How Inventory Management Can Make Your Business Greener
There are tons of reasons why your business might be searching for a more sustainable inventory management solution. Maybe your office has committed to reducing its carbon footprint. Perhaps your company is trying to use fewer resources to manage inventory, so it has more cash to make more “green” choices elsewhere. Or maybe your team has a mandate to stop over-ordering ASAP.
Whatever the reason your business is interested in environmental inventory management, know this: there’s never been a better or easier time to streamline and digitize your inventory. And when your business upgrades to a more eco-friendly inventory system, it’ll also unlock plenty of other benefits that’ll boost your company’s bottom line, too.
Ready to learn a bit more about how inventory management can make your business greener? Let’s dive in.
What are the features of sustainable inventory software?
Before we unpack all the reasons why an inventory app can help your company go green, let’s review what features make inventory management software so powerful in the first place. Here’s what you’ll want to look for in inventory software:
A product you can use anywhere, anytime—not just when you’re on-site
Access to your inventory from a phone, tablet, or computer (all devices you already own)
A robust dashboard that helps you visualize all your stuff, all in one place
A detail-rich, customizable inventory list that replaces paper records
Barcode and QR code scanning using smartphones and tablets—not extra, new equipment
Ability to generate custom barcodes and QR codes for unlabeled stock
Multiple user access with customizable permissions
Customizable alerts for when a product is running low, expiring or falling out of warranty
In-depth, easy-to-customize reporting that can be shared paperlessly via CSV or PDF
You’ll also want to insist on an inventory app that’s easy to use, requires no all-day training seminars, and is a breeze to set up. Look for an option that offers easy, bulk inventory list importing via spreadsheet to make the transition even simpler.
How can an inventory app lead to a more eco-friendly, sustainable business?
There are lots of ways your business can become “greener”—and some of these tactics are more obvious than others. From simply using less paper to streamlining and consolidating deliveries from vendors, there’s no shortage of eco-friendly ways to make your inventory management system more environmentally friendly.
Here are seven sustainable benefits to switching to an inventory app like Sortly:
1. Eliminate (or heavily reduce) paper waste
If your business is looking to make greener choices, using less paper is a no-brainer. But just because this benefit is simple doesn’t mean it’s not hugely important.
In the United States, we throw away the equivalent of 1 billion trees worth of paper in a calendar year. And even if your office recycles paper religiously, you might recall that recycling is the last step of “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
If a business is genuinely looking to make more sustainable choices, the goal should be to use as little paper as possible—not to simply recycle it. And by completely digitizing your inventory, your business can slash its need for paper instantly.
Suddenly, your team can keep digital inventory records, conduct inventory audits within the app, and even attach digital POs, receipts, manuals, and more right to an item’s custom details—instead of printing all that information out.
2. Work with local (or greener) suppliers
The fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel) that delivery trucks burn emit carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to climate change. And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 29% of greenhouse emissions come from transportation.
What can you do about it? Well, of course, you still have a business to run. So, with that in mind, your goal is probably to reduce the carbon footprint of your deliveries. You can do this by ordering from nearby vendors or working with vendors who utilize a fleet of electric delivery trucks.
Search for local vendors
Maybe you’ve always gotten your paint from a supplier halfway across the state. Or ordered hardware directly from a vendor overseas. But there could be more sustainable options out there.
Take a little time to hunt for the supplies, materials, and finished goods you need a whole lot closer to your home base. Yes, this may mean your purchasing department has to choose multiple vendors for multiple locations—and that may mean some extra research for you the beginning. But the savings (both financially and environmentally) could be well worth the extra effort.
Identify eco-friendly vendors
Another option? Sourcing the inventory you need from suppliers who’re making environmentally-friendly choices already. This could mean utilizing electric vehicles, offering carbon offsets, or something else entirely.
Don’t be afraid to ask your vendors what their environmental policies are. And, if you don’t like what you hear, feel free to shop around.
3. Consolidate orders to reduce deliveries
Perhaps you can’t find a local or green vendor to provide you with the inventory you need. Instead of fretting, focus on what you can control: how frequently you need to place orders and accept deliveries.
Rather than simply placing larger orders, start by identifying and correcting inefficiencies in how you currently place orders. Perhaps you don’t really have a handle on what’s in a storage closet, so you find yourself placing additional, tiny orders a few days after placing your weekly order. Those “add-on orders” could be skipped entirely with a bit of organization—and help your business make greener choices.
You can optimize and streamline your ordering using inventory ratios and formulas like economic order quantity and lead time. With Sortly, you’ll also receive low stock alerts to remind you well before you’re running too low on specific inventory.
By getting your inventory management system under control using the right inventory app, you’ll have a much better handle on what you need—and when. And by adequately forecasting customer demand, you can confidently place whole, complete orders less often.
4. Avoid over-ordering
Now, let’s zoom in on over-ordering. Purchasing too much stuff too soon isn’t just a waste of money. It’s a waste of resources, too. If your business is interested in boosting its sustainability, you should definitely assess whether you’re over-ordering.
Sometimes, over-ordering happens because businesses don’t really have a handle on what they’ve got and where. This can lead to nervous “overestimating,” which leads to ordering way too much stuff. After all, no business wants to run out of something they need.
But by mastering inventory control—our next topic—you can get a handle on what your business really needs. You can order confidently—not too much, not too little. Just exactly what you need to satisfy demand without wasting resources.
Inventory control is all about balance. It asks businesses to find a happy medium, one where they’re ordering enough stock to satisfy demand, but not so much they’re wasting money or storage space.
You can practice better inventory control in lots of different ways, but it all starts with one thing: clarity on how your business uses inventory. You can get to the bottom of this by keeping tight inventory records right in your inventory software—no paper required.
6. Stop inventory loss
Getting organized can stop the waste associated with inventory loss and theft. Whether your inventory gets misplaced by employees, lost in a disorganized warehouse, or stolen, getting organized can put a stop to inventory loss.
When you create an inventory management system that requires participation, teamwork, collaboration, and accountability, you’ll reap the rewards right away. Your stockrooms will be more organized. Your inventory records will be more accurate. And inventory that just “disappears” will be that much easier to track down.
And when inventory isn’t lost or stolen, businesses can reduce consumption, reduce those last-minute deliveries, and focus their energy on more sustainable, eco-friendly efforts instead.
7. See the big picture
Finally, using eco-friendly inventory software can help you see everything you’ve got all in one place, even if you’ve got inventory spread out over multiple locations. This can help reduce (often less-than-green) inefficiencies in your business.
When you don’t know what’s where, sustainability is often the first thing to go. For example, let’s say you’re you’re driving across town multiple times a day to grab stuff from storage. Or you have to overnight inventory from one state to another. Or your rush-ordering stock from a supplier that’s not on your list of clean-and-green vendors.
But when it takes only seconds to take a good look at your inventory, you won’t have to break your own rules to keep your business running. And that’s what we like to call sustainable sustainability.
How to implement a sustainable inventory management system—today
Ready to help your business get a little bit greener? Try out Sortly’s top-rated inventory app—the simplest, smartest way to track your inventory. With Sortly, you’ll have access to powerful automation features you need, all in a sustainable inventory management system designed for businesses of every shape and size. Sortly offers a two-week free trial—so why not give it a try today?
Lauren writes about inventory for Sortly. Her favorite thing to organize? Her comically large collection of stuffed animals.