How a digital ERP system can help streamline grocery inventory management for maximum efficiency.

Effective inventory planning and optimization are vital for grocery retailers today, given that inventory and associated carrying costs represent significant expenses.

To ensure success, it’s imperative for retailers to efficiently coordinate multiple departments, working together to achieve the right product mix for selling locations and end consumers. By doing so, they can avoid stockouts and overstock situations within the supply chain.

The key to achieving this success is using a digital ERP.

Here are some ways a digital ERP can help:

The Power of Planning

An effective inventory management process begins with a robust planning approach.

Using a digital ERP system, grocers can efficiently forecast and project inventory levels across various merchandise and location hierarchies based on historical data and the latest trends. This enables them to plan product assortments, create purchase orders, and generate replenishment orders.

Ultimately, a digital ERP system simplifies the planning process, improving grocers’ inventory management.

For example:

  • Retailers can set targets based on inventory turnover or days/weeks of supply, allowing them to develop product assortments at a detailed level.
  • Planners then balance these targets against specific location clusters, encompassing selling locations, customer groups, or wholesale customer segments.
  • Once the planner finalizes the assortment plan, it is the foundation for purchase and replenishment orders to ensure timely restocking.
  • Vendors can also use these plans to anticipate the necessary resources for manufacturing and shipping, aligning with the retailer’s unit receipt plan.

Accurate Master Data

Tying all of this together is your master data.

Vendor lead times, pack sizes, service levels, and fixture definitions play a vital role in determining the flow of inventory and anticipated delivery dates. Retailers must pay attention to these details to optimize inventory management.

A seamlessly integrated digital ERP system is vital in maintaining accurate master data for grocery retailers.

A digital ERP ensures consistent and up-to-date information across the organization by centralizing data management and enabling real-time updates. This eliminates data discrepancies and provides a single source of truth for all stakeholders. Real-time updates ensure that the system immediately reflects changes to master data, minimizing the risk of outdated or conflicting information.

A digital ERP can also be integrated with external systems, allowing for automated data exchange and validation. These capabilities allow grocery retailers to maintain accurate master data, enabling efficient inventory planning, order fulfillment, and enhanced operational performance.

Preallocation and Efficient Flow of Inventory

Allocation and visibility of inventory flow are crucial in ensuring smooth operations and minimizing stock issues.

For example:

  • Merchants can preallocate specific unit quantities for delivery to selling locations when an order is received.
  • With a robust digital ERP solution, retailers can define business rules for product allocation based on fixture definitions, sales forecasts, and supply goals.
  • As the delivery date approaches, vendors can provide an updated EDI advanced ship notification (ASN) with the quantities scheduled for delivery.
  • Merchants can then adjust the preallocated quantities based on this information.
  • Sometimes, they can send direct ship instructions to selling locations via the EDI purchase order document for drop shipments.

By using EDI capabilities and ERP’s preallocation features, retailers can maintain smooth inventory flow, reduce excess safety stock, and gain complete visibility into the order cycle.

New Product Push and Allocation Methods

Preallocation is essential in the initial push to selling locations when introducing new products into the supply chain.

In such situations, retailers can use a digital ERP to send a portion of the order directly to stores, using cross-dock instructions. The remaining inventory can then be stored in the distribution center, awaiting future allocation based on the sales velocity of the new product across the supply chain.

For example:

  • A grocery retailer introduces a new type of organic cereal.
  • The retailer uses its digital ERP system to send a portion of the initial order directly to select stores with high demand for organic products.
  • The remaining inventory of the cereal is kept in the distribution center.
  • As the cereal gains popularity and the sales velocity increases, the retailer can allocate more quantities to other stores based on their sales volume, min/max quantities, shelf capacity, and desired weeks of supply targets.

With a digital ERP, grocery companies can also account for the shelf life of products in their replenishment algorithm and order proposals to effectively manage inventory, optimize sales, and minimize stockouts or excess inventory situations.

The Case for a Digital ERP: Optimizing Inventory Availability

Creating business rules and alerts in merchandise and assortment planning applications helps retailers maintain an accurate picture of inventory availability.

By updating these systems with the latest inventory position and demand forecasts, retailers can quickly identify and address problem areas to avoid stockouts or overstock situations. This proactive approach ensures efficient inventory management and reduces the need for promotions or markdowns.

Despite these inventory management practices being around for many years, many grocery retailers still find themselves challenged in streamlining their inventory management to meet modern demands.

However, the introduction of a digital ERP platform provides an effective solution. Its capabilities offer a range of advantages, including:

  • Overall inventory cost reduction: By avoiding excessive stock in the distribution network, retailers can significantly lower their inventory costs and increase the order fulfillment rate.
  • Faster lead times from vendors: The digital ERP facilitates the exchange of forward-looking sales and receipt plans with manufacturers, enabling faster production and delivery. This efficiency translates into shorter lead times and increased operational agility.
  • Minimized lost sales: Accurate sales forecasts and replenishment methods integrated within the digital ERP system help retailers reduce stockouts. This ensures that products are consistently available to meet customer demands, minimizing lost sales opportunities.
  • Automated forecasting and replenishment tools: Leveraging the power of automation, the digital ERP platform streamlines forecasting and replenishment processes. This saves time and money and enhances profitability by optimizing inventory levels across the supply chain.=

Partnering with Rizing for an SAP S/4HANA® Grocery ERP Transformation

Rizing has a long-standing partnership with SAP and specializes in delivering complete SAP S/4HANA retail capabilities in the grocery industry. Since 2003, Rizing has completed more grocery SAP implementations in North America than any other SAP service provider.

With a wealth of experience in grocery SAP, SAP’s S/4HANA, and CAR (Customer Activity Repository) solutions, Rizing can help retailers optimize their inventory levels using planning, purchasing, allocation, and replenishment tools. Whether you’re preparing for a new SAP implementation or plan on migrating from ECC to SAP S/4HANA, Rizing enables businesses to embrace intelligent enterprise solutions.

This article was originally published on Progressive Grocer and republished by permission.