By Will Schneider
Over the last couple of years, Steve Berry, President of Battery Universe found some interesting ways of growing his business in these difficult economic times. In addition to upgrading his website, adding a retail outlet, and franchising his business, he found that adding new items in previously unoccupied niches helped fuel growth. Over time, these new products became a significant percentage of his overall business. The only catch – it added to his company’s workload from an inventory management perspective. So he had to get creative about how to manage the growth of SKUs (in his case over 1 million unique items) so that it didn’t overwhelm the business. “At first it was pure excitement, seeing sales grow at a great clip,” said Mr.Berry, “but then we realized that we had to come up with some strategies to minimize workload in our every growing inventory SKUs.”
And Battery Universe isn’t the only company that is faced with such a challenge. Many businesses are faced with similar challenges. “It’s not uncommon for some of our clients to have SKU counts in the thousands and beyond,” noted Mark Chandley of Adeptiv Solutions, an order fulfillment company that ships products for online retailers. So where can companies turn when they SKU counts seem to be busting through the roof? Here’s a few tips to streamline the processes and remove some of the clutter.
- It all starts with a solid inventory management system that speaks intelligently with your online shopping cart, if applicable. Inventory management systems have a multitude of functions that automate mundane processes.
- Utilize the reporting features of your inventory system to view up to date information on which SKUs are high active and which items seem to be stuck on the shelf. Getting rid of some of the dead weight will help reduce some of the workload and clear some of the inventory you’re carrying in the warehouse.
- Run a profitability analysis on your items. Growing your number of items can definitely have a positive effect on growth of sales, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to increased profits. Make sure that you’re carry products that are profitable and removing items that don’t pull their weight.
- Use the data from your inventory turn to place high moving products close to your picking and staging area, thus limiting the time to pick.
- Oftentimes, there are programmatic ways that you can make bulk website updates (description details, etc.). Check with your technology team or consultant for ways to tap into this time saver, but make sure not to duplicate content on your site, which can jeopardize your keyword rankings in the search engines.
Managing a large volume of SKUs can be an extremely difficult task. But with a little bit of creativity, and a whole lot of technology, management can become, well, manageable.