How Big Data Impacts Inventory Management

big data

Many of us visualize inventory control as the incredibly time-consuming process of counting and noting on a clipboard the items on the shelves in a stockroom, warehouse, or store. But while some smaller businesses still accommodate putting pen to paper, others have too large an inventory to feasibly count each product in storage on a regular basis.

Indeed, manual inventory management is becoming more and more obsolete as big data continues to make large amounts of information available to everyone, not just the Fortune 500 companies in the world. Take a look at how big data influences the way businesses of all sizes to take control of their inventory:

Big Data Can Improve Efficiency

All companies make better decisions when they have access to more information. Today, businesses of any size and in all industries can mine data from countless sources, many of which are free!

Because sales and customer management systems, social media and Internet applications, point-of-sale metrics, and other resources have become so ubiquitous and easy to manipulate, companies no longer have to have costly data infrastructures to make use of the data they collect. They can automatically collect data in real-time, often storing it on systems they already have on hand.

The key here is “in real-time,” as the simultaneous acquisition and application of information increase a company’s operational efficiency, allowing it to change what needs to be changed quickly and, thus, improving productivity and saving money.

Big Data Can Improve Sales

Of course, perhaps the biggest impact that big data can have on inventory management is its ability to instantaneously track the number of products a company has on hand against its number of completed and anticipated sales.

Retail and wholesale businesses prevent insolvency by providing (good) products to their customers. If they can’t reliably produce the items and services that consumers need, they lose sales. Quick access to production, inventory, and sales figures enables management to accurately anticipate and respond to consumer demand.

Big Data Can Improve Customer Satisfaction

Big data can also improve brand loyalty. Consumers who can purchase the right products at the right time are happy customers. And happy customers are satisfied ones, who will likely support a brand again and again. Being able to review sales data to preserve appropriate levels of a stock helps companies ensure that customers get what they want when they want it, avoiding stock-outs and overstocks that can irritate consumers and drain budgets.

Big Data Can Improve Partner Relationships

Good data supports a business’s partner relationships, as well. Companies can use information about orders and deliveries to gain valuable insight into how well (or not) their relationships with their partners are working. When problems are revealed, actions can be taken to improve them.

For instance, if figures routinely show that a company is frequently placing expedited orders with a vendor in order to meet customer demand, it can begin to augment its ordering procedures to rectify the situation. This not only improves the likelihood that the company will be able to meet the demand for its products, but that will also improve relations with the vendor in question since it won’t be asking for rushed service all the time.

The Bottom Line

Many companies use a set of market research instructions to help them verify their business decisions; big data can be used in similar ways to improve inventory. In fact, big data can answer a lot of questions if you only make use of it!