Perishable Inventory: The Best Tools for Tracking Items
Perishable goods require a lot of attention from you and your staff. In this article, we’re going to look at the tools you can use, and the benefits of adopting them into your business.
This article will look at how to monitor shelf-life management and the benefits of having the proper processes in place.
But, first, let’s quickly define what is perishable inventory.
What is Perishable Inventory in Manufacturing?
Perishable inventory is the products that manufacturers sell, that lose their value over time, up until the point they become worthless.
When you think of perishable inventory, you’re probably thinking of products from the industries, such as:
— Coffee manufacturers; and
However, perishable inventory also applies to technological products like computer processors, since advancements mean that the components inside your computer, will eventually be obsolete as time goes on.
So, if you’re a manufacturer with items that will inevitably spoil or become outdated, you can consider that perishable inventory.
But why is it important to have inventory shelf life management?
PRO TIP: You can adopt a manufacturing ERP system to track your perishable inventory, but to maximize its effectiveness, you need to perfect how you handle inventory. Use our free and ultimate guide to improve your inventory management.
Importance of Tracking Perishable Inventory
Trends and predictions show that customers are not only becoming more conscious of where their products come from but are switching to online shopping.
According to studies, 70% of customers will be doing their grocery shopping online by 2024.
Optimizing your shelf life management means you can manufacture your goods, at the right time, with the correct levels of quantity, and in the best condition, meaning your customers receive their orders in their top quality.
Improved perishable inventory tracking means:
— Optimal inventory levels;
— Greater profits;
— Better cash flow;
— Happier customers; and
— Fewer recalls.
So, now you know the importance of tracking your perishable items, let’s learn how to monitor shelf life management.
How to Monitor Shelf Life Management
In this chapter, we’re going to look into the different techniques and processes you can implement to get more control over how you monitor shelf life management.
First Expired, First Out (FEFO)
FEFO is the process of selling your perishable inventory by the products that are closest to their expiry date.
This allows you to ensure expiration date for a product isn’t reached before it’s delivered to the customer or spoils within your inventory.
By adopting the FEFO method, you can make sure:
— Raw materials and products remain fresh;
— You reduce the amount of inventory that expires on your shelf; and
— You save on labor costs by reducing the number of spot checks you need to perform.
However, there is another similar method called First In, First Out (FIFO), which allows you to ship inventory before it becomes outdated, like with computer components, as mentioned earlier.
Check out our article on how to track expiration dates of inventory with Xero, to optimize your operations.
Regardless of which method you choose to follow, you’re going to need a system to help you track your inventory.
And, if you’re willing to put in the elbow grease, it can be done via spreadsheets.
However, this is going to require meticulous monitoring of your inventory, and you’ll need to create templates and documents to:
— Outline procedures;
— Perform checks; and
— Record sign-offs.
Since spreadsheets like Excel is inefficient, you’ll need to balance your perishable inventory tracking efforts with techniques for tracking your inventory.
This can be as simple as identifying expiry dates once you receive items, and clearly label them with colored stickers so you can easily, and visually identify stock arrival times.
Manage Your Suppliers
Managing your suppliers is probably the simplest way to get fresher ingredients.
This means finding suppliers who can best deliver on getting items to you sooner, but also finding alternative suppliers should anything go awry with your supply chain.
But not only that, when you do find a supplier you want to try to:
— Negotiate better terms; and
— Be active with pre-receipt quality checks to improve the quality of your finished goods.
You want to keep in contact with your suppliers to identify any issues that might come up in the future, such as them being out of stock, so you can make a plan B and maintain your perishable inventory levels.
Sell Short Dated Products
Your priority when handling perishable inventory is to have your products out the door and with the customer before the expiration date.
This allows you to save on carrying costs and to still deliver a quality product to your customer.
If you find yourself in a position where products are soon going to spoil try:
— Directly communicating with customers;
— Offer discounts; and
Selling at a loss is better than completely disposing of your inventory.
