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How Much Inventory Do I Need For My Small Business?

Business owners and financial managers need to control inventory levels. Establishing the right inventory level by item for your small business is a crucial success factor. This article will explore:

  • How much inventory is sufficient? 
  • How much is too much?
  • Is too much inventory good or bad?

How Much Inventory To Carry?

Small businesses often find inventory management challenging. Finding the right amount of inventory keeps these business objectives in balance:

  1. Having sufficient inventory on hand, or when customers need it
  2. Minimizing lost sales
  3. Calculating sufficient safety stock to reduce out-of-stock inventory, and determining if just-in-time inventory methods work to some extent in your business  

A Just-In-Time inventory system (JIT) is a pull system based on near-term demand. Just-in-time is accomplished by issuing a purchase order with a delivery due date that closely matches customer or manufacturing schedule needs.

  1. Managing customer demand to  supply chain capabilities and reliability, including lead time 
  2. Increasing inventory turnover by calculating the  inventory turnover rate and analyzing the underlying factors, looking for ways to improve it

The result of faster inventory turnover is increasing ROI and improving cash flow by not having too much cash tied up in inventory, and better matching the timing of customer demand. You can calculate inventory turnover, as follows:

Divide the cost of goods sold from the income statement by average inventory from the balance sheet (which is  beginning inventory balance plus ending inventory balance divided by 2)

  1. Managing cash flow better
  2. Minimizing excess inventory and obsolete inventory.

How Much is Too Much Inventory?

That’s a key question. Tracking inventory turnover and usage by product, item, and location can help you establish how much is too much inventory. An accounting and inventory management software can help you control inventory levels in relation to the demand for those items. 

To determine how much inventory you need, you need to look at the following areas:

  1. How much inventory do you need for the very ordinary day, when nothing unusual happens? This gives you an awesome estimate. From this base estimate, all your estimates should begin. Are you in a very stable industry that changes just a very slowly over time? Well, get your daily needs, add 10% buffer for just in case, and you are good to go. Unfortunately, this is the case for only a minority of businesses, as vast majority industries are changing in front of eyes and these will need to evaluate further their inventory needs. 
  2. How much inventory your competitor needs for his ordinary day? He is a competitor for a reason - look at what he is doing and learn from his weakness and strength to enhance your inventory management system.
  3. How much costs you keeping extra inventory and how much can you lose if you lack it? if your inventory is cheap to store, and it is easily accessible and purchasable, it makes perfect sense to keep loads of inventory at hands. Buy once in a long time, and just forget about it until you run to some minimum amount again, when you can again order tons of it without worrying too much. 
  4. How innovative is your inventory? Can it happen your stock becomes redundant or in high demand? if you are working with special materials, like precious metals like gold or platinum, materials that change the price on daily bases, you want to make sure, you never run out of it. Wait for it to drop to an acceptable price, and stockpile yourself before your competitors buy it out.
  5. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Always calculate how much you need today, yesterday, a month ago, and month from now, to see trends you wouldn't otherwise see by the naked eye. 

Is Too Much Inventory Good or Bad?

It depends on how much excess inventory that you have. Generally, having too much inventory is considered bad. But it depends somewhat on your situation. 

If inventory doesn’t sell, it may be subject to classification as excess inventory or obsolete inventory, requiring a write-down to the actual worth of the inventory and write-off versus the amount recorded on the books for these inventory items. GAAP accounting standards require setting up a reserve, also known as an allowance, for excess inventory and obsolete inventory (if the amounts are material). 

By lowering the price of inventory sold to customers, you may be able to reduce the amount of excess inventory in stock. That’s better than writing it off completely. 

If you have too much inventory, you may need to spend more on insurance and storage space. The goods can be damaged, lost, or stolen. Cash flow may become difficult if you can’t turn over the inventory quickly to complete the cash conversion cycle. If you’re able to obtain additional financing to cover the cash shortfall, your business would incur extra interest expenses. There’s more business risk. 

On the other hand, if you have an unexpected rise in demand and you have the right items in inventory, then having too much inventory would be favorable. You wouldn’t need to buy products to sell the extra items, you could deliver the order quickly to the customer, and the customer would be pleased. 


Key Takeaways

One of the essential jobs for small business owners and financial managers is inventory management. Usually, having too much or too little inventory creates business problems. Having the right accounting software to help you manage that inventory is essential. ZarMoney software offers advanced inventory management capabilities to help you determine and maintain the ideal amount of inventory by item, product, and location for your company.

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