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How To Reduce Your Business Inventory Waste

by Noman Jabbar
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In today’s competitive marketplace, managing inventory waste is a critical challenge for businesses aiming for sustainability and efficiency. Wastage impacts the bottom line directly by incurring unnecessary costs and affects the environment and your brand’s reputation.

This guide will explore practical strategies for reducing inventory waste, encompassing techniques ranging from improving demand forecasting and leveraging technology to adopting lean inventory management practices.

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Understanding inventory waste

Before we can tackle the issue, we need to understand inventory waste and how it affects the business. Inventory waste encompasses several areas of inefficiency, including overstock, obsolescence, shrinkage, and variations in production.

In terms of overstock, keeping too much inventory on hand can lead to storage issues, increased risk of damage, and reduced cash flow.

For obsolescence, products that become outdated or lose demand before they are sold contribute to the waste of the product and the resources used to create it.

Shrinkage represents the loss of inventory that occurs between the point of manufacture and the point of sale, often due to theft, damage, or administrative errors.

For production variations, when changes in production schedules or demand result in the excess creation of products, the excess can often go to waste if not sold at a discount.

Identifying the source of waste

The first step in waste reduction is identifying where and why it’s occurring within your inventory management system.

This includes the following steps:

  • Conduct a thorough inventory audit: Look at the stock levels and turnover rates. What’s slow-moving? What’s often over-purchased?
  • Categorize different types of waste: Determine if overstock, spoilage, or some other issue is causing the waste problem.
  • Track and reduce shrinkage: Implement better security and a system for monitoring and investigating loss.
  • Review your production methods: Are there more efficient ways to produce or package your products that reduce waste?

Strategies to combat waste

Reducing waste is not a one-size-fits-all process. Here are specific strategies for addressing different types of inventory waste.

Adopting just-in-time inventory management

One of the most effective ways to minimize waste is by adopting a Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory methodology. By ordering and producing only what is needed, when it’s needed, JIT aims to eliminate holding costs and reduce the waste associated with overproduction and overstocking.

JIT lowers carrying costs and reduces warehouse space requirements. Plus, there’s less opportunity for stock to become outdated.

Implementing JIT requires close coordination with suppliers to deliver materials and components in sync with production schedules and sales forecasts.

Setting clear inventory control policies

Without clear policies, inventory can easily get out of control. This means having strict guidelines on ordering, receiving, storing, and issuing inventory.

Make sure to conduct regular stock takes. This means implementing regular inventories to identify variances and adjust stock levels.

Also establish reorder points. Set up automated alerts for reordering when stock levels reach a certain point, reducing the potential for stockouts and overstock.

The more people who can access inventory, the more likely issues will arise, which is why it’s important to control access to inventory. Have clear processes for who can order and release stock and under what conditions.

Utilizing technology for accurate forecasting

Technology plays a pivotal role in streamlining inventory practices. Inventory management software can provide real-time visibility and data-driven forecasting.

Inventory management systems (IMS) can analyze sales trends, account for seasonal demand, and help to anticipate when and how much to order.

Alongside IMS, other automated systems can help manage and control stock levels, reducing the risk of human error.

Integrate your IMS with accounting and production systems for a holistic view of the entire supply chain.

Establishing supplier partnerships for efficient inventory turnover

Your relationship with suppliers is critical in waste reduction. You depend on them to provide materials in the right quantities when needed.

Work with suppliers to share sales data, ensuring that you both minimize waste throughout the supply chain.

Also implement vendor-managed inventory (VMI), which allows suppliers to monitor and restock your inventory, offering a constant flow of products without your direct oversight.

Having more than one supplier for critical materials mitigates the risk of shortages if one of them fails to deliver or goes out of business.

Measuring your success

Once you’ve implemented new strategies, measuring their success is essential. Establish KPIs that help you understand the impact of your initiatives.

Some common KPIs to track include:

  • Inventory turnover rate: A high turnover rate indicates that your inventory is well-managed without excessive waste.
  • Lead time: Shortening lead times can help you reduce the amount of stock you need to keep on hand, reducing overstock waste.
  • Obsolete inventory levels: Keeping track of obsolete inventory will help you recognize when waste-reduction strategies are working.
  • Reduction in production variances: Fewer variations in your production mean you’re producing more efficiently and creating less waste.


In conclusion, managing inventory waste is crucial for maintaining efficient, cost-effective operations. Businesses can significantly reduce waste and improve their bottom line by adopting Just-In-Time inventory management, setting clear inventory control policies, utilizing technology for accurate forecasting, and establishing solid supplier partnerships.

Organizations can sustain a lean, productive inventory system supporting economic and environmental goals by continuously measuring success and adjusting strategies accordingly.

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