Arachem (M) Sdn Bhd’s top management has identified their inventory systems as the weak link in their operations. The current system has affected the company’s growth and overall efficiency and the management has been specifically observing several complaints from customers about goods damaged in storage and transit. The company’s suppliers have been complaining about a lack of systematic payments as also retailers have complained that delivery schedules have not been properly followed.
For months, the company executives have been discussing various ways to make their inventory system efficient and error-proof. After rigorous deliberations, the company decided to completely overhaul the inventory system under the supervision of a fully equipped team that will handle the development and implementation. The proposed system will have a complete systematic approach to risk management and the procurement process.
Each and every risk involved in the day-to-day operations of the system needs to be studied, assessed and remedial measures must be taken before finally installing the system into the entire supply chain. The procurement process will be completely re-configured with a set of processes to follow before every order is made and material received. In addition, the system will integrate quality measures and best practices to maintain and sustain and effectiveness of the system, through proper planning and definition of the entire project. Project management will play a prominent role in ensuring that the needed steps are all evaluated before application.
Aside from the improvement in handling the inventory, the company needs to consider the impact of the system on the internal and external entities. For instance, personnel has to be properly trained to ensure that the adjustments are rightly carried through and suppliers/retailers have to be informed about the changes and the effect on delivery schedules.
The necessity for a new inventory system has been experienced by the top management at Arachem(M) Sdn Bhd. The cost of maintaining goods in the warehouse has been on the rise and a worrying factor for the management. Moreover, the company has been receiving complaints from customers of delayed delivery and damaged goods. The company has realized the importance of a more efficient delivery system and transfer of materials from the warehouse to appropriate destinations. In addition, the competition has been heating up in the company’s product domains resulting in severe erosion of profit margins.
This paper explains the various stages, risks, and divisions of the project of planning, implementing, and evaluating the new inventory system. The company has identified that in the new inventory system, a major improvement in risk management and procurement process is required. Evaluation, identification and recommended treatments for each risk found have been dealt with with proper project management.
The proposed inventory system is framed after the renowned “just-in-time” inventory method. The company aims to maintain the stock levels of products and raw materials at an optimum level in the warehouse to deliver as and when they are required, analyze the impact of seasonal changes in the business to predict the inventory levels accordingly, and receive feedback from both internal and external entities. The inventory system also includes warehouse management and strategic delivery that ensures on-time delivery of goods.
The new system is a combination of manual and technological advancements. The Company has designated a team to handle the development process and control risks by appropriate procurement strategies, and appoint personnel to maintain the efficiency of the system.
Risk planning and identification
Proper risk planning and identification is the key to the completion of a successful project. “Risk is virtually anything that threatens or limits the ability of a community or nonprofit organization to achieve its mission.” (An Introduction to Risk Management: What is Risk). Risk management has to be structured in such a way as to manage any uncertainty that can be a threat to the project. The management should assess the risk and find out strategies to overcome the risk by proper planning, by either avoiding the risk or reduce adverse consequences of the risk, or else accept the effects of the particular risk and adjust the project to minimize the damages from these effects.
For Arachem (M) Sdn Bhd’s inventory systems, the Company had to face issues like improper storing and disposing of goods, as also problems with retailers complaining about delivery schedules. The company thus has to execute the project in such a way that it can reduce and slowly eliminate the inefficiencies found in its inventory systems.
While initiating the project, the company has to take into account the uncertain and rapidly changing business environment where fluctuating prices along with rising expenditure, low margins, and escalating risks are involved. The management should be able to reduce operating expenses and improve its efficiency, thereby reducing the risks of loss due to inefficient operating systems. Only an excellent risk management strategy can save the company from risks thrown at the company by a highly competitive market and low profits. In today’s business world when the profit margins are becoming thin, expenses should be minimized at all walks of the operations.
The company should emphasize sound commodity management which will help to identify inventory turnover rate, as also keep away from any loss resulted from deteriorating price, or low sale, product loss, etc., resulting in revenue erosion for the company.
