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SMEs: How to manage stock control efficiently

Stock control, like with the largest of corporations, is crucial to the success of an SME.

Failure to manage stock efficiently could result in all manner of problems After all, stock control is at the heart of your business Use technology solutions to your advantage

Author: Amanda Walters, Freelance Writer

If your business wants to sell the right products, in the right quantity, and have them available at the right time, then stock control is absolutely crucial.

Failure to do so could result in all manner of problems, such as selling out of certain products, spoilage of perishable goods, funds being tied up in excess stock, and several unhappy customers.

Every small business should be evaluating its approach to stock control on a regular basis to reduce the costs of carrying excess inventory while simultaneously maximising sales. But what are some of the ways in which you can achieve these ideals and increase efficiency at the same time?

Check deliveries from suppliers

The first focus for any small business should be checking whether the delivered stock is what was ordered from the supplier. This can be easily achieved with barcode scanning software, which combats things like incorrect unit counts, mismatched SKUs, and human error. 

If you simply assume you have the right amount of inventory and add it to your shelves, there's a good chance you'll get short stocked. In turn, this could result in a loss of sales and credibility.

Label stock correctly including expiry dates

Each and every product in your stock should be labelled correctly with a product number, barcode, basic description including vendor name, and if it's perishable, an expiry date. This will make tracking much easier and more efficient. 

Correctly labelled stock will also help you avoid delivering products that have expired, the ramifications of which could be incredibly far-reaching. Any products approaching their expiry date can be discounted to reduce losses too.

Set threshold levels

Nearly every product-based business will experience peak times when sales increase, such as during the holiday season. The lead times of suppliers will also differ, which has a direct impact on stock levels. 

Therefore, it makes sense to set threshold stock levels. That way, you'll know how long it takes to restock normally and forecast the amount of time your minimum stock will get exhausted, taking both peak times and customer demand into account.

Audit stock on a regular basis

Even if you've got seamless inventory management software in place, you may still need to count your products to know for sure what's in stock. Different businesses use different techniques, but many choose a year-end physical inventory that counts every single item. 

You should also consider ongoing spot-checking, which is especially useful for fast moving stock and goods that are returned by the customer. Always ensure defective returns don't get adjusted upwards and are accounted for with suppliers.

Use technology to your advantage

Proper and efficient management of your inventory is often much easier if you adopt the right technology. Cloud-based automated solutions are much more cost-effective than manual alternatives while also reducing errors and increasing productivity. 

What's more, the constantly connected nature of technology means you are always available from wherever you are and whenever you are needed, which can have a significant influence on your bottom line.