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Managing inventory flow in a small business

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This outdated computer isn't helping your improve your inventory flow
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Managing inventory flow in a small business is key in staying profitable

For the proper management of your inventory, it takes a certain amount of creativity, an eye for detail, and some inside/outside assistance to boot.

For properly managing inventory flow, keep reading to find out some helpful tips for keeping products and services running smoothly amidst the chaos of running your small business.

Small business owners need to perfect inventory management down to a science. Questions abound, such as:
  • How much of a particular product is in stock;
  • How long does it take to get to the buyer;
  • What are the quantities needed to restock shelves; and
  • How can you better profit in the long run?
Hire "Inside" Help

One option for helping to manage your small businesses' goods is to hire an inventory control specialist. They'll recommend the right point of sale systems for your business. An inventory control specialist will also handle all merchandise items, both in-house and in transit; they'll also manage returns, take care of necessary adjustments, implement new strategies, and itemize received goods/merchandise so you can focus solely on the other rigors of running your business.

Hire "Outside" Help

Another option is an inventory consultant to assist with day-to-day functions. They'll offer small business owners assistance from outside the company by dealing in:
  • Cycle counting;
  • Shipping;
  • Receiving; and
  • Order-picking operations.

And they'll work to maintain accuracy on all transactions into and out of your small business.

Understand Lead Time

In essence, lead time is the amount of time it will take you to reorder inventory; from the time you place your order until the time your shipment arrives at your doors is lead time. By establishing these lead time reports highlighting an actual amount of time it takes to order, wait, and have your product/s arrive, you'll come to a better understanding of how long your supplier takes to ship the goods to your facility. So, before your shelves run dry and your customers bring out the pitchforks, you'll be restocked and ready for the next surge of demand.

What's the Demand of Your Business?

If you have a high amount of product sitting idly on your shelves it's most likely adding to your expenses and overhead costs. Fix this by getting a grasp on your small business demands; cut out any merchandise which doesn't sell and focus efforts on limiting any seasonal items which may languish on shelves long after their optimal "season" ends.

It's also important to understand product turnover and delivery turn around time. Basically, this means you should be paying close attention to how often your products sell and the length of time it actually takes to get to your purchasing customers.

Buy Software

Inventory software can assist small business owners in streamlining the complex processes of day-to-day duties. A few options include: 
  • inFlow
  • vtiger
  • Openbravo
  • ABC Inventory
Many of the available options are free and/or open source and will assist you in managing inventory flow more easily, efficiently, and profitably. Make sure you have the right computer to handle the software you select. Most software will list specs -- shoot for the upper end in terms of speed and memory for the best experience. The last thing you need is a cheap computer slowing down your inventory management process. 


A tracking system implemented by a small business owner will assist in proper management as well as keep track of turnaround times. According to author Sherrie Scott, a tracking system can take the shape -- or form -- of a simple spreadsheet up to some of the more complex computer programs mentioned in the prior paragraph.

In the end, those looking for help with managing their goods and services within a small business atmosphere can take a stab at using some -- or all -- of the methods listed above in order to streamline processes and limit the potential for mistakes that could end up costing them in the long run. You'll save time, money, and lose a little bit less sleep (and hair) in the process!

Resources: Top Ten Ways to Manage Inventory.

Tech Five Top Apps for Managing Inventory.

Above photo attributed to Victor1558

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