An employee scanning inventory.
Midsize business

8 tactics for inventory management

Today’s supply chains are more forward-thinking than ever, leveraging data analysis to accurately forecast demand and optimize production. But there’s still a sizable amount of business owners who haven’t started using these time-saving tactics. 

Some may feel inventory management on a small scale is unimportant or not valuable enough for the effort. Let’s explore the benefits, including why inventory management is important, strategies to implement, and tactics to increase your supply chain efforts. 

Importance of inventory management efficiency

Three strategies for inventory management.

Inventory management is important to execute properly so you can fulfill clients' orders correctly and in a timely manner. Without proper inventory management, you risk losing business to a competitor that has maintained its supply successfully. 

What is inventory management?

Inventory management refers to a system that allows your supply chain to track, manage, and store inventory. This also includes:

  • Projecting buyers’ needs and forecasting inventory to meet those needs 
  • Planning for the unexpected and housing safety stock
  • Increasing efficiency to maximize profits

How inventory management pertains to your small business

Inventory management can be a great asset to your small business by allowing you more control over your product and inventory to meet your customers' needs. Other benefits include:

  1. Increasing your supply chain efficiency
  2. Integrating effective technology
  3. Maximizing your profits and returns

1. Increases supply chain efficiency 

As a small business, you likely use a supplier to manufacture your products. But the supply chain only runs smoothly if you’re prepared on the back end since you have little control over how efficiently your supplier can produce the inventory. For this reason, it can be helpful to implement an inventory management system to:

  • Keep abreast of what's in stock
  • Be in the know regarding stock shortages
  • Have an idea of when you need to restock based on how long it takes your supplier to produce 

2. Integrates effective technology

Technology can turn complicated tasks into an efficient process with very little effort most of the time. This is especially true with inventory management. By integrating effective technology like QuickBooks Advanced Inventory, you have the tools to:

  • Set accurate delivery dates
  • Automate processes to reduce errors
  • Manage your stock including tracking, what has been ordered, and its location

3. Maximizes your profits and returns

As a small business owner, your lifeblood is arguably your profitability and return on investment, and inventory management plays a role in those aspects of the business. You can also maximize profits and returns through:

  • Efficient and accurate order fulfillment
  • Decreased delivery times
  • Less inventory surplus, so you have what you need and not too much of it

8 inventory management strategies and tactics

Eight ways to be more efficient.

The best inventory management strategies all contain some sort of efficiency aspect that allows business owners to streamline processes and essentially make life easier for them. For instance: 

  1. Inventory forecasting: allows owners to create a plan based on historical company data and trends 
  2. Safety stock: allows for a small surplus that can accommodate a random influx of orders or supplier strain
  3. Batch tracking: allows you to track your goods to and from the supplier to optimize stock efficiency

Better analytics and control are at the core of developing a more agile supply chain model. It’s likely not a change you’ll be able to implement overnight, but the following strategies are a good place to start.

1. Invest in the proper inventory management system

Collecting better analytics requires companies to adopt the right solutions. A sound inventory management system is the beating heart of any enterprise, offering real-time access to data that enables business leaders to forecast trends and shifts in buyer needs, as well as gain full transparency into demand and inventory levels.

Inventory management systems output powerful analytics and provide much-needed visibility into operations. For example, monitoring run rate to gain visibility into how much of an item you are selling at a given time helps accurately predict future demand.

2. Prepare for system faults 

When operations are running smoothly, vulnerabilities can fly under the radar. Unexpected events, like COVID-19, can hit supply chains hard, quickly revealing operational deficiencies. Understanding where weaknesses lie requires a lot of digging that extends beyond first- and second-tier suppliers to distribution facilities and transportation hubs.

Supply chain mapping is an exercise worthy of a business’s time and cost investment. This method allows a business owner to pinpoint potential vulnerabilities and reduce risk by identifying:

  • Alternative suppliers
  • Different distributors
  • Multiple transportation providers 

3. Control your inventory 

Don’t rely on suppliers and providers to accurately report on inventory levels. Take the lead role by regularly monitoring, auditing, and managing inventory in your system to maintain an accurate picture of goods. Some tips include:

  • Keep an eye on what’s coming into your supply chain
  • Regularly check the quality as well as the quantity you receive
  • Conduct inventory checks periodically throughout the month or quarter

4. Identify alternate sales channels 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains broke down and storefronts were forced to close, with business owners frantically moving online to continue operations. However, many failed to properly analyze costs. For example, moving sales to an online marketplace allowed owners to stay in front of their target audience, but at a lower rate of profitability.

While the transition from brick-and-mortar to online seemed like a sound alternative for many businesses, the percentage of profit lost to marketplace vendor fees took a big bite out of the bottom line. Shifting to online platforms from brick-and-mortar needs to be calculated and done at the right place to ensure success. This means that identifying alternative and profitable sales channels is required as the market becomes more digitalized.

5. Be transparent about your offerings 

Being transparent about your offerings helps clear the air for your customers and gives them a better understanding of your product offering. There are several ways to help accomplish transparency, including:

  • Make sure that your website is up to date 
  • Creating a marketing message that resonates with target audiences 
  • Having clear and concise product descriptions

Now is the time for message unity across departments and roles to ensure consumers are aware of what you sell and why the shift occurred.

6. Automate when possible 

Business process automation is the task of implementing technology to automate repeatable and sometimes mundane business tasks. These could include email responses, recurring invoices, or payroll, for example. Automation can also ease the burden of business ownership by creating a more efficient inventory management system through:

  • Simplifying processes with a hands-off approach
  • Eliminating human error
  • Creating a streamlined effort that utilizes software to automate the inventory system 
  • Plan for the unexpected

Unforeseen demand and economic shifts can happen, and as a small business owner, it can only benefit you and your business to be prepared. Preparedness can look different for different industries, but for those that offer products and need inventory on hand, it would be wise to:

  • Maintain a safety stock 
  • Have backup suppliers and know their wait times
  • Understand the market and historical data to predict potential difficulties

While it’s not always fun to think about something negative affecting your business, the reality is that preparing for the unexpected can help you weather hard times and be confident in your ability to sustain the business.

8. Take advantage of data analytics for optimization

Data analytics can also benefit your inventory management by eliminating the guesswork pertaining to what you have in stock, what's needed, and where it’s coming from. Data is an extremely valuable tool for a small business owner. It can tell you things like:

  • Company cost history
  • Projected shortages and surpluses
  • Customer buying trends 
  • Product successes and failures

Using Advanced Inventory management can give you the data and insight to make informed decisions and optimize your business efforts. 

Incorporating inventory management for a successful business

Success in an ever-changing world requires planning, forecasting, and strategizing. This requires companies to leverage business intelligence to properly forecast buyer behavior to ensure supply and demand are in sync. It means developing a strategy to reduce the risk of disruption and ensure inventory control via alternative sources. And, finally, it means adopting a new mindset as we continue to learn the best strategies for inventory management.

Learn how QuickBooks Enterprise can help you take control of inventory management with Advanced Inventory.

Recommended for you

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.