Inventory Management Defined, Plus Methods and Techniques

Table of Content

Inventory management refers to the process of overseeing and controlling the flow of goods (raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished products) within a business. The primary goal is to ensure that the right quantity of items is available at the right time, in the right place, and at the right cost.

What Is Inventory Management? Types, Benefits & Examples


Methods and techniques in inventory management vary based on the nature of the business, but some common approaches include:

  1. ABC Analysis: Classifying inventory items into categories based on their value and importance. “A” items are high-value and critical, “B” items are moderately important, and “C” items are low-value items. This helps prioritize focus and resources.
  2. Just-In-Time (JIT): A method where inventory is acquired and produced just in time to be used in production or sold. This reduces storage costs and minimizes excess inventory.
  3. EOQ (Economic Order Quantity): Calculating the optimal order quantity that minimizes total inventory costs, including holding costs and ordering costs.
  4. Safety Stock: Maintaining a buffer stock to mitigate the risk of stockouts due to unexpected demand fluctuations or delays in the supply chain.
  5. Inventory Turnover Ratio: Calculating how many times inventory is sold or used in a specific time period, indicating how efficiently inventory is being managed.
  6. RFID and Barcoding: Implementing technology like RFID tags or barcodes to track inventory movement accurately, enhancing visibility and reducing errors.
  7. Demand Forecasting: Using historical data, market trends, and other factors to predict future demand, aiding in inventory planning and management.
  8. Supplier Relationship Management: Building strong relationships with suppliers to ensure timely deliveries, negotiate favorable terms, and maintain a reliable supply chain.
  9. Consignment Inventory: Allowing suppliers to maintain inventory at the buyer’s location until it’s used or sold, transferring ownership only upon consumption.
  10. Perpetual vs. Periodic Inventory Systems: Perpetual systems continuously track inventory levels, while periodic systems involve periodic physical counts. Both have their own advantages and are chosen based on business needs.

Effective inventory management involves a balance between ensuring enough stock is available to meet demand while avoiding overstock situations that tie up capital and storage space. Businesses often use a combination of these methods and techniques to optimize their inventory management strategies.

The Benefits of Inventory Management

Inventory management offers several key benefits to businesses:

  1. Optimized Stock Levels: It ensures the right amount of inventory is available, reducing stockouts (which can lead to lost sales) and excess inventory (which ties up capital and incurs storage costs).
  2. Cost Reduction: By minimizing excess inventory and storage costs, businesses can reduce holding costs, spoilage, obsolescence, and the need for emergency or rush orders, thus cutting overall operational expenses.
  3. Improved Cash Flow: Efficient inventory management frees up working capital that would otherwise be tied up in excessive stock, allowing businesses to invest in other areas or seize new opportunities.
  4. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Maintaining adequate stock levels ensures products are available when customers want them, leading to better customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  5. Better Forecasting and Planning: Through the analysis of inventory data and trends, businesses can make more accurate demand forecasts and strategic plans, optimizing purchasing and production schedules.
  6. Reduced Risk of Errors: Implementing inventory management systems, whether manual or automated, reduces the likelihood of errors in stock counts, order fulfillment, and shipping, improving overall operational accuracy.
  7. Optimized Supply Chain Management: Efficient inventory management improves relationships with suppliers by enabling better communication, timely orders, and potentially better terms, leading to a smoother supply chain.
  8. Increased Efficiency: Streamlining inventory processes, such as through automation or better organization, can improve operational efficiency and productivity.
  9. Waste Reduction: With better control over inventory levels and turnover rates, businesses can minimize waste, spoilage, and the need to discount or dispose of obsolete stock.
  10. Adaptability to Market Changes: A well-managed inventory system allows businesses to respond more effectively to changes in market demand, seasonal fluctuations, and unexpected disruptions, helping to maintain business continuity.

Overall, effective inventory management plays a crucial role in a company’s profitability, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency by ensuring that the right products are available in the right quantities at the right time.

Accounting for Inventory

Inventory serves as a current asset because companies usually aim to sell their finished products within a short timeframe, often a year. Before being recorded on a balance sheet, inventory requires physical counting or measurement. Businesses commonly maintain advanced inventory management systems capable of monitoring inventory levels in real-time.

