Whether your business tracks office, medical, or construction supplies, one thing’s for sure: your team needs to know where these materials are, how much of them you have on hand, and when it’s time to reorder them. Fortunately, the right inventory management strategy can take the guesswork out of tracking supplies.
If your business tracks supplies, consider implementing an inventory management system that includes these six best practices. Whether you implement a couple of these suggestions or all six of these tips and tricks, you’re well on your way to simplifying and streamlining how you track supplies.
What is supply inventory management?
Supply inventory management refers to tracking the “supply” portion of a business’s inventory.
Sometimes, supplies are considered part of a company’s MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) inventory—items that a business uses to support manufacturing and production, even though these supplies are not a part of a finished, sellable product. Other times, “supplies” are consumable materials a business uses to provide services or complete tasks. In that sense, everything from printer ink to gauze pads can be categorized as supplies.
Whatever “supplies” means to your business, there are inventory management systems that can help your team keep track of these items while saving you time, money, and stress.
How to track supplies
If your business needs to improve how it tracks supplies, this six-step process is a great place to start. Feel free to customize these steps to reflect the unique needs of your business.
1. Pick an inventory system
Whether your business tracks a few dozen supplies or thousands of items, your team must select an inventory management system. Pick a solution that fits your budget, meets your growing company’s needs, and makes everyday operations easier—not harder.
There are three main types of inventory management systems: a manual inventory list or document, an inventory spreadsheet, or an inventory app or software solution. While simple and inexpensive, manual inventory lists are rarely the best choice, especially for companies that go through supplies quickly or store inventory in more than one location. Inventory spreadsheets, while certainly a step up from a sheet of paper, are error-prone, difficult to read, and cannot support time-saving features like barcodes and QR codes. They also do not display images or attachments correctly.
Inventory software is usually the best choice for businesses that want to speed up their supply inventory management. Inventory apps—including Sortly—offer all the simplicity of an inventory spreadsheet while providing various time-saving features like barcode and QR code scanning, low stock alerts, and customizable reports.
2. Optimize your storage
Once you’ve selected an inventory management system perfect for tracking your business’s supplies, you’ll want to organize your supply storage. While this can be hard work, there’s no better time to optimize where and how you store your supplies.
Whether you store supplies in one central location, across various job sites, or even on a fleet of company cars and trucks, setting aside the time to improve your physical inventory management strategy will always pay off.
Regardless of your selected inventory management system, you can use this organizational time as an opportunity to update your inventory lists. Capture all relevant item details, and—if your system supports it—upload any barcodes, QR codes, pictures, and other relevant attachments. For example, if you’re using an app like Sortly, you can always generate and print customized barcodes and QR codes for any unlabeled supplies you have on hand.
3. Track inventory as it comes and goes
Next, you’ll want to update your supply list every time an item is used, consumed, or restocked. If you are tracking inventory manually, this might seem daunting. Fortunately, inventory management software simplifies this process. For example, with an app like Sortly, your team can use the in-app scanner on a smartphone camera to check items in and out or move them from one location to another.
This strategy, known as perpetual inventory management, occurs when a business maintains accurate inventory records around the clock. There are various benefits to perpetual inventory management, including always knowing what your business has on hand, where it is, and when you’ll need to order more.
4. Reorder inventory at the right time
Practicing perpetual inventory means you won’t need to physically count the supplies on your shelves to know when to place an order. Instead, you can use the following strategies to help you reorder at precisely the right time:
- Calculate reorder point and economic order quantity for every supply your business stocks
- Implement an optimized inventory reordering strategy
- Use Sortly’s low stock alert feature to get notified whenever a supply’s stock levels begin to dwindle
5. Use reports to improve your inventory control
Suppose you’ve implemented a perpetual inventory system. In that case, your inventory software can provide you with tons of critical insights about what supplies are flying off your shelves… and what items are sitting around untouched. Use these inventory reports to inform your demand forecasting. By adequately identifying how much of certain supplies your business needs, you’ll save money on ordering costs and carrying costs.
Plus, correctly predicting demand can help reduce costly problems down the road, whether stockouts or obsolescence. There are serious risks to underordering and overordering, but with the right inventory control strategy, you’ll always know how much of what you need.
6. Continue to optimize your supply tracking strategy
An excellent supply management strategy is never complete. Even if you practice perfect inventory control, your business will constantly change. Whether your business is adding new supplies to your stocklist, opening up a new location, moving some supply storage across town, or hiring new employees, something is constantly changing. That’s why it’s essential to audit and refine your inventory strategy at least once or twice a year.
You may need to update your standard operating procedure (SOP), upgrade your inventory app subscription, retrain certain employees, or consider finding new vendors to meet your needs in less time or for less money. Whatever improvements your supply management strategy requires, implement them swiftly, and you’ll continue to reap the benefits.
Experience the simplest inventory management software.
Sortly is a top-rated inventory management software solution designed to help businesses of every shape and size get a handle on their supplies. Whether you stock supplies for a manufacturing operation or a medical practice, Sortly’s flexible, intuitive app can help your team track inventory in less time than ever before.
Curious how Sortly could help your business organize its supplies? Try a free, two-week trial of our premium features today.