Managing Stock To See Off The Credit Crunch By Improving Cash Flow

When times get hard control over cash flow is critical. The best defense in these days of the credit crunch is to introduce and monitor cash flow liquidity at the earliest stage of which stock levels and inventory control can be crucial elements

With a difficult financial year control over cash flow could be crucial to survival. Introduce and monitor cash flow at the earliest stage of which stock levels and inventory control can be critical elements.

Larger businesses have accountants producing financial information who also review and monitor all major financial influences within the business. Smaller businesses often do not have these finance details and financial controls and put themselves at risk since as the credit crunch tightens the businesses that are most at risk are those which fail to manage their liquidity until it is too late.

Major significant areas where businesses produce or purchase goods for resale are the stock levels. Examine each area and type of store categories such as work in progress and raw materials to ensure both minimum stock levels are always present and excess stock levels are reduced at all stages.

All stock has to be financed and funded from either the working capital of the business or external funding. If the business has no external funding costs then high stock levels may be advantageous in obtaining better supplier discounts when purchasing. When the value of stock has to be financed then it is important the stock levels are managed to use up the minimum financial resources.

Stock management is not just about reducing the volume but is about always having just enough for the level of sales without stock shortages. Stock levels are the sole responsibility of the owner in a small business and require thought and attention while larger businesses employ accountants for whom stock level management is part of the financial and accounting duties.

The first step would be to carry out a stock audit through a physical stocktaking and produce financial statistics of the sales volume for each item in the stores. Where appropriate the accounting system adopted should produce easily accessible stock figures so the situation can be constantly monitored.

A monitoring system even if rudimentary is important and can provide early warning of abnormal losses through wastage and even theft. Valuable stock especially with a potential resale value should be kept separately, protected and access restricted.

Armed with the stock levels and turnover figures policies can then be developed to manage the stock investment by initially eliminating or reducing purchase orders for those items overstocked and increasing the stock levels of those items understocked to maintain maximum sales volume by eliminating shortages.

In addition, other factors affecting stock levels include purchase order quantities delivery schedules, and reliability of the supply chain. By ordering less frequently and arranging better delivery schedules stock quantities can be reduced saving valuable cash resources and improving liquidity without reducing sales.

Commercially, minimum stock levels are not always prudent. Advantage has to be taken of bargains, volume discounts, and the risks of stock shortages but these decisions should always be taken based upon the financial advantages of over-stocking outweighing the cost of financing that stock. High stock values affect cash flow.

Sales policy can also have a strong influence on stock levels and should be managed with a view not just to achieving maximum sales but also to minimizing the business’s financial investment in working capital. Sales can achieve this by directing policy towards a higher turnover of goods, selling goods bought at bargain prices faster, and clearing slow-moving items.

Sales policy can be directed to move goods faster when such items have been obtained at lower prices but often in higher volumes to take advantage of the cheaper price but only by also selling such items quickly can cash flow and liquidity be protected.

Every business has slow-moving items and products that become obsolete. Such items are using valuable cash resources required in a credit crunch and turning such stock into cash benefits the business and provides additional funding for more profitable items.

Improving delivery schedules can reduce the need for higher stock levels and should be an area to review. Delivering faster and perhaps outsourcing the delivery function can get the goods to the clients faster. That reduces the stock levels and should result in cash being received faster as the customers can be invoiced earlier improving cash flow.

Retail businesses often have limited policies of stock quantities other than filling the shelves while retaining a back room full of goods that are not available for sale until displayed. Every stock item in the back room costs money while sitting there. When stock is purchased at low prices or can be sold before the next shipment then the cost is of course justified.

Every different type of business has its own inventory requirements with many different factors being applicable. The important message is not what should be done about this item or that item but the fact that there is an overall stock policy appropriate to the type of business to enable the business to function at maximum volume with minimum financial investment in stock.

Reviewing stock and inventory policy can reduce the cash flow and working capital requirements of the business. Better cash flow and liquidity improve buying policy by being less restrictive enabling advantage to be taken of market conditions and offers as they arise to increase overall profitability.

A lack of inventory control can result in a fire sale operation should cash flow and liquidity be so strained that the financial cash resources of the business run out. Good stock control can avoid such drastic measures.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terry Cartwright

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