It's no secret that properly managing inventory is a tough nut to crack. And an expensive one at that.
Recent events have placed a renewed importance on managing inventory levels proactively. Even the slightest of disruptions in the supply chain can affect a brand's ability to carry enough inventory and get its products into the hands of the customer when and how they want them.
It's a puzzle that CPG companies must routinely solve within their inventory management system, tech-powered or not: How much inventory should we carry to fulfill sales, and how much safety stock should we have in storage in order to mitigate stockouts and be prepared for unforeseen spikes in demand? While it's vital to CPG businesses to maintain the right balance between inventory levels and costs, it's also easier said than done.
In this article we'll review:
Excess inventory refers to products, raw materials, and components that have yet to be sold or used, and therefore remain in storage, awaiting their future, tying up working capital.
Also known as overstock inventory or excessive stock, excess inventory can be the result of a poorly executed demand forecast and/or inventory management strategy. Generally speaking, excess inventory occurs when supply outpaces demand (or, put another way, when demand far outpaces predicted supply), resulting in slow moving inventory and slower-than-anticipated inventory turnover.
Often, a CPG company's ability to accurately demand can have outsized effect on its inventory levels. Consider, for instance, what happens when a company predicts sales way above actuals. Under-predictions means that a company might have to deplete its safety stock or pay a high price to vendors in order to fulfill orders it didn't plan for.
On the other hand, if a CPG company over-predicts demand, it will have inventory tying up working capital, which can lower COGS. Plus, the business owner and their supply chain team have to manage overstock, which comes with its own set pros and cons, including extra storage costs, excess items sold at a discount, or liquidation.
There are multiple factors that play into this equation, including product shelf life, lead times, velocity and various aspects of brand distribution. Another vital factor is an organization's overall demand planning capabilities or S&OP process: How accurately can you forecasts sales and inventory, and can you accomplish this with consistency (low deviation)?
Though it's rarely quite this simple, the example serves to show the continuous push and pull of supply and demand. Below, we dig deeper into the pros and cons of excess inventory and explain in focus why accurate demand forecasts are essential to optimizing inventory across your warehouses; how to reduce inventory cost associated with inventory overstock; how accuracy inventory forecasts can help your company hit important KPIs, and much more.
When excess inventory occurs, CPG companies must strategize, often on the fly, in order to recoup potential losses that may occur as the the carrying costs associated with excess inventory can be quite significant. Typically, excess inventory is sold (likely at a discount, thrown away as waste, or remain in storage (again, timing on this depends on factors like shelf life, demand levels, distribution, sales performance, and other variables.) Often, overstock merchandise can cause serious issues, so it's important to be able to identify its causes and have plans in place to mitigate risks across the supply chain and business.
But it's not always bad: There are instances in which it’s an integral and planned portion of a larger inventory strategy. Let's explore.
However, when companies are forced to store unsold merchandise beyond their estimations, their bottom line can take a major hit: profits reduce while working capital increases. Excess inventory can have many negative impacts across supply chain, which are often interconnected, and can be a suck on cash flow. Here are some of the ways excess inventory can throw a wrench in your CPG supply chain.
As manufacturers reduce the lifespan of many parts, and innovations in technology are occurring at faster and faster rates, this results in an increase in parts becoming obsolete and no longer produced by the manufacturer. The demand for this product, however, may still be present, resulting in a severe mismatch between supply and demand.
Excess inventory can have a domino effect across the supply chain, causing a flurry of unforeseen downstream costs. Many CPG companies who know these realities of this fallout also understand that excess stock can push business to the brink.
One effective way to avoid having extra inventory is to have accurate consumption-driven demand forecasts available. When sales teams are confident in predictions, inventory management teams can help to support future demand targets. When sales are forecasted accurately with the right inventory management software, the entire supply chain can benefit, including inventory, which can plan to have the right number of products in the right place at the right time.
Unioncrate is an AI-powered Supply Chain Planning Platform that gives CPG brands the technology they need to compete and win in a rapidly changing consumer landscape. Our automated demand and supply forecasts deliver unmatched accuracy, collaborative visibility, and actionable intelligence, simplifying a manual-heavy process and slashing hours from your week.