*This article is based on our research and market feedback.
A balance between working capital, operating costs and optimal service level is what every successful business strives for. Along with this, it is vital for companies to spend their time and effort on the areas that bring the most value. This is why inventory optimization is a challenge that every retail business faces sooner or later.
Why exactly do you need software for automation and efficient inventory management?
- You are a retail chain with a large number of stores, warehouses, suppliers and a wide range of categories and SKUs that are important to service on time, make regular records, and if there are “dead stocks”, carry out sales, write-offs or revision of the assortment.
- You are asmall retail business with tiny stores and not a lot of storage space. And it is extremely important for you to utilize every meter of the shelf space you have for storing goods.
- Your product is characterized by a seasonal change in demand (within a year, days of the week) or, conversely, irregular fluctuations in demand, which are difficult to anticipate and can also be fraught with both lack of goods or surpluses.
- Your chain regularly conducts various promotional activities for different products, mechanics and suppliers, which need high-quality planning, execution and performance evaluation.
- You are developing an omnichannel sales model and want to have a clear understanding of the movement of goods and current balances for each channel.
- You want to reduce labor costs and increase the efficiency of your purchasing department.
- Your business is scaling and it has become essential to move away from Excel spreadsheets and manual inventory management, and it is also important to collect and process large amounts of data in a timely manner for operational and strategic management.
If at least one of the above points applies to you, then modern software for inventory optimization based on ML and AI will greatly increase the profitability of your business.
The software gives you access to accurate data so you can make informed decisions and helps you balance the amount of inventory you need to have on hand to meet your company’s goals, while allowing your managers to move away from routine tasks and devote more time to strategic business development.
A quality inventory optimization software solution will allow you to:
- Reduce labor costs.
- Improve the quality of inventory planning.
- Adapt to supply chain volatility.
- Improve customer service.
- Increase employee efficiency.
However, the biggest benefit of optimizing your inventory is the increase in working capital. You will have much more money to invest in other important aspects of your organization, saving money on surplus.
Here is a list of the TOP 5 most popular retail stock optimization solutions in 2022.
LEAFIO Inventory Optimization
LEAFIO has been implementing cloud-based retail solutions for over a decade, accumulating in its solutions experience of implementation and use for more than 160 companies around the world.
Leafio Inventory Optimization software covers all the necessary components of the inventory management process, leaving no "blank spots" in retail business processes. The cloud SaaS-solution is equipped with a demand forecasting module and takes into account atypical and seasonal fluctuations in demand. Using unique algorithms, the system successfully manages various categories of goods, including fresh and ultra fresh, and also takes into account the specifics of the supply of goods for multi-echelon replenishment and stock optimization.
Software presents a set of extremely important and useful features:
- The automatic replenishment system is a modern AI-based inventory management autopilot that provides a complete ordering process for goods at all levels of the supply chain without manual interference.
- Operational and strategic dashboards are functional tools that are designed both to perform the daily tasks of a manager and to track strategic KPIs for long-term planning.
- Multi-scenario seasonality planning is the automatic calculation and application of seasonality coefficients for a permanent range. This allows you to effectively adapt stocks to both seasonal and situational (sporting events, weather changes, etc.) fluctuations in demand.
- Multi-echelon replenishment and inventory optimization (demand forecasting orders) - a functional block that takes into account the specifics of the supply of goods and makes a highly accurate forecast for inventory management at regional and central warehouses and distribution centers.
- Trade promotion management module - allows you to prepare for the planned promotion in time, automatically receive a calculated forecast, adapt the stock to real promotional sales and analyze its effectiveness.
- Module for assortment rotation - automatic removal of goods from the assortment and the addition of new ones (for new goods, a history of similar goods is pulled up, which allows you to predict demand for new items).
- The powerful BI-module provides more than 40 analytical reports that reflect the trends of recent weeks in the short and long term, as well as highlight the positions that led to the most lost sales and excess inventory over the past week.
