Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Inventory control approach

Inventory control and inventory is the focus point (and perhaps the linchpin) of successful supply chain management .
Firms hold inventory for two main reasons, to reduce costs and to improve customer service. The motivation for each differs as firms balance the problem of having too much inventory (which can lead to high costs) versus having too little inventory (which can lead to lost sales).
Firms use one of three general approaches to manage inventory. First, most retailers use an inventory control approach, monitoring inventory levels by item. Second, manufacturers are typically more concerned with production scheduling and use flow management to manage inventories. Third, a number of firms (for the most part those processing raw materials or in extractive industries) do not actively manage inventory.
Many agribusiness firms do not actively manage inventory. This does not mean that they ignore inventory. Rather, they hold large inventories because any potential savings from inventory reductions are far outweighed by the inventory-induced reductions in production, procurement, or transportation costs. Often economies of size cause long productions runs which lead to inventory accumulation. Simultaneously, seasonality leads to inventory buildups of key inputs like seed as well as outputs like corn. Economies in procurement such as forward buying in the food industry and quantity discounts increase inventories. Similarly, unit trains and other forms of bulk shipping discounts contribute to inventory buildups.

Yet, such firms must be alert to changing conditions that may require more exact inventory management. One example would be if crops are marketed as small lots of value-added grain instead of commodities. Production proliferation in the seed industry may be another instance. Finally, whether due to food safety concerns, GMOs, food labeling, or the growth of organic food markets, identity preservation requires more precise inventory control.
(c)Frank Dooley

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