Like many manufacturing industries, marine fabricators continually struggle with maintaining the right mix and amount of inventory to use in the production of their custom products. Sure, you can invest in comprehensive inventory management software to translate your inventory management into effective production processes. However, other inventory techniques can also result in an improved bottom line.
1. Focus on inventory demand forecasting
The components you use when fabricating components of marine vessels fluctuate due to seasonality, the economy and the demand of your customers. “Being able to solidly forecast what you need and when is extremely important,” says Justin Jones, founder of Sewlong Custom Covers, Salt Lake City, Utah. Being able to solidly forecast your shop’s needs can help you plan inventory and maintain appropriate levels of stock. This eliminates frustration when you go to pull out particular components for your product, and it helps you avoid tying up capital in excess inventory. So how can you do this? Simply evaluate past sales trends to determine patterns in inventory usage.
2. Categorize, categorize, categorize
Being organized and staying on top of your inventory is also required to maintain an efficient marine fabrication shop. Just ask Faith Roberts, owner of Banner Canvas in Ham Lake, Minn., who utilizes well organized and labeled bins throughout her shop. Bins allow her to take a visual inventory on a regular basis. One look can tell her if she needs to order more snaps or grommets or popular thread colors. Obviously, you will want to have more stock to buffer your fastest moving items. Slower moving items may call for less rigid inventory management and should be categorized separately from the quickly used components.
3. Modify your processes and educate
If you find that a certain item is perpetually in undersupply, determine the underlying cause. Are your employees not monitoring or tracking their usage of certain components in the fabrication process? At certain times of the year, do you experience specific overages or shortages of inventory? You need to understand what may be causing the inventory management issues in your shop and modify your processes accordingly. Also, educating your employees about the importance of inventory control is paramount. “We often say that getting employees on board with inventory management can be the biggest obstacle to proper inventory management,” Jones says. Helping employees understand how inventory management is connected to your bottom line and profitability can decrease inventory management issues in your shop.
4. Partner with others
Inventory management doesn’t have to fall solely on your shoulders. In fact, if your company finds it challenging to monitor the inventory of certain items, you may want try a vendor-managed inventory (VMI) system. Your key vendors can help you by studying your purchasing patterns of certain items and sending you new supplies on a set schedule. The vendors of your supplies take a proactive approach to helping you maintain the proper inventory level for your shop. You can check with your suppliers and see if they offer any type of VMI.