How to do Inventory Management in 2024: Step-by-Step Guide

In the rapidly evolving business landscape of 2024, mastering inventory management is more crucial than ever. It’s a complex dance of ensuring that you have just the right amount of product available at just the right time—neither too much to tie up your capital and risk obsolescence nor too little to miss out on sales. This guide delves into the nuances of inventory management, offering a comprehensive approach to navigating this critical business function. 

Introduction to Inventory Management 

Inventory management is a crucial segment of supply chain management, focusing on having the right products, in the right quantities, at the right time. It involves the careful planning and execution of strategies to maintain optimal inventory levels, thus reducing the costs associated with excess inventory and maximizing sales and customer satisfaction. Effective inventory management also means tracking your inventory in real-time to streamline operations, minimize costs, and boost the bottom line. 

inventory management in a warehouse

Types of Inventory 

Inventory comes in various forms, each requiring a different management approach. Raw materials are the essentials needed for production, work-in-progress items are those still in the manufacturing phase, finished goods are the final products ready for sale, and MRO supplies are those used in the maintenance and operation of the production process. A deep understanding of each inventory type helps in applying the most effective management strategy. 

Inventory Management Techniques 

Several techniques are pivotal in optimizing inventory management.  

1. Just-in-time (JIT)  

It aims to minimize inventory to reduce holding costs. It is a strategy where businesses aim to receive goods only as they are needed for production or sale. This minimizes the amount of inventory a company needs to hold at any given time, leading to several benefits like reduced inventory carrying costs, improved cash flow, increased flexibility, and reduced waste. However, JIT requires close coordination with suppliers and a reliable transportation system to ensure timely deliveries. It may also be less suitable for businesses with unpredictable demand or long lead times.

2. Economic order quantity (EOQ)  

This model helps determine the most cost-effective quantity of stock to order. It is a widely used inventory management technique that helps businesses determine the optimal order quantity to minimize total inventory costs. It considers two key cost components: 

1. Ordering costs: Costs associated with placing an order, such as setup costs, paperwork, and transportation.  

2. Holding costs: Costs associated with storing inventory, such as warehousing, insurance, and inventory obsolescence. 

The EOQ model assumes steady demand, constant ordering and holding costs, and no stockouts. Under these assumptions, the optimal order quantity (EOQ) can be calculated with the following formula: 

EOQ = √[(2 × Annual Demand × Ordering Cost) / Holding Cost per Unit] 


Annual Demand: The total amount of a product used or sold in a year. 

Ordering Cost: The total cost of placing an order, regardless of the order quantity. 

Holding Cost per Unit: The cost of holding one unit of inventory for a year. 

The EOQ model helps businesses find a balance between ordering too frequently, which increases ordering costs, and ordering too infrequently, which increases holding costs. By ordering the EOQ each time, businesses aim to minimize the total cost associated with inventory management. 

Benefits of using the EOQ model: 

  • Reduces total inventory costs 
  • Minimizes risk of stockouts 
  • Improves inventory turnover 
  • Streamlines order management 

Limitations of the EOQ model: 

  • Assumes steady demand, which may not be realistic for all products. 
  • Ignores factors like price discounts for larger orders. 
  • Does not consider lead times or stockout costs. 
  • Despite its limitations, the EOQ model remains a valuable tool for businesses looking to optimize their inventory management and minimize costs. However, it’s important to consider the model’s assumptions and limitations and adapt it to your specific business needs and context. 

3. ABC Model  

This technique analysis prioritizes inventory based on its importance and value.  

In inventory management, ABC analysis stands for “Always Better Control.” It’s a technique used to categorize inventory items based on their annual value consumption, grouping them into three categories: 

A Items: These are the most valuable items, typically representing 20% of the items but contributing to 80% of the total value. Examples could be high-demand products, expensive components, or critical raw materials. 

B Items: These are items of moderate value, typically representing 30% of the items and contributing to 15% of the total value. Examples could be less popular products, moderately priced materials, or seasonal items. 