The implementation period of the Leafio Inventory Optimization takes about 6 months. With a monthly subscription, the developers strive to make the product bring maximum economic benefit to the client. Many users note that the unique feature of LEAFIO is its policy of interaction with customers. The company demonstrates a flexible approach at all stages of cooperation, providing consulting even at the end of the implementation stage with quarterly follow-up meetings. The project team is primarily motivated to produce financial results for the client at the end of the product implementation.
Users who switched to this software have enthusiastically noted that the system interface is logical, convenient and highly intuitive compared to other similar solutions. The Leafio Inventory Optimization system is suitable for retail businesses of any size and allows an unlimited number of users.
The price of the product depends on the retailer’s number of warehouses, stores and the size of the range and offers good market value.
RELEX is a distributor of cloud solutions for retail, wholesale and manufacturing companies.
The Relex Inventory Optimization Platform is a predictive-based automatic replenishment and allocation software. The system is designed to optimize the routine tasks of replenishing and distributing stocks of a wide variety of categories – from fresh and seasonal to new and promotional products.
Solution’s key features:
- Extensive library includes data on sales, demand analysis, marketing activities, store performance and customers’ behavior across all sales channels.
- ML-based forecasting that takes into account the impact of all demand factors, including weekdays, prices, promotions and cannibalization, holidays, local events and weather.
- The automatic replenishment system optimizes inventory levels for high shelf availability and inventory turnover while reducing operating costs.
- Seasonal management allows the adjustment of the pre-season order, initial distribution, automatic replenishment during the season, as well as target distribution at the end of the season and discounts.
- Assortment management - Initial distribution and forecasting of demand for new products, as well as a smooth withdrawal of low-turnover products.
In general, users are positive about the RELEX Solutions, noting its flexibility and ability to integrate. They also note the ease of use of the interface and the ability to set up the necessary analytics (capterra.com) On the other hand, it is said that the interface of the program is not suitable for small monitors / screens, which is a significant inconvenience when used on some devices.RELEX provides accurate forecasts for products with a year or more sales history, but users complain that forecasts for new products tend to be inaccurate. (trustradius.com) The system is designed for 2 to 1000+ users, which makes it suitable for both large and small companies. However, it is also noted that a rather high price, laborious learning process, and building a system for maintaining the level of knowledge required is more likely to only be affordable for larger corporations.
Slim4 by Slimstock
Established in 1993, Slimstock is a rather experienced inventory optimization provider in Europe. Slim4 is a complex solution for forecasting, demand planning and inventory management. The software operates on the basis of exception management, which is supported by clear analysis. Therefore, in supply chains, inventory will be delivered at the right time, to the right place and in the right quantity.
Modules that can be added to the basic Slim4:
- ABC analysis - this module will help the retailer to point out which products are most important to the company in order to invest in a range of products that provide the highest turnover and maximize customer satisfaction through availability.
- Order Generator - this module will provide purchase order recommendations. It combines purchase conditions and shipping costs to determine the correct EOQ, allowing the retailer to achieve higher purchase order discounts, lower shipping costs and optimize inventory levels.
- Promotion module - A specially designed promotions module integrates promotions into daily work so that promotional materials can be collected and distributed in a timely manner. The additional expected demand for a promotion can be calculated per store and per item, or the additional demand can be predicted at a higher level and can be automatically allocated to different locations.
Although there are some positive reviews on capterra.com about the Slim4 from Slimstock, for example, about regular updates and a high level of staff service from the provider, some users still noted a number of shortcomings. These include complaints that the system is not flexible enough and has difficulty in adapting to the needs of a particular business. Users also talk about a rather complex learning process and the complexity of the system itself (it is not always intuitively clear what this or that element is for), which is also reflected in the 4 of 5 rating for ease of use. It is also noted that the price of the product and technical support is quite high, but this is partially offset by the quality of service and the attentive attitude of the provider's representatives.
