Wholesale inventory management: take charge of your stock
Manually managing wholesale inventory for your business is no easy feat. Read about the ins and outs of the wholesale inventory management process and learn about the tools that can make your inventory control woes a thing of the past.
Last updated: 01.07.2022
With great orders come great inventory management responsibilities — even more so with a wholesale selling strategy.
A sudden surge in sales can completely clear out your stock if you are underprepared. Thankfully, there are powerful software products available that will help you carry out these responsibilities with ease.
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Wholesale inventory management refers to the stock management techniques that you use to optimize your manufacturing workflows to better suit large product volumes.
A business ready to supply bulk orders can grow at a remarkable speed. However, it involves thinking volume-first and optimizing your supply chain, production, sales, storage, and distribution logistics to handle larger quantities of products and materials.
Wholesale inventory management covers a wide range of activities, such as:
Bulk purchases of inventory
Tracking your inventory levels across multiple warehouses
Synchronizing on-hand inventory for multiple sales channels
Optimizing warehouse management and storage
Calculating and setting up reorder points to replenish critical inventory
Accounting and invoicing for both inbound and outbound products
With so many variables at play in this process, it can be quite hard to keep track of it by hand. Of course, it can be done with some smart inventory management techniques and excel spreadsheets. That, unfortunately, doesn’t scale. It also leaves room for a lot of mistakes as spreadsheets are time-consuming to maintain, prone to errors and file corruption, and are usually managed by one admin. When it comes to wholesale businesses in particular, those mistakes can end up being extremely expensive.
Clearly, an excel spreadsheets solution and other manual techniques simply fall short in helping you unlock the true value of your wholesale distribution. So, in order to grow your wholesale business, you should consider setting up a wholesale inventory management system.
Why is wholesale inventory management important?
Let’s say that you do not have a wholesale inventory management system, and that your workflows rely on a system of inventory tracking spreadsheets. This works well when your team is small, and communication about on-hand inventory is quick and easy. However, once your volumes grow and your team starts to expand, challenges start to multiply as well.
For instance, once you have a couple of warehouses to store your inventory, you need a way to track your inventory across those warehourses. With orders being fulfilled, inventory being returned, damaged or lost, you need an effective way to know where your raw materials and finished products are in the lifecycle of an order.
Additionally, all your sales channels need to have a singular view of the inventory counts of your products. If they don’t, you could end up overselling products and committing to orders which will inevitably get delayed. Needless to say, this damages customer trust and is bad for your business.
These are just some of the challenges you may face with multiple warehouses and sales channels. In order to increase profitability, it is important to keep the inventory moving and your stock at optimal levels. It is essential to understand your customers’ needs and have an effective way to forecast demand for different time periods. Forecasting is a tough problem to solve without reliable inventory management solutions. Good wholesale inventory management tools often come bundled with historical data tracking, and allow you to avoid overstocking and stock shortages with this information.
Scaling your business and handling the challenges presented as volumes grow can be tough, especially when it comes to wholesale and bulk orders. A wholesale inventory management software solution makes it possible to handle a lot of these complexities while streamlining your business operations.
Benefits of wholesale inventory management software
Optimizing your wholesale inventory comes with a lot of benefits beyond profitability. Let us take a look at the top three advantages of adopting a wholesale inventory software solution.
1. Greater inventory control
An inventory management solution gives you an overview of your materials and products, and as a result, greater inventory control. Having an inventory management system in place allows you to track your purchase orders, product sales, and inventory items across multiple warehouses in multiple currencies.
Some inventory systems come bundled with functionalities that enable smart inventory management techniques. For example, with historical data about your purchase orders and integrations with customer demand forecasting tools, inventory management software can help you predict required inventory counts ahead of time.
When implementing an inventory software solution, you connect and tie in all the moving parts of your business beyond inventory.
As mentioned earlier, when your order volumes grow and when you sell your products through multiple channels, it is important that every team has access to the same stock data. This reduces the risk of overstocking raw materials, and overselling your products. In the same system, you can also keep track of sales order progress as well as manufacturing progress.
