Fusion Newsletter Article: Multi-Site Inventory Control

Multi-Site Inventory Control

As an organization grows and acquires additional facilities, it brings additional complex challenges. Near the top of this list is managing and controlling inventory. When there isn't an efficient and accurate inventory system in place, it can have extremely costly consequences.

When you are not sure of what is in inventory, this can be a challenging situation, from a fiscal perspective and from running the operations on a day-to-day basis. A customer once said, “Keeping the inventory straight is the most difficult thing I encounter . . . ” Even though we try diligently to keep inventory numbers up-to-date, unfortunately it does not always happen in real-time. This can be disruptive and can have negative consequences to the day-to-day operations. A sure way of avoiding this issue is to know what is in-house at all times, at all sites.

Multi-site inventory controlKeeping inventory counts correct and accurate is key. Spending nearly double the amount of time trying to manually create and maintain inventory and order guides can be inefficient and inaccurate compared to using an automated system. One of the best ways to meet this challenge is to maintain only one inventory-control database – one that encompasses all products, at all sites, from all vendors.

Multi-site organizations looking for an inventory system need to consider several things, the most being what to ask for from a software company. Using multiple programs is inefficient and can be a costly expense, not just in product, but in resources. Knowing what you don’t know about automating an inventory system can provide some insight on what the system needs to be able to do.

You need an automated system that will allow you to view each and every item that is in stock and know what items you have on-hand and are out of in real-time. And what is real-time you ask? Talking to people in the industry and technologists, you might have heard everything from ''instant'' to ''within a day.'' There's no right answer, but being aware of the differences in technology can help any organization make a more informed decision about the system they want to use.

The optimal system should know where each and every item in your inventory is located, the current cost of those items, and needs the ability to sync inventories between sites. Additionally, providing reporting capabilities that are site-specific, as well as a consolidated inventory is just as important.

Effectively managing inventory requires you to know how much of an item you will need on-hand. The ability to forecast inventory is an integral piece to meeting customer demands. A good inventory system needs to include not just what you have on-hand, but also an accurate consolidated estimate of what will be used in the near future at all the sites. Knowing how much of each item used across all sites can increase your purchasing power. This is one sure way to be sure you don’t run out of product or have too much of a product sitting on the shelves. In this industry, food on a shelf translates to waste, and ultimately is reflected in higher food cost.

Another aspect of inventory control that gets overlooked in a multi-site organization is consolidating the purchasing and utilizing an approved product order guide. Each and every vendor stocks multiple grades, forms, and various package sizes. By utilizing one inventory database for all sites, it provides the ability to have one “order guide” to use. This makes purchasing effective and a way to ensure consistency across the organization, but more importantly, it provides stronger purchasing power. The more you buy the more you save! Keep in mind there will always be a one-off situation that may not fit this model, but the benefit and payback of consolidating your purchasing choices across a multi-site organization will far outweigh any challenges that may come along.

Kim HelmeyArticle by: Kim Helmey, RD, Hospitality Suite Product Manager; Fusion, 2nd Quarter, 2016