The risk environment involved in the project should be properly identified and strategies should be implemented accordingly, so as to bring out an effective inventory system, which can take care of internal and external flaws, and help the company to overcome the present flaws in its inventory system. “New risks emerge with the changing business environment (e.g., foreign exchange risk with growing globalization).” (Overview of Enterprise Risk Management: More and More Complicated Risks. 2002).
The risk management should arrange a comprehensive discussion on the risk environment involved, how effective the new inventory system will be than the existing one and how successfully the new project will manage the system and meet the requirement, also considering cost and benefits. The point should be noted that “Customers are no longer willing to wait out a disaster which has hit the vendor. They just move on to the next vendor, unless there is demonstrated evidence of business continuity planning.” (Mathew and Murthy). The following points can help the management in risk planning of the project:
- Management should make strategies to control and measure each risk by proper analysement. High-level management and qualified personnel should be appointed for approving risk mitigation.
- The management should plan practical and efficient safety controls in order to manage risk factors, including a program for control execution and keeping responsible and competent staff.
- A risk treatment guidelines should be put in place, which mentions how to handle the risks identified, wherein measures to overcome each risk are detailed.
In the project, risk identification can begin with the source of the problem or problem itself. Risks involved in the project can be external or internal like stakeholders of the project, company staff, or even natural calamities which can be managed by appropriate source analysis. An event that can hamper the achievement or endanger the objective of the project can be identified as a risk to the project.
The project can face risks from various entities, like customers, government, shareholders, etc., therefore before initializing the project, it’s very important to identify the risk involved and also analyze whether the company will be able to handle the present and future risks to the project without any loss.
Risk analysis, evaluation, and treatment
Risk analysis is a highly specialized area that requires well-trained personnel with experience in handling risks in the required field. The risk analysis should be periodically done during the completion of the project, so that unnecessary time wastage does not take place dealing with risks that are not actually leading to delay in the project completion. “We can apply qualitative risk analysis in a variety of ways, scalingit so the effort is appropriate to the project at hand.” (Billows 2006).
The risk involved in this project can be evaluated by assessing the impact of the identified risk on the project.
“The higher number indicates the larger impact or probability. By using a matrix, a priority can be established.
Note that if the probability is high, and impact is low, it is a Medium risk. On the other hand, if impact is high, and probability low, it is High priority.” (Risk Management Basics. 2007).
Appropriate risk treatments should be adopted for the elimination of the risk found:
- Avoidance: If a risk is identified which can be avoided without incurring any loss to the project, then it is suggested to drop the particular activity. This is an easy treatment, but it can make us lose any positive gain that would have been achieved by accepting the said risk.
- Reducing the risk: Try to minimize the amount of loss to the project due to a particular risk.
- Transference: This is done by passing on the risk to somebody else’s responsibility who may be able to deal with it better.
- Retention: If the risk is not that big or is small enough that you can accept it as it is, then management should not put too much effort into it. (Project Risk Management. 2007).
Following are some of the risks that should be taken care of while implementing the project and remedies to reduce them:
- Validity- a valid purchase order should be provided while accepting any product. Risk of excess quantity or varied products, or duplicate deliveries can take place if care is not taken. To overcome such risks, valid purchase orders should be produced with and goods receipts should be maintained properly.
- Return of stocks: Risk of acceptance of damaged and poor quality stock can occur if the inventory system is not able to maintain a track of such goods. To avoid this, the inventory system should be able to monitor and ensure the prompt return of defective goods. Such goods should be kept separately and goods inspection should be made and entered into the system before dispatch.
- Completeness: The inventory system should have a record of total goods accepted. The risk of not recording all the products in the system is crucial; many times inventory received is not properly entered into the system. Directing the deliveries through proper channels with correct procedures maintaining error-free receipts can reduce such risks.
- Periodical entry of goods receipts: The inventory system faces risks of not entering the correct time and date of receipt of the goods. Immediate entry of details of goods received should be done. Such risks can be taken care of by inspection and re-checking for ensuring accurate data entry and period.
- Location of delivery: An error in the system can result in the delivery of stocks to the wrong destination. For avoiding such issues, purchase orders should be clear with the correct location of delivery and handed over to the person in charge of delivery well in advance, with the right instructions.
