination with spreadsheets?
In most cases, companies already own the software as part of a suite or as already installed on the computer they purchased. They are relatively low cost and have an abundance of features that make them attractive. It is also a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Meaning, people are unaware of the availability of easy to use affordable, automated inventory planning software.
The dangers inherent in spreadsheets are:
1. Lack of Control
2. Errors from:
- Formula and data entry mistakes and typos
- Cell formatting and range definition mistakes (or errors)
- Data exporting problems
- Cell referencing problems
4. Potential for fraud
Lack of adequate training can result in poor to mediocre spreadsheet results, such as improper referencing, linking to other spreadsheets, or using inaccurate formulas to master complex calculations.
If the policies and procedures to mitigate spreadsheet risks are inadequate, errors will become more common and lack of consistency will show up in internal control audit reports. Therefore, the style, content, and accountability for spreadsheets should be documented in the organization's policies and procedures or in the spreadsheet used.
People are creatures of habit, which is one reason why spreadsheets are reused from year to year. Unfortunately, after cutting and pasting information, the spreadsheet might not work the way it did before — formulas can be damaged, links can be broken, or cells can be overwritten.
Many disruptions to the daily workday are common reasons personnel make data entry errors such as skipped entries or transposed numbers. A 2004 PricewaterhouseCoopers study shows that up to 91 percent of sophisticated spreadsheets contain errors. Unfortunately, if auditors know there are spreadsheet errors, so do fraudsters. For example, inadequate spreadsheet controls may lead to errors, misstatements, and possibly fraud.
Failure to back up data is a common and sometimes fatal error that may result in the loss of hours of data entry for computer users, which applies equally to all software tools including spreadsheets. Hardware and software breakdowns do occur from time to time, and backing up regularly and frequently is the best prevention for the spreadsheet user.
Keeping track of reorder points and safety stock for hundreds or thousands of items is becoming an overwhelming task. The time involved to update and maintain these spreadsheets can take hundreds of hours every week. Moreover, demand is constantly changing which can make the data stale and behind the curve for the most recent trends. This can lead to under-stocking causing lost sales and overstock creating excess inventory. In cases, a loss and a waste of valuable cash.
Ray Panko, University of Hawaii compiled data from numerous studies that indicates up to 90% of spreadsheets contain significant errors. Read this report.
Up to now, you have relied on spreadsheets and reports and maybe a basic or old business management system. You know mistakes have been made, costly ones that cost you both in cash and in losing customers. There is no IT department in-house to help you determine if a new ERP or Accounting solution is required or an inventory forecasting solution or maybe a more advanced inventory planning and optimization solutions.
So, you sit there and consternate on what to do. What move to make next. Time passes, months go by and still you are in the same position facing the same but growing issues and decisions. Does it really matter that you are maintaining the status quo? The business is doing Ok. It could be doing better but you are so busy there is no time to stop and think.
Well, this lull in decision making is costing you a lot more than you think. Every day that you delay in upgrading your business processes and software solutions costs you, time, money and customers. Today ERP systems like NetSuite, SAP Business One, Sage and a host of others really do make a difference. They help to provide the visibility and data required for quicker, more correct decisions. NetSuite, for example, is a hosted cloud-based solution which makes it affordable and fast to implement requiring no additional hardware and IT support in your company.
Augmenting those systems are the modern advanced inventory planning and optimization solutions. Many are seamlessly integrated into these systems making them a richer, more intelligent system and one that is easier to implement. A few of truly cloud-based built more the ground up taking advantage of modern tools and technologies.
Basically, advanced inventory planning and optimization solutions automate the entire inventory planning process. These systems automatically import data from the master system, generate a forecast, optimize the inventory and create inventory replenishment requirements. Optimization is very important because it balances inventory investment with customer service levels. It makes the hard decisions for you and presents the data in easy to understand formats.
You can save a lot of time and money, reduce overstocks and avoid buying more of the wrong items. It will impact your bottom line cash flow and help increase your competitive advantage. All really good things and all you need to do is unfreeze yourself and make the decision to get your business software up to date. Procrastination is easy telling yourself tomorrow is the day. Doing can be just as easy!
Discover an affordable, seamlessly integrated inventory optimization solution to SAP Business One for small and midsize businesses. A solution that frees up your resources (including cash), reduces losses from obsolescence, and increases service levels. The tools you need to forecast, plan, and optimize inventory, manage your business more efficiently and meet the demands of customers and suppliers are powerful and affordable.
Ease of Use is the Key to Successfully Using Advanced Inventory Planning Solutions
There are a lot of inventory planning solutions available from all types of companies around the world. Many are designed for large enterprise companies as they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and are highly complex. Some so complex a math or science degree is required just to operate the system. Others at the low end may be just point solutions for just forecasting, as an example, or offer individual modules you need to buy separately.
Most of these solutions include a forecasting capability either their own or from an included third-party provider. They usually also offer min and max levels, safety stock and replenishment calculations. Most require you to manually set replenishment levels and have you select the appropriate forecast method.
But how many offer real inventory optimization and why is this important? There are many reasons why inventory optimization is critical for conducting business in today’s ever challenging economic climate.
First of all is the cost of carrying, holding and managing an inventory. The costs for most items are steadily increasing, real estate costs and taxes are up and shipping costs are through the roof. Inventory optimization provides a great balanced inventory to meet expected demand, while reducing costs and better controlling spend for additional stock purchases. Planning in a timelier manner reduces the need for expediting orders in from vendors, which in-turn reduces the need for expediting shipments to customers.
Secondly, optimization dramatically improves the financial performance of an inventory because buying and stocking are more in-line with expected customer demand. It helps to reduce and almost eliminate the future build-up of excess inventory and dead stock.
Third, there are too many known and unknown variables that can affect your inventory and subsequent customer service levels to manage properly. Just forecasting and planning your inventory leaves you wide-open to problems in meeting both your financial goals and customer expectations. Trying to plan with spreadsheets is even a worse situation that will eventually lead you to higher costs and lower service producing a higher level of customer dissatisfaction and lost business.