Inventory Visibility Guide - What, Why & Best Practices in 2023
2023 Comprehensive Guide to Inventory Visibility in Third-Party Logistics
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Inventory visibility in third-party logistics (3PL) is important for efficient supply chain management. It involves having real-time information about the location, quantity, and status of products as they move through the supply chain. This visibility enables businesses and their 3PL partners to make informed decisions, improve inventory management, reduce costs, and enhance customer service. Below is a comprehensive guide to achieving effective inventory visibility in third-party logistics:
Clearly define objectives and metrics that outline your inventory goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Common metrics include inventory turnover, order fill rate, cycle time, and accuracy. Understanding your objectives will guide you in selecting the right technology and strategies for achieving visibility.
Choose a 3PL partner with a proven track record in providing inventory visibility and supply chain solutions. Ensure they have robust inventory management systems, real-time tracking capabilities, and a strong commitment to data accuracy.
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In today’s market utilizing an inventory management system that integrates with your 3P is a must. Cloud-based solutions offer real-time updates and data accessibility from anywhere, allowing you and your 3PL partner to stay informed about inventory levels and movements. Establish seamless data integration between your systems and those of your 3PL partner. Real-time synchronization of data ensures that all parties have access to accurate and up-to-date information, reducing the risk of errors and discrepancies.
Implement shipment tracking solutions that provide real-time updates on the location and status of products in transit. This visibility allows you to anticipate delays, reroute shipments if necessary, and keep customers informed about their orders’ progress.
Implement Internet of Things devices and sensors to monitor environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity) during transportation and storage. This helps ensure product quality and compliance with regulations, especially for goods with specific storage requirements.
A successful partnership starts with establishing a clear communication channel between your company and the 3PL partner. Regularly share insights and updates on inventory levels, demand forecasts, and any changes in the supply chain to foster collaboration and proactively address challenges.
It is critical to ensure security and privacy when sharing sensitive inventory information with your 3PL partner. Implement secure data transfer protocols and establish clear data-sharing agreements to protect your company’s intellectual property and customer data.
As with all partners, regularly evaluate the performance of your 3PL concerning inventory visibility and other KPIs. Provide feedback to encourage continuous improvement and maintain a productive, long-term relationship.
Achieving comprehensive inventory visibility in third-party logistics requires a strategic approach and collaboration between your company and the 3PL partner. By leveraging technology, real-time data, and best practices, you can optimize your inventory management and ensure a streamlined supply chain for improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.
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What Is Inventory Visibility?
Inventory visibility refers to the ability of a company or supply chain partners to access real-time and accurate information about the location, quantity, status, and movement of inventory items throughout the supply chain. It involves having a clear view of inventory levels at various points, such as in warehouses, distribution centers, in-transit, or on store shelves.
The primary goal of inventory visibility is to enable businesses to have complete and timely information about their inventory, helping them make informed decisions, optimize inventory management, and improve overall supply chain efficiency. With inventory visibility, companies can better handle inventory planning, demand forecasting, order fulfillment, and inventory replenishment processes.
Key components of inventory visibility include real time tracking, data integration, accuracy, reliability, demand forecasting and risk mitigation. Inventory visibility is a critical aspect of modern supply chain management. It empowers companies to gain greater control over their inventory, enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and ultimately deliver a better customer experience.
Why Does Inventory Visibility Matter in eCommerce?
Inventory visibility plays a vital role in eCommerce for several reasons as it directly impacts the overall success and efficiency of online businesses. Here’s why inventory visibility matters in eCommerce:
Customer expectations for real-time information about product availability before making a purchase online is required. Inventory visibility ensures that the website or online store reflects accurate stock levels, reducing the likelihood of customers ordering out-of-stock items and subsequently being disappointed.
With inventory visibility, eCommerce businesses can avoid overselling products. When a sale is made, the inventory is updated in real-time, reducing the risk of selling the same product to multiple customers simultaneously. This prevents stockouts, maintains credibility, and preserves customer trust.
Visibility into inventory levels and locations enables eCommerce companies to optimize their order fulfillment process. They can choose the nearest fulfillment center or warehouse with available stock, reducing shipping time and costs while enhancing the speed of delivery.
The financial consequences are impactful. Knowing the exact stock levels and demand patterns allows eCommerce businesses to optimize their inventory holding costs. They can maintain optimal stock levels, avoiding excessive inventory that ties up capital and warehouse space.
From a marketing perspective inventory visibility helps in crafting targeted campaigns and promotions. Businesses can focus on products with surplus stock or slow-moving items to clear inventory effectively and improve overall sales.
Ultimately the most important benefit is from improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. Inventory visibility directly impacts customer satisfaction. When customers find products available and delivered on time, they are more likely to have a positive shopping experience and become loyal customers.