- Improper storage of goods: The inventory system should be able to show the good quality goods and damaged goods separately, so it can be stored separately and risk of damages are reduced. If this is not taken care of, wrong product deliveries may happen. Good strategies for storing goods, such as type of storage locations, etc., and taking care of physical inventory requirements can trim down such risks.
- First in first out: The FIFO policy should be strictly followed by the inventory system. If this is not taken care of, the company will have to face loss, due to the expiry of first in stocks. The inventory system should keep track of the expiry period of stocks, date, and regular monitoring of stocks received and dispatched.
- “Inventory locations comply with appropriate government, regulatory, and company policies: If such things are not taken care of, risk of fines, loss to the company can occur. Thus management should review all its inventory locations in fulfilling the said policies.” (Mill Raw Materials. 2006).
Procurement planning and strategies
Procurement uncertainties can bring considerable crash in a company’s bottom line. Procurement planning should ensure that inventory system meets all requirements for rapid and continuous development of the organization. “Manufacturers today are seeking to be more productive and less wasteful with regards to inventory management.” (Robust Inventory Management Using Continuous Improvement Methods: Inventory and your Lean Initiatives).
Procurement and inventory management are linked with each other and are responsible for delivery of goods. Staff working under this project and value chains should be able to deliver high quality service and keep track of inventories, demand, sales etc. Procurement strategies should include a thorough understanding about concepts, strategies, ideas, methods, and the technical systems involved in procurement and inventory management.
“Strategic procurement planning provides analysis on a client’s supply chain in conjunction with those of its suppliers. As a result, clients can evaluate different procurement strategies and help their suppliers to deliver more efficiently and effectively.” (Service Description: Strategic Procurement Planning Services. 2008).
The project should thus have appropriate procurement planning and strategies, which can easily clear Customer queries like “Are there synergies between my supply chain and my vendors’ that can be exploited to reduce costs? Are there opportunities for my suppliers to redesign their supply chains to create synergies? With what strategic vendors should I contract given my demand projections and my current supply chain network? Is my current supplier network capable of supporting my planned product rollouts?” (Service Description: Strategic Procurement Planning Services. 2008).
To build up a good procurement strategy for Inventory system of Arachem (M) Sdn Bhd., the management should do a study about cost and service as also find out service tradeoffs and procurement strategies of its competitors. While processing the procurement plan, information of how much inventory is in hand should be available to meet customer requirements as also incidents of sudden increase in demand etc. It is suggested that certain amount of stocks should be kept aside to meet such requirements. The inventory system should be planned as such that the company does not loss any customers, due to non-availability of products. The system should be able to overcome such discomforting situations, and the new inventory system should minimize such operational flaws by maintaining a safety stock level for each product. Charles Dominick has showed a simple calculation method for finding out this level:
Maximum SSL = MHDU x (MHLT – ALT)
Where, MHDU = Maximum historical daily usage, MHLT = Maximum historical lead time, ALT = Average lead time (Dominick 2005).
Strategies helpful for procurement planning of the project
- Try to meet supply and demand and delivery schedules, which can also be done by making staff more productive
- Decision making should be fast and accurate, to cope with the rapidly changing business environment.
- Try to reduce cost in purchase and production with qualitative methods.
- Increase efficiency and speed up the delivery of products to customers as per requirement.
- Keep track of price level of competing commodities.
- Increase efficiency of inventory systems to meet long-term competitiveness.
- The system should be able to identify external events like price fluctuations, issues faced by competitors etc.,
- The new system has to alert procurement staff about stocks shortage, alternatives etc., and save cost and time by efficient supply chain management.
Legal issues faced: In the project, procurement management has to take care while entering into legal contracts, between buyer and seller. The agreement should be made as per specific needs of the project, and appoint authorized person for signing such agreements on behalf of the company. A review process is done on contracts, and for big projects, a public review of agreement has to be done. The management should have good knowledge about all legal aspects, involved in the project, is a must, which can help in recognizing the legal flaws in procurement and seek timely help from a lawyer.
