Educational Resources

Learn more about NetSuite accounting / ERP, CRM and ecommerce solutions

Inventory Management in the Cloud


Inventory management is about knowing what products to have on hand and when to have them on hand. It's about understanding what you have in your warehouse and where your stock is located. It means maintaining optimal inventory levels that avoid unnecessary capital expenditures, while ensuring you can meet demand and not run out of goods.

Determining the right inventory management system for your business requires assessing your needs today and your plans for future growth. As your company grows, can your inventory management system scale along with it? As your business evolves, does the system offer flexibility to facilitate change? Will it give you the visibility you need to manage inventory requirements?

Traditional on-premise ERP systems and less sophisticated systems like QuickBooks typically lack the real-time visibility required to effectively manage inventory in today's modern distributors. Many companies resort to unwieldy spreadsheets to manage inventory or rely on gut feel, potentially costing thousands of dollars in emergency replenishment or lost revenue from stock-outs.

Cloud-based inventory management offers a compelling alternative to manual approaches to inventory management or costly on-premise ERP. The best cloud system provides real-time visibility into inventory, with anywhere, anytime access to critical information. It can function at the core of an ERP system, integrating seamlessly with demand planning, financials and logistics. Automated capabilities eliminate manual inputs while maximizing efficiency throughout the inventory lifecycle.

Scalability, flexibility and visibility are the three key elements that comprise an integrated approach to inventory management in the cloud.

Scalability

Spreadsheets or QuickBooks might be adequate for a business just starting out, but growth will quickly outpace their capabilities for inventory management. How can you ensure your inventory management solution scales with your business as you increase your market share and penetration, handling more products, more volume, more customers, more suppliers and more locations over the next two years, five years, 10 years and beyond?

The right cloud inventory management system will scale as your business grows, from a small single-warehouse operation to an international distributor spanning multiple markets. The cloud makes it easy to add users, functionality, warehouses and suppliers—without the large-scale cost and effort required to implement a new on-premise system, or install it in new offices.

A cloud system lets you select the right level of inventory management sophistication for your business or industry. It lets you use only the functionality you need, without needless complexity. As your business grows, cloud inventory management scales with you by offering more sophisticated features and virtually unlimited capacity for more users and information.

Flexibility

With growth comes change in how your company operates. The business processes you had in place five years ago will likely differ substantially from the way you operate five years from now. Can your inventory management system evolve with you? Is it flexible enough to bend with you as your processes change?

These changes could involve simply a modification in reporting to improve inventory management speed and precision. Or they could be changes to how you see information, or deliver data to select managers based on their job function or location. Change could mean adding a new shipper or bar-code system, or introducing capabilities for quantity-based pricing, lot and bin management or landed cost calculations.

A cloud-based inventory management system built with flexibility in mind allows you to define your business processes into the system. It offers flexibility for you to implement customizations and business rules that support your unique requirements. The optimal cloud architecture preserves these customizations for you, so that they remain intact even as the cloud provider periodically upgrades your system to the latest release.

Visibility

Visibility into inventory availability is critical for planning replenishment to meet customer expectations and seasonal or even unexpected changes in demand. Taking this visibility factor further is managing inventory across multiple warehouse locations. In the cloud, this can all be visible from one location or from multiple locations. 

In the cloud, you can have real-time visibility into your warehouses and other inventory locations, either domestically or internationally. If you have an international presence, the right multi-subsidiary management system gives you both global visibility and localized control, so that inventory can be managed centrally or managed by location. This type of visibility will help influence purchasing requirements versus transfer requirements.

Unlike spreadsheets or desktop applications, the cloud doesn't tether you to a desk. Web-based inventory management gives your personnel anywhere, anytime access to real-time data, whether on the road with a mobile device or receiving alerts on the warehouse floor. Metrics-driven dashboards let your managers continuously monitor and improve performance.

The cloud takes inventory management to a new level. It gives you the ability to easily grow with your business. It allows you to configure the system to your business requirements. And it gives you full visibility within your warehouse and across multiple locations.