The world of inventory management is always changing, and we have identified seven major trends that are currently impacting the field.
From the rise of technology to the need for new and novel contractual relationships between distributors and suppliers, here are seven major inventory management trends that we think large distribution companies need to know:
1. Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Stocking Technology
It’s hard to understate how big this is going to be for inventory management in the future but imagine a world in which a computer orders inventory in anticipation of customer demand and even branches out into other, related inventory that it predicts will be in demand. It sounds like a dream, right? Perfect demand meets an almost perfect supply and it could be a reality if powerful artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive stocking technology have their way.
2. Multichannel Inventory Distribution
Because of the shifting nature of the retail experience, multichannel inventory distribution will require regular reconciliation, the possible inclusion of multiple distribution centers, and a connected system that unites all of this data into a single, actionable piece of information.
Retailers are increasingly turning to personalization to help make the shopping experience more lucrative for themselves as well as seamless for shoppers. This demands novel and agile inventory management solutions that do not rely upon massive, bulk ordering but rather strategic, targeted orders that meet a variety of needs.
4. Retail as an Experience
The rise of retail as an experience is also changing the way inventory is managed by distribution companies because, again, the bulk order process of the past is increasingly giving way to a more niche experience. Catering to this growing brick-and-mortar retail experience will require lower quantities but broader offerings which can be a challenge for large distribution companies to service profitably and efficiently.
5. Supply Chain Management Skills
Because of these trends, the skills required for a supply chain manager are becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex involving not only a secure comfort level with technology but also a mastery of its underlying systems. Yet it isn’t just mastery of current practices that matters but also a willingness and ability to learn new things as needed by business conditions.
6. Efficient Processing of Returned Inventory
Because of the distant nature of online shopping, returns can be higher than brick-and-mortar stores thus requiring efficient processing in order to minimize capital degradation. This is a somewhat new area for inventory management at a large scale because returns are higher now than ever before. Given the need to eliminate barriers in the online shopping experience, this volume is expected to grow. Optimized management strategies will not only account for this but also attempt to predict, on some level, the number of returns that can be expected.
7. New Ways of Supply Chain Management
Novel agreements between all parties involved in the process will not only help realize cost efficiencies for them all but also growth opportunities.