Before entering into any contract, signing the agreement or accepting the terms and conditions of the agreement, legal issues and risks should be learned thoroughly. “A contract is a mutually binding agreement which obligates the seller to provide the specified product and obligates the buyer to pay for it. A legal relationship subject to remedy in the courts.” (Duncan 1996). If we can accept the terms and conditions, and in future are able to meet the legal aspects of the contract, and fully understand it, only then we should sign the agreement, or else the company may land into trouble and termed illegal. Proper management of contracts and crosschecking conditions written in contract will avoid some of the legal risks.
The system will have to answer to the law if it does not comply with the government rules, and regulatory policies, and statute in respect of safety, and does not promptly attend notices from legal department, and does not pay heed to legal issues involved.
Procurement solicitation and source selection
For an efficient inventory system, procurement solicitation and proper source selection plays an important role. Source selection decides, who has to be given the contract, with best fit price and value. For this a meeting can be arranged for finding out the best results, which should be attended by the project manager, legal advisor, representatives, team members, and other officers responsible.
This will help to determine, how to approach, process of the source selection, techniques to be used etc., Discussions should be done on “market research, potential evaluation factors, information that may be needed from offerors to support those factors, and other appropriate planning issues such as the timetables for the acquisition and who should be members of the evaluation team” (Designing an Acquisition Strategy. 2002).
Source selection basically is a team effort, and members should be customized according to the size of the project. The team should be able to ensure continuity of the project by successfully handling technical, logistical and legal issues perfectly. A group of source selection managers, together with selection authority, contract officer, advisory council, evaluation board for evaluating proposals received, do comparative analysis, as also government & nongovernmental advisors if required. A panel, which can evaluate technical factors, cost, earlier strategies, its positive, and negatives etc., below table shows the flow of source. selection:
For correct procurement solicitation and source selection the company should make a selection plan considering following aspects:
- Solicitation should cover all the details required for the contract.
- A selection commity which should include advisors, evaluationers, members from different functional areas who can prove helpful in source selection.
- Information gathering by market surveys, by study of the market risks involved, after which, a rough solicitation should be prepared, before presenting the final solicitation.
- Proper evaluation of the contract has to be done, by analysing future rates etc., and cost efficiency. Studying factors like fluctuating price level, viable tradeoffs, new techniques which can be involved in the project etc., can be taken considered.
Cost evaluation can be done by comparing rates with competitors and past performance. The evaluators should be experienced and familiar in the kind of proposal they are assigned, requirements of solicitation, plans and rating system.
A solicitation should be in detail and provide necessary information which can be required by the customers, like what the product, its use, is how it can be purchased, including acceptable terms and conditions of purchase. Total care should be taken as an incomplete solicitation creates unnecessary delays and result in litigations.
The project managers should find out some automated tool for source selection, which are available in market and can ease the work of management dealing with huge number of proposals. Source selection procedure includes examining the proposals in depth and analyzing requirements mentioned in procurement solicitation, fixing reasonable rates. Source selection also involves acceptation and rejection of proposals, and company can do a SWOT analysis for bringing out best results and correct source selection.
The manager in-charge should check the solicitation before handing over, whether it is free of errors, and does not reveal any private information of the company’s technical or intellectuals or about how source selection has been made. For appropriate source selection, it is necessary to establish weightage while ranking suppliers since it is linked with costs and efficiencies. Through weightage, especially dynamic ones, it is possible to identify which suppliers are best suited to serve the organization.
Alternatives also fall into place, if one supplier fails to deliver critical components to the plant. (SAS Spend analysis): Reduce procurement spend through increased visibility and dynamic supplier ranking: (Reduce Procurement Spend Through Increased Visibility and Dynamic Supplier Ranking. 2004).
Procurement monitoring and control
Continuous procurement monitoring and control by the project management in inventory system can prove very helpful for company to overcome risks and flaws in the system. Risks involved with increase in price, or low performance etc., can be taken care by monitoring as also help cost evaluation. The process of monitoring project costs could be done through constant calculation of costs and their implications on projects.
