The A, B, C's of Inventory Management

The A,B,C’s of Inventory Management

One might think the books have not been written, the software not developed and the knowledge base empty when reading some of the recent headlines. When the largest retailer in the world announces they are reducing the amount of inventory in their stores because they have too much, it crowds the isles, confuses the customer and delivers the wrong message, one might wonder why they have this problem. After all the best and brightest work there and they has not held back on investments in technology. So how does the largest retailer in the world get themselves in a position where inventory levels are excessive?

Inventory management is an art not a science. The levels of inventory are a judgment call based on the available information. Let’s review how it is supposed to work. Before we start, this brief lesson applies to every company that has inventory no matter what industry and no matter what size the company. If you think this does not apply to you then I submit you are exactly the person I was thinking of when I wrote this article.

The primary reason for any inventory is to use it or sell it to make money. If you have an inventory of spare parts for a machine that is 20 years old, you are carrying that inventory to make sure you can repair the machine if it fails. If you dispose of the machine you no longer need the spare parts inventory. If you are a restaurant that specializes in prime cut steaks, you need the inventory to match the projected customers for today and maybe tomorrow. If your projections are wrong, then you either run out of steaks or have an excess. In the restaurant business, there rarely is any need to carry more than a couple days supply of inventory. Restaurant suppliers generally deliver more than once a week. In the fashion apparel industry, inventory is seasonal. In the early Spring merchandise is already in the pipeline for Fall and Winter. If apparel merchants misjudge the style, color, or fashion trend of their customer, they will be left with merchandise taking up valuable retail space. Blowout sales are then used to get rid of it.

Good systems will tell you the quantities on hand, on order, days of supply, gross profit in inventory, inventory turnover in total, by category, by vendor, by item and a lot more. Good systems will automatically process replenishment orders for item that are considered basic or staples. However, people makes policy decisions. Policy decisions are ones like inventory turnover will be at least 4 or we will now carry a higher mix of higher priced items to attract a more upscale customer. Inventory policy decisions drive the organization to action to achieve the goals of those policies.

In my experience, effective inventory policies are a result of business strategy linked to business financial performance and liquidity goals. When there is no clear definition of the goals then how do you evaluate actual results? Actual performance is always relative to the targeted goal.

The following is a brief summary of the impact of less than optimal inventory management:

Sales goals can not be met if you have nothing to sell. Forecasted demand along with replenishment modeling are key.

Gross margin goals cannot be achieved if your actual inventory mix does not match your gross margin goal or your customer demand patterns do not match what you have to offer.

Liquidity goals cannot be achieved if inventory turnover is less than target.

A,B,C Inventory Management Plan

1.Establish clear sales and gross margin goals.
2.Develop the same goals by line of business, product category
3.Identify the A items in each category. A items are the ones that make up 80% of the sales volume for that category.
4.Calculate the gross margin for the A items by category. Calculate the variance of actual gross margin for the A items vs. goal. If the result is the same, your goals are likely too low.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for inventory turnover. Be sure the turnover goals tie into you liquidity forecast.
6. Develop detailed action plans to improve the performance of the A items. Assign a time line to those action plans along with specific accountability for implementation.
7. Extend steps 1-7 to the B items. Include in your action plan a goal of identifying which B items should move into the A category. This is normally done based on buying trends and gross margin opportunity.
8. Calculate the total investment for each level of inventory (A, B, and C’s) Evaluate the actual return on investment vs. target. You do have a targeted ROI, correct?

Project Manager: Make inventory a priority. Many people can be involved but one person should be accountable. If you have concerns about status or progress, hire an outside professional.

Complexities usually flow into the picture when people begin to spend a lot of their time on what they view are needed support tools. Those can include staff, systems and procedures. While tools are necessary to achieve your goals, a consistent focus on actual vs. targeted performance of A items should yield enormous benefits.

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

The A, B, C’s of Inventory Management

The A,B,C’s of Inventory Management

One might think the books have not been written, the software not developed and the knowledge base empty when reading some of the recent headlines. When the largest retailer in the world announces they are reducing the amount of inventory in their stores because they have too much, it crowds the isles, confuses the customer and delivers the wrong message, one might wonder why they have this problem. After all the best and brightest work there and they has not held back on investments in technology. So how does the largest retailer in the world get themselves in a position where inventory levels are excessive?