3. Ability to reprioritize orders
Business needs are dynamic and are constantly changing. An inventory management tool allows you to adjust your business processes according to shifting priorities and the resources you have available.
You could have landed a large make-to-order sale and need to redistribute resources, or a customer could have changed or canceled their order. These changes in priorities need to be accounted for and your workflows need to adapt quickly to accommodate them. Factoring in these changes manually can be painful and result in costly mistakes.
Real-time master planning features often included in inventory management software solutions and manufacturing ERPs help automate this reprioritizing of orders based on inventory and sales data. This minimizes lead time and ensures that your orders are completed as quickly as possible.
5 tips for finding the right wholesale inventory management solution
There are hundreds of inventory management solutions out on the market, and looking for a good fit for your needs can be quite overwhelming. Here are five tips that will help you find the right inventory software depending on your unique business needs.
1. Set a clear budget
This should be the first step in your search. Setting a budget accomplishes two extremely important tasks. First and foremost, it helps you to understand the cost benefits in purchasing a wholesale inventory software. Secondly, it filters out products that don’t suit your budget, and ultimately yields a shorter list of products you would need to consider.
2. Shop around for different products and compare features
Plenty of websites compare different software products and help you pick the right software for your business. For instance, you can take a look at directories like Capterra, or GetApp, and browse their inventory management software categories.
You can even create custom shortlists on Capterra and compare the features that they offer. This step will help you understand how different products stack up against each other and how they differentiate themselves from competition. It also filters out solutions that don’t have features that are essential to your business.
3. Talk to businesses that are already using the product
Before you go to the next step, it can be beneficial to talk to other businesses that already use the products in your shortlist. This will give you an excellent idea about what it is like to use the product, especially if you find a business with similar workflows.
4. Test out software with a free trial
Most inventory management products come with a free-trial period. So, once you have a manageable shortlist, your next step should be to sign up for the free trials and see the software in action. There is no better way to evaluate what inventory software can do than to actually put it to use in your day-to-day workflows, and start tracking your inventory with it.
Try Katana risk-free and see how thousands of businesses track their inventory with Katana. Sign up for a 14-day free trial here.
5. Carefully evaluate the product fit during the trial period
During the trial period, it is important to keep an eye out for how well the product fits your needs, and how easy or difficult it is to use the product.
An additional point to keep in mind here would be to assess how well the usage of the product is documented. A well-designed product should be easy and intuitive to use, and will have straightforward documentation available in the form of a Knowledge Base.
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What to look for in wholesale inventory management software
Now that you are equipped with all the tips you need to pick the perfect wholesale inventory software for your needs, let us take a look at the different features that you should keep in mind when doing so.
Live inventory management
Having a clear overview of all of your finished products and raw material inventory in one place eliminates a lot of hassle. The inventory management solution should notify you when your raw material stocks are running low. This can be done by setting up reorder points for various products. A real-time overview of all of your inventory should be a non-negotiable feature.
Omnichannel order management
The ability to sync sales orders from multiple channels into a single platform ensures your sales teams are all on the same page when it comes to inventory counts. This prevents overselling and also allows you to identify delivery delay risks depending on the stock you have at hand.
Purchase order management
Tracking purchase orders is another pain point that can be effectively solved with inventory management software. The software that you consider should allow you to track purchase orders for your raw materials and delays in your supply chain. This will help you keep all your teams informed about the supply chain risks. You will also be able to manage your relationships with suppliers, negotiate better deals, and partially receive orders for more flexibility.
Real-time master planning
Based on a live inventory overview, the software you decide to adopt should allow you to prioritize different orders based on raw material availability, ensuring changes cascade through the affected orders automatically.
With live inventory management, omnichannel order management, and native integrations with e-commerce platforms, Katana’s manufacturing ERP software helps you manage all of your inventory with ease. Thousands of manufacturers use Katana to optimize business operations and keep track of costs, inventory, sales, and order fulfillment — get a free 14-day trial here.
Tejas is an enthusiastic winter swimmer who loves to write. From living in a kibbutz in Israel to running a food truck in Estonia, he has had some exciting life experiences. He also happens to be finishing up his Master’s in Computer Science.
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