The cost information that would be necessary would be in terms of the length of the project, the total costs of the project, the efforts of the staff that is Person: Days Ratio. The cost information could be obtained from the use of the standards and measurements sections. We can ensure that costs are in line with the estimates by making frequent comparisons with the actual costs with the estimates.
The choice for good selection of project manager has to given emphasis that can be responsible for procurement monitoring. In this connection, it is necessary to appoint a person with IT background, since it is nowadays, a crucial aspect of project management, and IT is very much necessary for application in industry situations. Moreover, it is also seen that effective business solutions, especially in the areas of Project Management, is inextricably linked with IT. Procurement monitoring will help to review problem areas of the project and inventory system, and can reduce late and wrong delivery issues and schedules can be met to customer satisfaction. The positive aspects of procurement monitoring are:
- Understanding competition in the area and adjust the system accordingly.
- Can consider new business, as constant monitoring will give an idea of profit and loss involved in different business and dealings.
- Late deliveries and delays can be avoided by proper control and meeting deadlines.
- Mistakes due to oversights and errors, and any unnecessary omissions can be taken care of.
- Missing of essential and important data or necessities can be taken care of.
- Check the capacity and output of the staff and make them more reliable and productive, by monitoring the day-by-day needs.
Constant monitoring will help the company make its place in market and improve its reputation as also can help the organization to develop its resources. The project should be clear-cut, comprehensive, monitorable and should be able to accommodate changes taking place in the business and its surroundings, which can effect the inventory control of the company. If the firm can keep good track of incoming and outgoing inventories, then flaws and risks of complaints from customers can be dramatically reduced.
Legal issues, which can be faced by projects, should be dealt with proper planning. The company can face disputes in contracts, however such disputes should be tried to solve internally and correct approach to the issue should be there. If possible settlement should be done by negotiations. Project manager has got major role to play for solving legal issues, by trying to bring together the stakeholders and proper assessment of legal issues by taking care of sensitive issues, which can prove illegal for the project. All the legislative requirements and obligations should be valued which comes under Trade practices act and consumer protection laws, which is passed by government.
There are different methods like litigation, Negotiation- this is done by private talks between the parties involved and trying to settle the matter internally, Mediation- a mediator is appointed for assisting to deal the matter correctly. The legal matters will also be handled by arbitration, in small claims courts and tribunals.
To avoid legal hazards in completion of the project, management should have a thorough understanding of law and legal system affecting the project, general idea of business, contract law (covers issues related to agreement made between parties), law of torts, consumer protection, trade practices, intellectual property rights etc.,
Project review and completion
The project is all about innovating a new inventory system for Arachem(M) Sdn Bhd’s which can overcome the present flaws in the organization in respect of untimely delivery schedule, wrong destination supplies, delivering correct stocks to the respective customer, avoiding risks of damaged and poor quality goods acceptation as well as delivery. Then the inventory system of Arachem(M) Sdn Bhd’s was poorly designed and for continuous development and progress of the organization it has to be totally renovated.
The new project of inventory system is planned in such a manner which could produce a better system by establishing proper supply chains, develop good service criteria, as also build up a strong and long-term relationship with suppliers and customers, by reducing and slowly eliminating their complaints and taking care of all dispatch related issues.
The project reviews the need of an excellent risk management and procurement strategies, which can be able to put into operation a good inventory system. “Successful risk management programmes assess the risk in terms of likelihood and impact as well as what it means to your organisation.” (The Role of Strategic Purchasing and Supply Management in Risk Management: Value Generators and Value Protectors. 2007). Management during working on the project takes care of using simple contracts, which can avoid unnecessary legal complexities, and develop means for resolution of disputes internally, which can save time and expenses.
The managers give importance in building trust in their customers, by promoting better business practices and reasonable tradeoffs and good rates, while doing this they take care of any risks or loss to the company by analyzing cost structure.
The errors in the existing inventory system has been appropriately identified and new system is build accordingly, by analyzing various channels, and using new technologies like keeping an automatic stock analyze tools etc., gather correct market information which will help the company to decide what next and how to win the competitive market, and what new strategies should be planned.
