by Krzysztof Kaszewski, Gutsaga Technologies




What is the Inventory Management?

Most often, this is believed to be an activity thanks to which companies ensure a stable supply of goods in order to meet customer demand. Inventory management aims to have the right products in the right place at the right time. However, one measurement of good inventory management is inventory turnover, not the customer happiness. The turnover reflects the frequency of product being sold during a given period. A business does not want more inventory than sales. Low inventory turnover can lead to unsold stock, losses, and sometimes even bankruptcy. Well, the good inventory management system is the backbone of retail success, ensuring that the right products are available at the right time to meet both customer demand and seller profit.

Inventory management involves tracking products from manufacturers to warehouses to points of sale, maintaining optimal stock levels, and minimizing both stockouts and excess inventory.

As the retail landscape evolves, advanced technologies and innovative practices are transforming how inventory is managed, offering significant competitive advantages to businesses.


The Future Belongs To Retail Chains

For years, independent stores have been facing increasing competition from retail chains. And even if they stay independent, they create associations or group themselves into small chains to face the competition of large players. Nowadays, it is difficult to find, eg. an independent cosmetic store not being a member of some chain. This changes the approach to inventory management.

While a single point of sale must deal with logistics on its own, allocating usually modest human and time resources, big chains solve problems at the level of hundreds and even thousands of POS using proportionally fewer resources. Thanks to mass management processes, chains can be much more efficient, profitable and competitive than independent stores.

This is why the future of retail belongs to chains, even if only regional ones, which is nothing new in the era of shortening supply chains, gaining even greater momentum in almost all industries since the Covid-19 pandemic. Competition between retail chains will largely focus on optimizing resource management and reducing costs. Those that can best cope with these challenges will grow faster and take larger market shares.


The Evolution of Inventory Management

The landscape of inventory management in retail has transformed significantly over the years. Initially, inventory management was a manual process involving paper records and physical counts. This method was time-consuming, prone to errors, and inefficient. The advent of computerized inventory systems in the late 20th century marked a significant improvement, enabling more accurate tracking and easier data management.


In the 21st century, inventory management has continued to evolve with the integration of advanced technologies. The adoption of barcode scanning and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags has enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of inventory tracking. These technologies have allowed for real-time updates to inventory records, reducing the likelihood of discrepancies and improving the overall accuracy of inventory data.


As the retail industry faces increasing competition and changing consumer expectations, effective inventory management has become more critical than ever. Retail businesses need to ensure that they can meet customer demand promptly while minimizing costs associated with excess inventory and stockouts. This requires leveraging advanced technologies and innovative practices to optimize inventory management processes.

Still most software inventory management systems replicate traditional ERP solutions, especially when it comes to planning inventory levels – called „sales forecasting” – which causes many problems, including: long turnover periods, low level of availability of goods, failure to cope with the so-called “slow movers”, which consequently leads to generating losses, cashflow problems, and sometimes even bankruptcy.

Traditional ERP systems will evaluate or be replaced with more modern solutions created by experts who understand complex business problems, and at the same time are able to use latest technologies. And the wave of the latter has been growing.


The Role of Technology in Inventory Management

Advanced technologies are revolutionizing inventory management, providing retailers with new tools to optimize their operations. Key technologies transforming inventory management include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), predictive analytics, big data, automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and blockchain. Each of these technologies offers unique benefits that can enhance inventory management processes.



Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Predictive Analytics and Big Data

Traditional inventory systems often fall short due to their reliance on historical sales data and rudimentary forecasting models. In contrast, modern predictive analytics utilizes advanced algorithms to analyze large volumes of data from multiple sources, including point-of-sale systems, social media, and consumer behavior, to generate more accurate demand predictions.


AI, ML, Predictive Analytics and Big Data are at the forefront of the technological revolution in inventory management. Systems powered with new technologies can process large volumes of data from multiple sources, including sales data, customer behavior, market trends and many others. Predictive analytics and big data are transforming inventory management by leveraging vast and diverse datasets to generate accurate demand predictions. By analyzing huge amount of data, these technologies can identify trends and patterns that may not be immediately apparent to human analysts, or that were previously invisible, and make informed decisions in real time.


By understanding these patterns, businesses can adjust their inventory levels proactively, ensuring that they have the right products in stock when customers need them.

Modern systems can predict future inventory needs, adjust stock levels dynamically, and automate various inventory management tasks. This means being able to predict which products will be in high or low demand and when. Eg., such systems might detect a surge in demand for a particular product due to a viral trend on social media, or identify seasonal demand for certain products and anticipate increased demand during specific periods, such as holidays or promotional events.

