Supply chain management is a massive part of doing business. Yet, for many managers, it does not get the focus or appreciation it truly deserves. In addition, with supply oversight comes one of the scariest words: inventory!
That word and needed process can bring an absolute panic to those who don’t have systems or regular checks of goods and materials in place.
I have found success in my career by making organization and communication a priority when it comes to supply and inventory. Too many times I have seen siloed business approaches where each group fails to ensure everyone needed in the process is involved from the start. Why is it so important to communicate heavily, even to the most basic of details?
Take Bohle for example. The amount of inventory under our roof right now is monumental, but because of the business we are in, we really don’t have a choice. We have over 3,600 SKUs listed in our Charlotte facility and a little over 4,800 in our Portals warehouse in Kansas City. We serve an extremely diverse customer base: a one-person art glass boutique, a shower door dealer, contract glaziers of all sizes, primary float glass manufacturers located all over North America. In some cases, there are materials that all of the various segments can use, and in other cases it’s more focused.
Because of this vast approach, it’s crucial at all times to understand our supply chain, our inventory, our usage and our approach.
Thankfully, technology can make this approach so much easier. We are able to utilize systems that track everything coming in and going out, and the visibility it allows opens the line of communication with all of the stakeholders in the process. I want to make sure that our sales team is in the loop on supplies, and they all have the freedom to note inventory levels and changes to our buyers. This communication also lets us know if we need to work closer with our supply base to make necessary changes. On the opposite side, I can watch and see if items are not moving at the pace they need to and press on our team to communicate with our customer base, so the products can be sold versus sitting on the shelf.
Inventory is always going to be a grind, even more when you have many items, especially smaller ones. It is, however, crucial to do it right and consistently stay on top of it. Once you start to cut corners on this process, it will only get harder and more problematic. And the one area that your finance people will surely get frustrated with you is if your inventories are a mess. That’s the last thing I want to deal with!
Obviously, this is not an exact science; we all get stuck with materials we struggle to move and sometimes we’re short when orders exceed expectations. But, if we stay on top of the process and constantly communicate and update, we minimize those situations.
Gareth Francey is the president of Bohle America, a supplier of glazing & handling tools, hardware, consumables, and machinery, for all levels of the glass industry. Francey has been with the Bohle organization since 2001 and led the American division since 2010. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.