The project reviews that new inventory system should include managers with sufficient knowledge in the required field that can make the project a success by taking care of the risks and procurement and inventing a brand new inventory system for the company, which can cent percent eliminate the flaws found in the current system. The project has considered all the facts necessary and has been well planned which includes taking care of all general risks as well as risks pertaining to implementation of the project. Establishing a risk management team and a well designed management system is ensured in this project.
While making the new inventory system, the project managers have tried to give more importance on increasing the opportunity of taking advantage of influence of positive events on the project and try to reduce incidents which can adversely effect the project completion, by planning of a systematic approach. Due care is taken to ensure that unnecessary wastage of time and effort is not done by indulging in lengthy risk management procedures and the main aim should be project completion.
The project completion of new inventory system by Arachem(M) Sdn Bhd’s has been well planned and as the company has realised what all problems, uncertainities, issues, flaws and errors were there in the previous systems, the project can accurately concenterate on the specific requirements that has to be renovated in the new system and will ease the work of project managers responsible.
The management has learnt a lesson from its past experiences and therefore the project completion will be done with all types of care for producing the best inventory system which will be able to meet all tasks up to the mark in respect of inventories and despatch. For meeting exact requirement, (Stone 2006).
The company is sure to make this project a success and develop its business at a remarkable height and regain its lost reputation in the market.
The company will implement all the processes involved in setting up and operating an efficient inventory system for which appropriate risk management and procurement planning should develop a concrete process. The Company will devise a hybrid inventory scheme that will mostly revolve on the idea of limiting the inventory in the stock. The company has planned a warehousing system, which can be continuously monitored. Significance of documenting incoming and outgoing products and proper dispatch planning is given due importance. A delivery pattern, which will reduce the inefficiency of present inventory system, will be looked into which will also consider minimum cost structure.
Project management, which includes risk management and procurement strategies are accounted as vital element, in this project, which is considered as a must for successful project completion. Identification and appropriate use of knowledge and technical aspects are ensured to achieve the objectives of the company satisfactorily. Identifying and analyzing risks involved in the system and eliminate them slowly by planning appropriate risk treatments are looked into by the management.
The project is designed as such that it will overcome the total flaws found in the inventory system. We can see that if we are ready to accept more risks, and if it is successful, then the returns can be excellent, here the risk assessment and analyzing plays a vital role, and if unfortunately the assessment proves wrong, then the project can be found under dangerous risk and huge loss can take place, thus the company aims at a total risk free environment with continuous monitoring, without bothering about huge expenses involved.
The company understands that team working on the project should analyse the after affects of the project and should take into account the favorable as well as adverse affect of the project on the public, which can be ensured by constant communication with the team members and stakeholders.
For getting more benefit from the inventory system that is projected, following suggestions are recommended:
- System should be able to find out how much inventory the company has in hand and where all the stocks are located.
- Take care of re-orders, that is we order for the same product which we already have in hand, the system should be able to work out over-stock and under-stocks
- The system should include methods, which can automatically reduce cash flow seized in stock and storage costs.
- The new inventory system should provide details of updated prices, stock on hand, and order totals etc., correctly and promptly to clients.
- Inventory system should keep track of earlier orders, correct customer information, shipping status etc., so that queries can be dealt quickly.
- Find out the product lines which can prove to be more profitable and improve business standards.
- Predict future sales by evaluating past figures of sales and keep stocks accordingly.
- “Some development tools enable you to easily modify software for use in foreigncountries with different alphabets and keyboard layouts. Choosing such tools will reduce development effort, but may increase costs for tools and equipment.” (Planning a Warehouse Inventory System: Discussion of the Example. 2005).
“Keep backup and a history of all changes taken place to “product information, inventory, customer orders, and more, along with who made them and when and able to fix errors or correct problems more easily by quickly identifying who to contact” (Can your Business Benefit from Inflow. 2008).
The errors and flaws can be maximum controlled by constant and daily checking of all the data and its completeness, as also smoothen the progress of both internal as well as the external inventory assessment processes by implementing a good quality inventory system, taking into account companies organizational and managerial configuration and the general inventory level procedures which can help maintaining a good inventory system.
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