Controlling Inventory



Inventory management, or inventory control, is an attempt to balance inventory needs and requirements with the need to minimize costs resulting from obtaining and holding inventory. There are several schools of thought that view inventory and its function differently. These will be addressed later, but first we present a foundation to facilitate the reader’s understanding of inventory and its function.

Firms that carry hundreds or even thousands of different part numbers can be faced with the impossible task of monitoring the inventory levels of each part number. In order to facilitate this, many firm’s use an ABC approach. ABC analysis is based on Pareto Analysis, also known as the “80/20” rule. The 80/20 comes from Pareto’s finding that 20 percent of the populace possessed 80 percent of the wealth. From an inventory perspective it can restated thusly: approximately 20 percent of all inventory items represent 80 percent of inventory costs. Therefore, a firm can control 80 percent of its inventory costs by monitoring and controlling 20 percent of its inventory. But, it has to be the correct 20 percent.

The top 20 percent of the firm’s most costly items are termed “A” items (this should approximately represent 80 percent of total inventory costs). Items that are extremely inexpensive or have low demand are termed “C” items, with “B” items falling in between A and C items. The percentages may vary with each firm, but B items usually represent about 30 percent of the total inventory items and 15 percent of the costs. C items generally constitute 50 percent of all inventory items but only around 5 percent of the costs.

By classifying each inventory item as an A, B or C the firm can determine the resources (time, effort and money) to dedicate to each item. Usually this means that the firm monitors A items very closely but can check on B and C items on a periodic basis (for example, monthly for B items and quarterly for C items).

Another control method related to the ABC concept is cycle counting. Cycle counting is used instead of the traditional “once-a-year” inventory count where firms shut down for a short period of time and physically count all inventory assets in an attempt to reconcile any possible discrepancies in their inventory records. When cycle counting is used the firm is continually taking a physical count but not of total inventory. A firm may physically count a certain section of the plant or warehouse, moving on to other sections upon completion, until the entire facility is counted. Then the process starts all over again. The firm may also choose to count all the A items, then the B items, and finally the C items. Certainly, the counting frequency will vary with the classification of each item. In other words, A item may be counted monthly, B items quarterly, and C items yearly. In addition the required accuracy of inventory records may vary according to classification, with items requiring the most accurate record keeping.


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