Update Your Inventory Management For The Hybrid Workplace
The pandemic changed everything from workplace schedules and office space utilization to inventory management.
You’re not ordering break room snacks and restroom supplies like you used to, but you still need to keep track of who is using your laptops, webcams, and office furniture, especially as employees move between home and the office more frequently.
Sales of laptop and desktop computers exceeded 302 million in 2020, a 13% increase from the year before and the most since 2014, according to market tracker International Data Corp.
These four strategies — including investing in mobile inventory management software — will help you stay on top of inventory management in a changing environment.
Inventory management strategies for a new era
1. Know your inventory types
Different assets require different methods of inventory management. Here are the most common types:
Raw materials are crucial for manufacturing products for distribution or direct sale. That includes lumber, hardware, metals, and plastic.
Unfinished products are in production, but it is important for predictive forecasting to know how much inventory of a particular good you will have available and in what time frame.
Finished products are ready for distribution or direct sale. These often sit in storage, and it’s easy to lose track of their quantities and locations. A mobile inventory tracking system is critical to ensure they don’t get lost or forgotten, which can lead to lost revenue.
In-transit goods are products that are no longer in holding and are on their way to their final destination. In-transit inventory is slippery because it is moving another degree away from its source and has more opportunity to become misplaced or inaccurately accounted for if not properly tracked.
You have cycle inventory if your company uses a third party, such as a supplier or manufacturer, to fulfill customer orders. This process allows inventory to skip a middle man and be delivered to the customer with fewer stops along the way. Since the inventory is not coming from your business directly but a third-party supplier, inventory tracking ensures your customer receives their order. Any issues reflect badly on your company.
Anticipation inventory is your buffer supply, or the items you order to have on-hand to meet an expected surge in production demand or sales.
Decoupling inventory are items held in reserve in anticipation of a slowdown or production halt. This is like safety stock, creating a zone between demand and supply. Decoupling inventory is most often used with unfinished products inventories to meet an unexpected increase in internal demand.
Maintenance, Repair and Operating Supplies (MRO)
MRO inventory is used to support machinery and other aspects of a production process. Manufacturing plants have MRO inventory to track and manage, often in conjunction with managing assets and managing facilities.
Safety stock items act as a buffer in case of an unexpected increase in external demand. This inventory type is the inverse of decoupling inventory.
Once you know the types of inventories your company uses, you can prioritize them and start developing an inventory tracking process.
When it comes to managing inventory for your hybrid workplace, you will likely have a mix of finished products (current office supplies and furniture), in-transit goods (items being sent to different facilities or even to employees), and cycle inventory (items ordered from office suppliers and sent directly to employees working remotely or to offices).
2. Compile a database of product information
Inventory management requires detailed information about all aspects of the products and goods you track. This includes SKU numbers, barcodes, data, suppliers, countries of origin, lot numbers, and cost. One element many companies overlook is tracking an item’s cost over time and watching for trends in cost changes due to scarcity, seasonality, or other factors.
Perhaps you have a team of employees who work on a hybrid schedule. Half are in the office Mondays and Wednesdays, the other half are in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they all work in the office together on Fridays. Each one has a company-owned laptop, webcam, headset or earpiece, printer with scanning capabilities, and a smartphone that travels between home and the office with them.
Your facilities management team or office manager will have an easier time troubleshooting, file sharing, updating outdated technology, and ensuring employees who leave return everything if they have information about all of the inventory each individual uses.
Helping employees succeed in the hybrid workplace involves more than just issuing everyone a laptop. Some companies are even providing desks, chairs, webcams, and lighting, and furniture to ensure employees can continue to comfortably work from home more often. Your inventory management process should account for these items. You may prefer to offer a remote work stipend for employees to purchase some of these items that do not directly relate to their ability to perform the same way laptops and other technology does. Twitter, Shopify, and Basecamp offer $1,000 to each remote employee to set up their home office.
Make sure to audit your inventory levels as part of your information-gathering process. You need to be able to track the quantity of each piece of inventory as well as its movements and usage.
3. Analyze your inventory levels and usage flow
Effective inventory management requires a delicate balance of ordering enough to have popular items in stock to fill sales demands, while not ordering so much of less in-demand items that your business is hemorrhaging money on items that sit in storage. Work with key team members — including your facilities management team, HR, IT, and purchasing — to analyze employee needs regarding office furniture and technology.
If you plan to have employees share desks, you can use office hoteling software and look at utilization data to determine how much furniture you actually need. Find out how you plan to organize and design common workspaces to meet safety and wellness protocols. This could keep you from ordering chairs, desks, and other office furniture that won’t be used and will just sit in storage, waiting for more people to come back to the office.
4. Invest in mobile inventory management software
With mobile inventory management software, you can automate ordering, track purchase orders, and use data to make smarter purchasing decisions.
Look for a system that makes it easy to manage different types of inventory across different departments or locations. It should send automatic notifications when your inventory levels are low for a particular item so you can reorder before you run out.
The best inventory management software also integrates with other workplace management systems, including asset tracking and service request software.
That makes it easy to scan items with a barcode when you receive them and easily find that asset later. You can attach photos or warranty policies, assign an owner, and store any other relevant details within your asset tracking software so you’ll always have the most up-to-date information. For instance, you can note the condition of a new laptop when you issue it to an employee and note any changes when they turn it back in two years later. If it’s still in good condition, you can re-issue it to another employee.
Simplify purchasing with cloud-based inventory management software
iOFFICE + SpaceIQ simplifies inventory management to help companies reduce costs and be more efficient. With our cloud-based inventory management software, you can customize inventory queues across multiple locations or departments. The system integrates with online ordering and automatically tracks purchase orders. Your team can access it anywhere, whether they’re in the office, at the warehouse, at home, or on the road.
You can even connect it to your asset tracking and service request software so your maintenance team will always know which parts you have on hand when they need to make repairs. This also helps you keep track of the condition of every asset and the total cost of ownership throughout its lifecycle.
Having this information at your fingertips improves your purchasing strategy. For instance, you might discover that a certain type of laptop or printer lasts three years longer on average than a similar model. Knowing that, you can plan to purchase the same type in the future.
Companies that use iOFFICE + SpaceIQ for inventory management have reported an 18% reduction in inventory costs and a 20% reduction in equipment downtime.
If you’re ready to join them, schedule a demo today.