The ability to automatically adjust reorder points and quantities based on real-time demand signals, seasonal trends, and other relevant factors significantly reduces the need for manual intervention, decreases the likelihood of human error or lack of time, and frees up valuable time for managers to focus on strategic planning.

AI and machine learning algorithms continuously refine their predictions as they are exposed to more data, becoming more accurate and reliable over time. The integration of predictive analytics into inventory management systems enables continuous refinement of predictions as more data becomes available. This results in more precise inventory control, reducing the likelihood of both stockouts and excess inventory.

Modern technologies-powered systems can also optimize the entire supply chain, from procurement to delivery, ensuring that inventory levels are always aligned with actual demand. This dynamic capability allows businesses to respond swiftly to changes in demand, enhancing customer satisfaction by ensuring product availability and optimizing inventory costs. This leads to significant cost savings, improved operational efficiency, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Predictive analytics helps minimize overstock by reducing it to virtually zero while ensuring that products availability is close to 99% while turnover period is minimalized to just a few days. This goes beyond traditional inventory optimization, creating an “adequate inventory” that perfectly aligns with current market conditions.

In a sector where timely availability of products can significantly impact customer loyalty and sales, AI and machine learning analytics offer a substantial competitive advantage. By utilizing advanced predictive models and big data, businesses can maintain accurate inventory levels, improve customer satisfaction, and enhance operational efficiency.

As AI, ML, Predictive Analytics and Big Data continue to evolve, their impact on inventory management is expected to grow, driving further innovation and efficiency in the field.


Artificial Automation and Robotics

Automation and robotics are dramatically reshaping the landscape of inventory management, bringing about significant improvements in efficiency, accuracy, and speed. Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are becoming increasingly common in modern warehouses, allowing for the efficient handling of inventory with minimal human intervention. These systems use advanced robotics to move products within the warehouse, ensuring that items are stored and retrieved quickly and accurately.


For retail businesses, this means faster fulfillment of orders and more efficient management of inventory. Automated systems can handle tasks such as sorting, picking, and packing products, significantly reducing the time and labor required for these processes. This not only improves efficiency but also minimizes the risk of errors, ensuring that customers get the correct products.


Robotic process automation (RPA) further enhances inventory management by automating repetitive tasks such as order processing, inventory tracking, and data entry. For example, RPA can automatically update inventory records as products are received or shipped, ensuring that the system always reflects the current stock levels. This reduces the likelihood of errors and frees up employees to focus on more strategic and value-added activities.

Drones are another emerging technology in inventory management, particularly useful for conducting inventory checks in large warehouses. Equipped with cameras and sensors, drones can quickly and accurately scan barcodes or RFID tags, providing real-time updates on inventory levels. This reduces the need for manual counting and significantly speeds up the inventory audit process.

The integration of automation and robotics into inventory management systems leads to more streamlined operations, reduced labor costs, and enhanced productivity. By minimizing manual intervention and improving accuracy, these technologies help businesses maintain optimal inventory levels, reduce stockouts, and improve overall supply chain efficiency. As automation and robotics technologies continue to advance, their role in inventory management is set to expand, offering even greater benefits to businesses.


Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing inventory management by providing unprecedented real-time visibility into inventory levels and movements. IoT devices, such as smart shelves and RFID tags, are increasingly being used to monitor inventory in real time. These devices can automatically update inventory counts and provide alerts when stock levels fall below a certain threshold or when discrepancies occur.

IoT also enables predictive maintenance of inventory management equipment, such as automated storage and retrieval systems. Sensors can monitor the health and performance of these systems, predicting when maintenance is needed and preventing unexpected breakdowns that could disrupt operations.

The integration of IoT with inventory management systems provides a wealth of data that can be analyzed to gain insights into inventory trends and optimize stock levels. For example, IoT data can reveal patterns in product demand, helping businesses adjust their inventory strategies accordingly. Additionally, IoT devices can enhance security by monitoring access to inventory areas and providing alerts in case of unauthorized access.

Overall, IoT technology enhances inventory accuracy, reduces labor costs, and improves operational efficiency. As IoT devices become more advanced and affordable, their adoption in inventory management is expected to grow, leading to even greater benefits for businesses.


Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is transforming inventory management by offering scalable, flexible, and cost- effective solutions that traditional on-premises systems cannot match. Cloud-based inventory management systems provide businesses with real-time access to inventory data from anywhere, facilitating better collaboration and coordination across multiple locations. This accessibility ensures that inventory information is always up to date, allowing for more accurate decision-making and efficient operations.