For eCommerce businesses inventory visibility is a critical component of running a successful eCommerce business. It ensures accurate stock information, efficient order fulfillment, improved customer satisfaction, and streamlined inventory management. eCommerce companies that prioritize inventory visibility are better equipped to meet customer demands, reduce operational costs, and stay competitive in the digital marketplace.
Challenges of Low Inventory Visibility
Low inventory visibility can lead to various challenges and inefficiencies in supply chain management and business operations. Here are some of the key challenges associated with inadequate inventory visibility:
Probably the most challenging result will be in stockouts, where popular products are not available to meet customer demand, leading to lost sales and dissatisfied customers. Conversely, low inventory visibility may also lead to overstocking, tying up valuable capital in excess inventory and increasing holding costs.
Next delayed order fulfillment becomes increasingly self-evident. With limited visibility into inventory levels and location, it becomes challenging to select the optimal fulfillment center or warehouse for each order. This can lead to delayed order processing and longer delivery times, negatively impacting customer satisfaction.
Low inventory visibility makes it difficult to trigger timely replenishment orders. Businesses may end up placing rush orders or carrying excess safety stock to compensate for uncertainty, resulting in increased costs and decreased efficiency.
When customers find products out of stock or experience significant delays in delivery, they are more likely to abandon their purchases and look for alternative sources. This leads to lost sales and potential revenue for the business.
Low inventory visibility can also result in inefficiencies in inventory management, leading to increased holding costs. Excess inventory ties up working capital and warehouse space, which could have been used for other profitable purposes.
Without real-time and accurate inventory data, businesses may have limited insights to make data-driven decisions. This can hinder their ability to optimize inventory levels, streamline operations, and improve overall supply chain efficiency.
In conclusion, low inventory visibility can have significant repercussions on a business’s ability to meet customer demands, optimize inventory management, and make informed decisions. Investing in technologies and strategies to improve inventory visibility is essential to overcome these challenges and enhance supply chain performance and overall business success.
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Benefits of Increasing Inventory Visibility Through a 3PL Provider
Increasing inventory visibility through a third-party logistics (3PL) provider offers several benefits that can significantly enhance supply chain efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance. Here are some of the key advantages:
A 3PL provider with advanced inventory management systems can offer real-time tracking of inventory. This ensures that you and your customers have up-to-date information on the status and location of products throughout the supply chain.
Improved visibility allows you to maintain accurate inventory levels, reducing the risk of stockouts and overstock situations. This leads to better inventory planning and optimized stock management.
With increased visibility, the 3PL provider can quickly identify the nearest warehouse or distribution center with available stock to fulfill customer orders promptly. Faster order fulfillment enhances customer satisfaction and can lead to repeat business.
Access to real-time data enables better demand forecasting. By analyzing historical trends and current inventory levels, you can make more accurate predictions, leading to more effective inventory planning and reduced carrying costs.
With enhanced visibility, the 3PL provider can proactively initiate replenishment orders when inventory levels reach predefined thresholds. This helps prevent stockouts and ensures a continuous supply of products.
Accurate and timely inventory data allows for optimized inventory levels, reducing holding costs. You can avoid excessive inventory and free up capital that can be invested in other areas of the business.
Increased visibility through a 3PL provider creates a transparent supply chain where all stakeholders have access to the same real-time data. This fosters collaboration and communication, leading to smoother operations and faster issue resolution.
With better visibility, you can provide accurate and reliable information to customers regarding order status and expected delivery dates. This transparency improves customer service and builds trust with your customer base.
By leveraging the expertise of a 3PL provider for inventory management and visibility, your business can focus more on its core competencies, such as product development, marketing, and customer engagement.
Maybe the greatest benefit a 3PL provider can offer is scalable solutions that adapt to your business’s changing needs. Whether your inventory requirements increase or decrease, the 3PL can adjust their services accordingly.
With increased visibility, you can proactively identify potential risks and disruptions in the supply chain. This allows for better risk management and the ability to implement contingency plans when necessary.
In conclusion, increasing inventory visibility through a 3PL provider brings numerous advantages that improve supply chain efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance. The 3PL’s expertise, technology, and resources can enable your company to optimize inventory management, reduce costs, and focus on delivering exceptional products and services to your customers.
Best Practices for Increasing Inventory Visibility
Increasing inventory visibility is crucial for efficient inventory management and overall business success. Here are some best practices to achieve better inventory visibility:
Implement an inventory management system as soon as possible. Modern systems often incorporate real-time data synchronization, making it easier to manage inventory across multiple channels and locations.
Consolidate all inventory-related data into a central database or system. This includes data from warehouses, suppliers, sales channels, and other relevant sources. Centralization reduces data silos and ensures accurate and up-to-date information. Automate data collection as much as possible. Barcoding, RFID, and IoT devices can streamline data capture and minimize human errors in tracking inventory movements. Aim for real-time or near-real-time updates in your inventory system. This ensures that you have accurate, up-to-date information on stock levels, demand, and supply chain activities.