Inventory management is an art not a science. The levels of inventory are a judgment call based on the available information. Let’s review how it is supposed to work. Before we start, this brief lesson applies to every company that has inventory no matter what industry and no matter what size the company. If you think this does not apply to you then I submit you are exactly the person I was thinking of when I wrote this article.

The primary reason for any inventory is to use it or sell it to make money. If you have an inventory of spare parts for a machine that is 20 years old, you are carrying that inventory to make sure you can repair the machine if it fails. If you dispose of the machine you no longer need the spare parts inventory. If you are a restaurant that specializes in prime cut steaks, you need the inventory to match the projected customers for today and maybe tomorrow. If your projections are wrong, then you either run out of steaks or have an excess. In the restaurant business, there rarely is any need to carry more than a couple days supply of inventory. Restaurant suppliers generally deliver more than once a week. In the fashion apparel industry, inventory is seasonal. In the early Spring merchandise is already in the pipeline for Fall and Winter. If apparel merchants misjudge the style, color, or fashion trend of their customer, they will be left with merchandise taking up valuable retail space. Blowout sales are then used to get rid of it.

Good systems will tell you the quantities on hand, on order, days of supply, gross profit in inventory, inventory turnover in total, by category, by vendor, by item and a lot more. Good systems will automatically process replenishment orders for item that are considered basic or staples. However, people makes policy decisions. Policy decisions are ones like inventory turnover will be at least 4 or we will now carry a higher mix of higher priced items to attract a more upscale customer. Inventory policy decisions drive the organization to action to achieve the goals of those policies.

In my experience, effective inventory policies are a result of business strategy linked to business financial performance and liquidity goals. When there is no clear definition of the goals then how do you evaluate actual results? Actual performance is always relative to the targeted goal.

The following is a brief summary of the impact of less than optimal inventory management:

Sales goals can not be met if you have nothing to sell. Forecasted demand along with replenishment modeling are key.

Gross margin goals cannot be achieved if your actual inventory mix does not match your gross margin goal or your customer demand patterns do not match what you have to offer.

Liquidity goals cannot be achieved if inventory turnover is less than target.

A,B,C Inventory Management Plan

1.Establish clear sales and gross margin goals.
2.Develop the same goals by line of business, product category
3.Identify the A items in each category. A items are the ones that make up 80% of the sales volume for that category.
4.Calculate the gross margin for the A items by category. Calculate the variance of actual gross margin for the A items vs. goal. If the result is the same, your goals are likely too low.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for inventory turnover. Be sure the turnover goals tie into you liquidity forecast.
6. Develop detailed action plans to improve the performance of the A items. Assign a time line to those action plans along with specific accountability for implementation.
7. Extend steps 1-7 to the B items. Include in your action plan a goal of identifying which B items should move into the A category. This is normally done based on buying trends and gross margin opportunity.
8. Calculate the total investment for each level of inventory (A, B, and C’s) Evaluate the actual return on investment vs. target. You do have a targeted ROI, correct?

Project Manager: Make inventory a priority. Many people can be involved but one person should be accountable. If you have concerns about status or progress, hire an outside professional.

Complexities usually flow into the picture when people begin to spend a lot of their time on what they view are needed support tools. Those can include staff, systems and procedures. While tools are necessary to achieve your goals, a consistent focus on actual vs. targeted performance of A items should yield enormous benefits.

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

Practical Business Plans

Recommending a business plans is often a starting point for many advisors and consultants. The challenge is that there are nearly as many recommendations on how to do a plan as their are advisors and consultants.

The single biggest issue with planning is the horizon. Many suggest a 3-5 year plan. If and when that gets done, the plan sits on the shelf in most cases.

I developed The Profit System specifically for the purpose of guiding companies on how to achieve extraordinary revenue and profit growth in a short period of time. Clients are advised to think in 12 month chunks and then roll that back to what has to be done this week to achieve it.