C Items: These are the least valuable items, representing 50% of the items but contributing to only 5% of the total value. Examples could be low-demand products, inexpensive components, or slow-moving stock. 

The key benefit of ABC analysis is that it allows businesses to prioritize their inventory management efforts

Here’s how: 

A items: Receive close attention, frequent monitoring, and stricter controls to avoid stockouts and maximize profit. 

B items: Require moderate control, with regular monitoring and balanced management strategies. 

C items: Can be simplified with relaxed controls, lower monitoring frequency, and potentially bulk ordering or outsourcing. 

Benefits of using ABC analysis: 

  • Reduced inventory costs: Focus resources on high-value items and optimize spending on low-value ones. 
  • Improved inventory turnover: Faster movement of A and B items leads to better cash flow and profitability. 
  • Reduced stockouts: Prioritized control for A items minimizes lost sales. 
  • Simplified management: Streamlined processes for C items frees up resources for critical tasks. 

By employing ABC analysis, businesses can make informed decisions, allocate resources efficiently, and optimize their inventory management for increased profitability and efficiency. 

4. FIFO (First In, First Out)  

The FIFO inventory management model ensures that the first items stocked are the first sold, crucial for products with expiration dates like food or medications. For example, a grocery store using FIFO would sell milk cartons stocked earlier before newer ones. This method reduces waste by preventing spoilage and ensures customers receive fresh products. It also has financial benefits, as selling older stock first can lower the cost of goods sold and increase profits during inflationary periods. Implementing FIFO effectively requires a well-organized warehouse, accurate inventory tracking, and staff training to handle stock appropriately. 

Benefits of FIFO 

Reduces Waste: By ensuring that the oldest items are sold or used first, FIFO significantly reduces the likelihood of having to write off inventory due to spoilage or obsolescence. 

Improves Inventory Accuracy: FIFO simplifies tracking inventory ages, making it easier to manage stock levels and reorder products timely. 

Better Financial Reporting: FIFO can lead to higher profits during periods of inflation by selling older, cheaper inventory first. This results in lower cost of goods sold (COGS) figures and, consequently, higher gross margins. 

Compliance with Industry Standards: In many industries, particularly food and pharmaceuticals, regulatory requirements mandate the use of FIFO to ensure consumer safety and product efficacy. 

5. LIFO (Last In, First Out)  

The Last In, First Out (LIFO) model of inventory management is an approach where the most recently produced or acquired items are sold or used before older inventory. This method is particularly favored in specific industries where inventory items do not face the risk of obsolescence or expiration, such as non-perishable goods or where prices are rapidly increasing. LIFO is more commonly used for accounting purposes in some jurisdictions, as it can reduce tax liabilities in times of inflation by increasing the cost of goods sold (COGS) and reducing reported profits. 

Under the LIFO method, the inventory purchased or manufactured last is assumed to be sold first. The remaining inventory, therefore, consists of the oldest items. In financial reporting, this means that the COGS reflects the cost of the most recently acquired or produced goods, which, during periods of inflation, are typically higher. This results in lower taxable income and, consequently, lower taxes. 


Consider a company that manufactures widgets. In January, it produces 100 widgets at a cost of $10 each. In February, the production cost increases to $15 each, and the company produces another 100 widgets. If the company sells 100 widgets in March and uses LIFO, the COGS for these widgets will be based on the $15 production cost (the most recent), not the $10 cost from January. 

Benefits of LIFO 

  • Tax Efficiency: During inflation, LIFO can lead to lower taxable income by matching current sales with the higher costs of the most recently produced or purchased goods. 
  • Cash Flow Improvement: By reducing tax liabilities, companies can improve their cash flow, which can be redirected into operations or growth initiatives. 
  • Reflects Current Market Conditions: LIFO can provide a more accurate match of current revenue with the current cost, reflecting the true cost of goods sold in the financial statements. 

Challenges and Considerations 

Inventory Valuation: Under LIFO, the remaining inventory may be valued at historical costs, which might not reflect the current market value. This can lead to an undervaluation of inventory on the balance sheet. 