Symphony RetailAI presents itself as a company that has been implementing innovative solutions based on artificial intelligence, machine learning and voice control technologies for more than 30 years to improve the efficiency of various operations in companies in the FMCG and CPG sectors. Symphony’s solutions provide retailers with prescriptive information and guidance. Pre-packaged AI solutions leverage the predictive intelligence of CINDE and the power of the Eureka platform.
This on-premise product also offers a number of features for inventory optimization:
- Fresh category management technology recognizes and tracks fresh items individually, so the retailer can be alerted to date sensitivity and account for real-time demand adjustments.
- The solutionhelps reduce inefficient inventory, reduce product waste, and provide better service throughout the supply chain.
- Tracking goods throughout the supply chain from every point of interaction: supplier, warehouse, store, buyer. To comply with strict industry regulations, the solution tracks key product information in addition to its location.
- FMCG inventory management system - FMCG Retail Inventory Management software traces the origin and analyzes the components of food products, providing transparency of ingredients/freshness data.
- Waste prevention - It is important to be aware of expiration dates and plan not to exceed them. The system provides alerts indicating expiration date issues as well as remediation recommendations so users can respond quickly.
The company is an experienced player in the market for providing software for automating retail business processes. Some users note the rationality and clarity of the product’s architecture. However, it is important to note that the inventory optimization system from Symphony RetailAI is only an on-site solution unlike the rest of the SaaS-based solutions on this list. Despite all the intuitiveness of the software architecture, this fact will certainly affect the flexibility and adaptability of the system for some retail businesses. Also, products like these have limited or even a complete absence of after-sales customer support, which is clearly not an advantage in a dynamically developing market.
Tools Group is a provider of supply chain planning software for companies experiencing demand volatility. The solution ToolsGroup Service Optimizer 99+ uses self-adapting demand and inventory models to automatically determine the optimal mix of inventory in a multi-echelon supply chain to improve service levels while minimizing inventory and reducing costs.
- Inventory modeling -technology that eliminates the gross approximations of traditional inventory management, creating reliable relationships between average inventory and service levels for each SKU and location.
- Service-driven optimization - unlike ABC inventory planning, which has an operational perspective, service-driven inventory optimization concentrates on sales, marketing, and customers. It uses categories called “service classes” that sales and marketing people can easily relate to. The result is an aggregated service class goal with the lowest possible stock investment.
- Multi-echelon inventory optimization (MEIO) - to truly serve the end customer, the entire network—from raw materials suppliers and factories to distribution centers and wholesalers—needs the right items in stock. The MEIO solution suggests optimal inventory levels at each stage of the supply chain, simultaneously balancing across multiple echelons, locations, and different Bill-of-Material (BOM) levels.
- Probabilistic forecasting provides the foundation for inventory planning and helps to manage the risk that comes from demand volatility by providing a range of possible values with their probability of occurrence.
According to users’ feedback on G2.com, Service Optimizer 99+ can provide reasonable forecast accuracy and inventory optimization if properly implemented and managed. They note that although the internal reporting tool is really good, the data in the database is somewhat scattered. This makes it difficult to view certain kinds of data together. For example, it is not possible to view inventory targets, supply targets, historical demand and forecast in the same interface, or at least additional configuration is required.
Users also note that despite the fact that the company tries to perform at least one update per year, the frequency of updates for cloud clients is below average, since it is mainly driven by the needs of individual customers.
Understanding how much inventory you need to meet customer demand and release frozen working capital is the first step in implementing an inventory optimization strategy. In this challenging task, it is extremely important for a retailer to find a partner who will be focused on the financial goals of the business and not just selling a ready-made solution. In a dynamic retail market, it is very important to receive timely updates and qualified expert advice. An inventory optimization system will benefit you in all areas: correctly evaluating current inventory, minimizing excess inventory, and freeing up funds for use in other vital areas of your business. An inventory optimization system will certainly save you a significant amount of money and help your company prosper.