In the process of doing this, a company must address what could derail the results. So the point of considering disasters is addressed, but you get there from a different direction.

Finally when you bring your targets, to what has to happen today, this week, this month that are required to achieve the 12 month goal and hold people accountable for achieving those interim results, amazing things happen.

This entire process is outlined in a mini course I developed that is offered at no charge. Register at www.stevepohlit.com

The follow was reported in another on-line business blog and is presented to offer the reader a balance in terms of business plan recommendations:

Business Plans

(begin article found on another blog)

Business plans are a must for any entrepreneurial venture. Every new and existing company should have one. They are the roadmap to future business success. They can also keep a business on course in the event of a change in the business fortunes.

There are many aspects to the creation of a good business plan, including finances, marketing, sales forecasts, expected expenses, and so on. By carefully assessing all of the details, a strong business plan can be formulated.

A business plan is a requirement for everyone from bankers to venture capitalists. They are also a useful exercise for you, as developing the business plan forces you to look long and hard at your ideas and projections.

Even with a good solid business plan in hand, many potentially successful business people still don’t live their dream of entrepreneurship. Held back by many factors ranging from being unable to secure financing to staffing and production problems, many companies simply don’t get off the ground.

While these difficulties are common to many businesses in general, some barriers are specific to the business person alone. One of these barricades to entrepreneurial success is fear of failure. Thoughts of marketing and sales problems, staffing issues, and changes in financial status and the economy pale in comparison to that trepidation. Fear can stop a new business before it ever gets started into the marketplace.

The business plan can go far to preventing self doubt by providing a guide to the business that is both direct, yet adaptable to changing conditions. Shortages of funds can be worked around through free media publicity, creative promotional ideas, and business blogging. Alternative financing can be used to bring need cash flow into the company. Hiring only the essential personnel and subcontracting the balance of the work to outside contractors, consultants, and virtual assistants can lower labor and wage costs.

The biggest stumbling block for most failed business owners is a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. That lack of confidence in oneself, and the potential of the organization, can be overcome. While many techniques can be employed to get past the feelings of self doubt, we will consider one method here.

We will ask one question.

What’s the worst that can happen to the business?

Think about that question for a time. Consider what could be the very worst thing that could befall your business, and subsequently, your future. While some of the worst case possibilities are enough to drive anyone away from even attempting entrepreneurship, many if not most, are not. In fact, many potential disasters can be prevented through careful planning. Contingency plans can be put into place for implementation should the nightmares become real.

Simply looking objectively at the worst case scenario can help with the overall business plan. The worst that can happen to a business may not even be that disastrous at all. In fact, many worst case scenarios can be reduced in impact, or even negotiated into workable situations. Every business problem is not the end of the world or the company.

Once you know what is the deepest depth to which your company could sink, the issues involved don’t even look so bad. It’s much easier to work with a known factor than a completely unknown possibility. After all, the worst that can happen to your business, might not be so terrible after all. The fear of disaster is worse than the potential problem itself. Keep in mind that just because a problem could arise in theory, does not mean it will ever appear in practice.

Don’t let fear of failure stand in your way to business success. Let a strong viable business plan, that makes allowances for major problems, guide you and your company, to achieving all of your business goals.
(end article not authored by Steve Pohlit)

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

How To Diffuse A Competing Ad Campaign

Calculating return on investment of brand advertising is an art. When a commercial is run on electronic media, whether it is TV or radio, the methods used to calculate return on investment include ratings that measure viewers or listeners vs. sales in the relevant period following the promotion. Since I work with companies on more objective ROI calculations based on direct response marketing techniques, you might imagine I question the effectiveness of brand marketing.

An ad agency executive would probably give me a dissertation on what I am missing and it is doubtful we would ever reconcile. I remember the discussion with the Vice Chairman of a major international retailer on the topic of decentralized organized structure vs. a centralized one for administrative services common to multiple companies operating under the same corporate umbrella. It is an issue that is never reconciled. You either have one point of view or the other. There is no middle ground on some issues. I think brand advertising vs. direct response marketing falls into the category of irreconcilable differences between marketers. Back to Coke.