Finally, the best way you can improve how to monitor shelf life management is to introduce software into your business, like a batch inventory management system.
Inventory management systems that can track your perishable inventory is going to be essential, especially those who need to track a large number of items.
With software implemented for perishable inventory tracking, you’ll be able to monitor your inventory, manufacturing, and other departments from a visual dashboard, while also taking advantage of:
— Product traceability; and
— Product recall processes.
The Benefits of Inventory Shelf Life Management System
So, once you’ve got yourself set up with an inventory management system, here is a list of benefits you can expect to find:
1. Demand Classification
Using software for inventory shelf life management is going to help you make the best possible predictions on future demand with real-time analytics, greatly improving your demand planning.
By monitoring your entire inventory from one dashboard can allow you to see which products are moving the fastest, which are endangered of becoming dead stock, and if some inventory performs better during different periods of the year.
Just remember, to get the most out of your demand planning to:
— Set your limits and group forecasts logically;
— Take into consideration your resources when demand planning; and
— Set clear goals.
2. Batch Numbers
A perishable inventory management solution will allow you to use batch numbers during production, so you can easily trace your product's current location.
Be that within your shop floor or somewhere else along the supply chain.
The purpose of using batch numbers in your manufacturing process is going to allow you to:
— Conduct fast and easy product recalls;
— ensure expiration date tracking;
— Improve relationships with suppliers by having accountability; and
— Differentiate your products if they appear similar but using different processes (for example, a baker can make cakes with or without eggs).
3. Improved Inventory Management
Improving your inventory management is one thing, but as a manufacturer with perishable inventory, you need a system that can monitor all different types of inventory.
— Finished goods inventory management.
By having more control over your perishable inventory management, you’ll be able to reduce manufacturing costs and improve your production process by knowing exactly where your inventory is and any areas in your business where problems occur, such as bottlenecks in production.
4. Safety Stock and Reorder Points
A good perishable inventory management system will give you the tools to set up safety stock and reorder points, so you can maintain ideal stock levels, that’ll allow you to quickly react to a spike in demand or a stock adjustment from items spoiling.
Your safety stock will be your buffer, so that means you’ll carry an X number of items, and when your stock levels start to dip, you’ll still have items in your inventory when you purchase more or manufacture more finished goods.
And setting reorder points in your perishable inventory management system will notify you when you start to dip into your buffer.
5. Improved Manufacturing Lead Time
Using the right perishable inventory management system is going to reduce your manufacturing lead time, as you’ll have a tool that can tell you and your team members what exactly needs to be done, and when it needs to be done.
It’ll help you reduce your lead time by giving you the tools for:
— Storing your bill of materials (BOMs);
— Defining operations; and
— Automatic manufacturing cost calculation.
And there you have it! The benefits of implementing an inventory shelf life management system into your business.
However, with so many options available on the market, what's the best one for your business?
Smart Manufacturing Software for Perishable Inventory
Katana Smart Manufacturing Software is an all-in-tool for manufacturers who handle perishable inventory. Be that in the form of food with an expiry date or computer tech, which will eventually become obsolete.
Perishable inventory is made significantly easier to track with features such as:
— Batch/lot numbers;
— Expiration date tracking;
— Tracking best before dates;
— Product traceability; and
— Product recall processes.
However, what sets Katana apart from other systems on the market is the auto-booking engine.
This means when a sales order or manufacturing order is generated, Katana will automatically take available items and allocate them to your orders, so you know immediately when you can fulfill your orders.
The video below explains exactly how Katana and the auto-booking engine works:
And that’s all we have for you on perishable inventory today! We hope that you found this article useful, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us over on our social media channels.
If you’d like to get your hands on an inventory shelf life management system today, you can check out Katana’s 14-day free trial, to see exactly how it will optimize your manufacturing.
And if you like the look of it after the trial has finished, you can arrange a demo with us and we’ll be more than happy to go through the product with you.
Until next time, happy manufacturing.