Accounting for inventory involves one of three methods: first-in-first-out (FIFO) costing, last-in-first-out (LIFO) costing, or weighted-average costing. Typically, an inventory account comprises four distinct categories:

  1. Raw materials: These encompass various materials purchased by a company for its production process. These materials necessitate substantial processing before they can be transformed into a finished product suitable for sale.
  2. Work in process (or goods-in-process): This category represents raw materials in the midst of being converted into a finished product.
  3. Finished goods: These are finalized products ready for immediate sale to the company’s clientele.
  4. Merchandise: This category denotes finished goods procured from a supplier for subsequent resale.

Inventory Management Methods

Inventory management approaches vary depending on the business type or product involved. Various methods are utilized for this purpose, among which are just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, materials requirement planning (MRP), economic order quantity (EOQ), and days sales of inventory (DSI). Although there are other techniques, these four are the most commonly employed for inventory analysis.

  1. Just-in-Time Management (JIT): This production model originated in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s, with Toyota Motor (TM) making significant contributions to its development. JIT enables companies to save substantial amounts and cut waste by maintaining only the necessary inventory for production and sales. This strategy diminishes storage, insurance, and excess inventory disposal costs.

However, JIT inventory management carries risks. Unforeseen spikes in demand may leave manufacturers unable to procure the necessary inventory promptly, tarnishing their reputation and diverting business to competitors. Even minor delays can cause issues; a bottleneck may arise if a critical input fails to arrive “just in time.”

  1. Materials Requirement Planning (MRP): This method relies on sales forecasts, necessitating accurate sales records for precise inventory planning and timely communication of requirements to material suppliers. For instance, a ski manufacturer using an MRP system would ensure stock levels of plastic, fiberglass, wood, and aluminum align with forecasted orders. Inaccurate sales predictions hinder a manufacturer’s ability to fulfill orders.
  2. Economic Order Quantity (EOQ): Utilized in inventory management, this model calculates the optimal units a company should add to its inventory per batch order to reduce total inventory costs while assuming consistent consumer demand. The inventory model factors in holding and setup expenses.

EOQ aims to minimize the total inventory costs by ordering the right inventory volume per batch, avoiding excessive on-hand stock and too frequent orders. It operates under the assumption of a trade-off between inventory holding and setup costs, aiming to minimize both for overall cost reduction.

  1. Days Sales of Inventory (DSI): This financial ratio denotes the average time, in days, that a company takes to convert its inventory, including work-in-progress goods, into sales. Also known by various names like average age of inventory or days inventory outstanding (DIO), DSI’s interpretation varies.

DSI signifies inventory liquidity, indicating the duration for which a company’s current stock of inventory will suffice. A lower DSI is generally preferred as it suggests a shorter inventory clearance period, although the acceptable average DSI differs across industries.

What Are the Four Main Types of Inventory Management?

What Are the Four Main Types of Inventory Management?

The four main types of inventory management methods or systems are:

  1. Just-In-Time (JIT) Inventory Management: This approach involves ordering and receiving inventory only as needed for production or to meet customer demand. It aims to minimize inventory levels, reduce storage costs, and eliminate waste by synchronizing supply with demand. JIT requires precise forecasting, efficient logistics, and reliable supplier relationships.
  2. ABC Analysis (Inventory Classification): This method categorizes inventory items based on their value and importance, typically into three categories: A, B, and C.
    • A Items: High-value items that contribute significantly to overall inventory cost but constitute a smaller portion in number.
    • B Items: Moderately important items with moderate inventory value.
    • C Items: Low-value items that make up a large portion of inventory but contribute less to overall inventory cost. ABC analysis helps prioritize attention and resources based on the criticality and value of inventory items.
  3. Periodic Inventory Management: In this system, physical inventory counts are conducted at specific intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). The cost of goods sold (COGS) and ending inventory are calculated periodically. While it’s less automated than perpetual inventory systems, it can be suitable for smaller businesses or those with less complex inventory needs.
  4. Perpetual Inventory Management: This method involves continuously updating inventory levels with every purchase, sale, or return using an inventory management system. It provides real-time tracking of inventory levels, allowing for better control and visibility into stock on hand. Barcoding, RFID technology, and software systems often support perpetual inventory management.