Conduct regular physical inventory audits to reconcile actual stock levels with the data in your system. This helps identify discrepancies and ensures the accuracy of your inventory records. Items with higher volume or demand should be counted more frequently.
Leverage data analytics to gain insights into inventory trends, demand patterns, and lead times. Analyzing historical data can help you make informed decisions about stock levels and optimize inventory replenishment.
Utilize forecasting and demand planning techniques to predict future inventory needs. This helps avoid overstocking or stockouts, leading to improved visibility and better inventory management.
Monitor sales across all channels (brick-and-mortar stores, online platforms, etc.) to understand demand variations and align inventory levels accordingly.
Provide mobile access to your inventory system for key stakeholders. This allows managers and employees to access inventory information on the go, enabling faster decision-making.
Extend visibility beyond your immediate inventory and gain insights into the entire supply chain. This includes monitoring supplier performance, shipping status, and potential disruptions.
Set up automated alerts and notifications for critical inventory events, such as low stock levels, stockouts, or abnormal demand patterns. This allows timely responses and proactive management.
By implementing these best practices, you can significantly improve inventory visibility, streamline operations, and ensure that you have the right products available at the right time to meet customer demands effectively.
Inventory visibility plays a significant role in your eCommerce business. The greater the visibility, the more information becomes available to make better decisions. If your business is just starting out, identify what your greatest needs are and then prioritize accordingly. A good rule to follow is to start with items that are customer facing first. Prioritize the list and use a scaling model that is focused on rate of return and then enjoy the fruits of your work.
Achieve Greater Inventory Visibility With Speed Commerce
Speed Commerce provides end-to-end e-commerce services and supply chain solutions that are in high demand for businesses of all sizes.
Speed Commerce offers inventory management services that help you achieve greater inventory visibility. We engage in close collaboration with our client partners to ensure we have a clear understanding of your business requirements and inventory management objectives.
Our inventory management software has the information necessary to manage and project inventory levels, sales, and performance. We ensure that your inventory data is integrated in real-time to provide you with up-to-date information, reducing the risk of stockouts or overstocking.
Data exchange is automated between your systems and Speed Commerce’s platform. This can include order processing, inventory updates, and tracking information, enabling seamless visibility into your inventory’s status.
Monitor the movement of inventory throughout the supply chain, from suppliers to warehouses to end customers. This can help you identify potential bottlenecks and optimize inventory flow.
Our team has decades of experience and regularly review and refines our inventory management processes to identify opportunities for enhancement.
Lastly, our client success team goes beyond supporting your needs to listening, learning, and partnering to grow your business. We can also offer contact services to ensure your customers are responded to 24/7/365.
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FAQs About Inventory Visibility
Inventory visibility refers to the ability of a business to track and monitor its inventory in real-time or near-real-time. It involves having accurate and up-to-date information about the quantity, location, and movement of inventory items throughout the supply chain.
Inventory visibility is crucial for efficient inventory management. It helps businesses avoid stockouts and overstocking, improve order fulfillment, reduce carrying costs, enhance supply chain efficiency, and meet customer demands effectively.
Businesses can achieve inventory visibility through various means, such as implementing advanced inventory management systems, using barcode or RFID technology for automated data capture, centralizing data from different sources, and collaborating with suppliers and partners to share real-time information.
Real-time inventory visibility offers several benefits, including the ability to respond quickly to changing customer demands, make data-driven decisions, reduce excess inventory and carrying costs, prevent stockouts, improve order accuracy, and optimize supply chain operations.
Inventory visibility plays a vital role in supply chain management by providing insights into inventory levels, demand patterns, and stock movements. With better visibility, businesses can enhance coordination with suppliers, minimize lead times, optimize inventory replenishment, and improve overall supply chain efficiency.
Some challenges in achieving inventory visibility include data inaccuracies, system integration complexities, data silos, manual data entry errors, limited visibility into supplier and partner data, and the need for substantial investments in technology and infrastructure.
Businesses can leverage inventory visibility to make informed decisions about stock levels, demand forecasting, inventory replenishment, supplier management, warehouse optimization, and customer service improvements. Data-driven decision-making based on real-time information helps businesses stay agile and competitive.
No, inventory visibility goes beyond physical inventory. It also includes insights into supplier data, order status, shipment tracking, and demand patterns across various sales channels. Having a comprehensive view of the entire supply chain enhances inventory visibility.
Yes, inventory visibility is instrumental in demand forecasting. Accurate data on past sales, current inventory levels, and market trends can aid businesses in predicting future demand more effectively, leading to better inventory management and resource planning.
Remember that effective inventory tracking is essential for efficient operations and meeting customer demands. Consider implementing best practices and leveraging technology to optimize your inventory management processes.
Businesses can improve inventory visibility by continuously investing in advanced inventory management technologies, integrating data systems, training employees on accurate data entry, conducting regular audits, and fostering collaborative relationships with suppliers and logistics partners. Continuous improvement and adaptation to new technologies are essential to maintain and enhance inventory visibility.