I must admit the most recent ad campaign is awesome. The scenes make me want to go out and buy the product. Correction, they make me want to go out and live the scenes. This is particularly amazing, since I watch very little TV and rarely react to an ad in terms of thinking of making a purchase. One of the current ads being run by Coke is where a senior citizen is shown experiencing Coke for what is supposed to be the first time. The experience of drinking Coke for the first time motivated him to call a childhood idol for the first time and tell her he has always loved her. It also motivated him to run with the bulls for the first time. All first time acts for him. Very well done.

Congratulations to Coke. This is a campaign that links the emotional response to the product. If others have similar reaction to this as me, then the sales numbers should being increasing for Coke during the running of the ad campaign. On the other hand, if I am a competitor I would quickly mass out an end cap displays in my A category stores in A category markets, with pricing at about $1.00 less per 12 pack of Coke and diffuse their entire campaign. Of course I would also attach a bounce back coupon on that same display and link it to a customer contact page on line. When the contact information is filled out, the customer receives additional promotions and gifts on line. Once I have that contact information, I then know I have a person who bought my product and that is a customer whose loyalty I can now nurture and strengthen. This is a strategy that capitalizes on the media ad campaign of a competitor and turns it to your advantage.

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

Problems Managing Corporate Sales Solved

The WSJ recently reported on the challenges Mike Hurd, the new CEO of HP, faced when he joined the company in 2005. In summary, there were 11 layers of management between him and a customer. In addition to slowing the sales development process, less than 60% of the 17,000 people in corporate sales were actually selling.

Candidly I was amazed to read this information. I always think that companies like Hewlitt Packard have the best and brightest in place along with a management system that results in maximum productivity. I often find such management controls lacking or missing all together in smaller companies but without having direct involvement in a business the size of HP, I just assumed they knew what to do.

Mark Hurd knew what to do. He restructured the organization, eliminated non performing staff and cut the buerocracy so that not only were people accountable for selling, they had the time to do it. He also selected one software product to track the sales pipeline. Is all well now? Changing culture the size of HP is not done on a dime. From experience, the fastest timeline occurs when information is used to motivate behavior. An international accounting and consulting firm that I was with for quite a while developed a complete product line named “Information for Motivation”. People do respond to what you inspect not what you expect.

Using the principles from Information for Motivation plus other resources, I developed The Profit System. The revenue module of The Profit System shows a company how to set up the sales management system for their company. Mark Hurd is using these principles with the software product he selected to track the sales process for HP. However, you don’t need a specific software product for most companies. I have successfully helped a number of large and smaller companies using Excel spreadsheets.

People have a tendency to spend a lot of time on which tools they should be using. This is a mistake in most cases. It is important to know when “good is good enough”. The goal of all of this meaning the sales management process is to drive revenue and profit. Compensation should be tied to the goal. When sales force compensation is tied to revenue you can expect higher revenue. But that does not mean you will book higher profits. For higher profits in the revenue model gross margin targets are what are key and don’t forget to account for the selling expense in the gross margin calculation.

ABC Management..I was fortunate to be trained in my first CFO position by a powerful business leader who taught simple but effective prioritization principles. To this day I think of most things in terms of A,B or C. Let’s apply that to sales force management. Who are your A customers and what are your A products? Now the goal that I have found to work the best is to have people spending 80% of their time on the A items and the rest their time moving B’s to A’s and C’s to B’s. In the C category if it doesn’t have the potential for being a B in a reasonable amount of time, often the best action is to drop the resources devoted to it.

Like many things in life this process is easy to write about and discuss, but harder to implement. But it is not that hard. With some effort on the front end there are big payoffs. In every case where I have helped a company install this process the benefits to revenue, gross margin and profit have been huge. There is more detail on this subject in my course which is free. Visit The Profit System if you want you company to make more money.

You know it the instant you see the person. It is apparent they have achieved an extraordinary measure of success and have the time to enjoy it. Steve Pohlit is an expert business consultant who developed The Profit System shows business owners how to achieve an extraordinary level of profit and the time to enjoy it. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue in profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource box.