Each of these inventory management approaches has its strengths and suitability for different business types, sizes, and industries. Some businesses may even employ a combination of these methods to effectively manage their inventory.

What Is an Example of Inventory Management?

An example of inventory management can be seen in a retail setting, such as a clothing store. Let’s consider a fictional store called “Fashion Haven.”

Fashion Haven carries various clothing items like shirts, pants, dresses, and accessories. To effectively manage its inventory, the store uses a combination of inventory management techniques:

  1. Inventory Tracking System: Fashion Haven utilizes a barcode-based inventory tracking system. Each item in the store has a unique barcode that is scanned during both receipt and sale processes. This system allows the store to monitor stock levels in real-time.
  2. ABC Analysis: The store applies ABC analysis to its inventory. High-value items like designer dresses or premium suits fall under the “A” category, while basic t-shirts or everyday accessories might fall under “C.” This helps the store prioritize its attention and resources for different items.
  3. Reorder Point and Safety Stock: The store sets reorder points for different products based on historical sales data and demand forecasts. For example, if they typically sell 50 units of a particular dress per week, they might set a reorder point of 20 units. Additionally, they maintain a safety stock to handle unexpected spikes in demand or delays from suppliers.
  4. Seasonal Inventory Planning: Fashion Haven adjusts its inventory based on seasonal trends. For instance, they stock more swimwear and beachwear during the summer months and focus on jackets and sweaters in the winter.
  5. Supplier Relationships: The store maintains good relationships with its suppliers to ensure timely deliveries and negotiate favorable terms. This helps in managing lead times and ensuring consistent availability of popular items.

By effectively employing these inventory management strategies, Fashion Haven can optimize its stock levels, minimize overstock or stockouts, enhance customer satisfaction, and improve overall operational efficiency. This leads to better profitability and a competitive edge in the retail market.

cmms inventory optimization

CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) inventory optimization refers to the process of using CMMS software functionalities to enhance and streamline inventory management practices specifically related to maintenance operations. Here’s how CMMS contributes to inventory optimization:

  1. Demand Forecasting: CMMS tools can analyze historical data on maintenance work orders and inventory usage to forecast future demands for spare parts and materials. This forecasting helps in establishing optimal inventory levels and preventing overstocking or shortages.
  2. Setting Reorder Points: CMMS allows setting up automated reorder points for inventory items. When inventory levels drop below a specified threshold, the system generates alerts or triggers purchase orders to replenish stock, ensuring items are available when needed without excess storage.
  3. Inventory Tracking and Visibility: CMMS provides real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, usage, and movement. Maintenance teams can track inventory accurately, identifying surplus items, obsolete stock, or slow-moving parts that might require adjustment.
  4. Supplier Management and Vendor Performance: CMMS systems often integrate supplier information, enabling users to evaluate vendor performance, lead times, pricing, and quality. This helps in making informed decisions about sourcing and maintaining relationships with reliable suppliers.
  5. Preventive Maintenance Planning: By integrating inventory data with maintenance schedules, CMMS helps plan preventive maintenance activities. It ensures that necessary parts and materials are available beforehand, minimizing downtime and enhancing equipment reliability.
  6. Analytics and Reporting: CMMS offers analytics tools to evaluate inventory usage patterns, costs, and efficiency metrics. These insights aid in identifying areas for improvement and making informed decisions to optimize inventory management strategies.
  7. Cost Optimization: CMMS contributes to cost control by minimizing inventory holding costs, reducing stockouts, and avoiding rush orders, leading to overall cost savings for the organization.

Utilizing CMMS capabilities for inventory optimization streamlines maintenance operations, ensures availability of critical parts, minimizes inventory-related costs, and enhances the overall efficiency of maintenance processes within an organization.


Effective management of inventory constitutes a fundamental aspect of business operations. The adequacy of inventory management hinges on the nature of the business and the products it offers. While there isn’t a universally flawless inventory management approach due to the inherent advantages and drawbacks of each method, leveraging the most suitable style can yield significant benefits for a business.


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