Complexity: Managing inventory under LIFO can be complex, especially if prices fluctuate frequently. It requires robust accounting systems and processes to track inventory layers accurately. 

Best Practices for Inventory Management 

1. Automate Your Management  

The transition from manual to automated inventory systems has significantly improved accuracy and efficiency in inventory management. Technologies like barcoding and RFID have further streamlined this process, allowing for seamless tracking and management of inventory levels across multiple locations. These systems ensure timely adjustments to stock levels, reducing the risk of overstocking or stockouts. 

2. Set Inventory Levels 

Strategically setting inventory levels involves using formulas like the reorder point and safety stock calculations, alongside demand forecasting. These methods help determine the optimal times to reorder and the ideal stock levels to maintain, ensuring product availability without overcapitalizing on inventory. 

3. Conduct Regular Data Analysis 

For e-commerce sellers, data analysis and demand forecasting are crucial tools for making informed decisions and optimizing their business performance. By analyzing historical sales data, market trends, and customer behavior, sellers can accurately predict future demand for their products. This empowers them to manage inventory levels effectively, preventing stockouts and overstocking, which translates into improved operational efficiency, reduced costs, and increased profitability. Additionally, data-driven insights on customer preferences help tailor product offerings and marketing strategies, leading to increased customer satisfaction and sales. In a nutshell, data analysis and demand forecasting provide e-commerce sellers with a competitive edge in a dynamic market by unlocking the power of data for better decision-making. 

4. Ensure MRO Supplies 

While fulfilling customer orders is your primary function, neglecting MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations) supplies in your inventory management can significantly hinder your operations and customer satisfaction. 

MRO encompasses a diverse range of products, from packaging materials and cleaning supplies to IT equipment and logistics essentials. These seemingly mundane items are crucial for ensuring smooth daily operations, from order fulfillment to maintaining warehouse functionality. 

Focusing on MRO as an e-commerce seller offers several key benefits: 

  • Improved operational efficiency: Efficient access to necessary MRO supplies minimizes disruptions, ensures timely order fulfillment, and ultimately, keeps your operations running smoothly. 
  • Enhanced customer experience: Delays caused by a lack of MRO supplies can directly impact customer satisfaction. By prioritizing MRO, you ensure a smooth and efficient order fulfillment process, leading to happier customers. 
  • Potential cost control: With the rise of e-commerce platforms dedicated to MRO supplies, you have access to a wider range of suppliers and potentially better pricing, leading to optimized operational costs. 

By prioritizing MRO inventory management, you not only ensure smooth internal operations, but also indirectly contribute to a positive customer experience and potentially optimize your overall business costs. 

5. Integrate Technology in Inventory Management 

Modern inventory management software is a game-changer, offering features such as real-time tracking, demand forecasting, and integration with other business systems like ERP and CRM. Cloud-based solutions offer flexibility and scalability, making inventory management more accessible and efficient. 

Using an OMS like PointNXT helps you manage your inventory hassle free with just a few clicks.

Challenges in Inventory Management 

Navigating challenges such as demand fluctuations, supply chain disruptions, and cost control requires a proactive and adaptable approach. Strategic planning and efficient inventory management practices are essential in overcoming these obstacles and maintaining operational resilience. 

Conclusion and Future Trends 

As we look to the future, continuous improvement in inventory management is imperative. The advent of AI and IoT technologies presents new opportunities for enhancing inventory accuracy and efficiency. Staying ahead in inventory management means leveraging these technologies and adhering to best practices, ensuring businesses can meet the demands of tomorrow’s market. 

In essence, inventory management in 2024 is about striking the perfect balance between supply and demand, using advanced technologies and strategies to maintain optimal inventory levels. By understanding the complexities of inventory types, employing effective management techniques, and embracing technological advancements, businesses can achieve excellence in inventory management, positioning themselves for success in the competitive landscape of 2024 and beyond. 

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