When it comes to stock control software, spreadsheets are the weapon of choice for most planners. The spreadsheet doesn't work anymore. They are only as effective as the person entering the data. Even for the most advanced spreadsheet users, trying to manage inventory in this way can quickly become complex, clunky and a long-winded exercise. But is there a better alternative? How can you reduce your reliance on cumbersome spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets: friend or foe?

For almost all business professionals, the relationship with spreadsheets started when they were at school. Over time, they become familiar with the intricacies of the tool. As a result, spreadsheets are often the default program for every bit of analysis required.
However, many businesses are far too reliant on these simplistic data processing tools. While spreadsheets are easy to use, in many business situations, they simply lack the processing power, standard structure or robustness required. This is especially true in supply chain management where almost all decisions must be underpinned by effective analysis of potentially thousands of lines of data.
To build a spreadsheet that can manage such large volumes of data, someone would have to spend hours upon hours building and refining a spreadsheet to deliver the required results. Even then, the end spreadsheet would no doubt be slow and cumbersome: not to mention prone to crashing!

Can spreadsheets create a single point of failure?

In many businesses, the spreadsheets used to manage the inventory are built by just one individual. However, what happens when they change roles or leave the business? Will their replacement be able to decipher the cryptic formulas which have been developed over the years and years of patching?
The reality of spreadsheets is that every sheet becomes bespoke. The consequence of this is that businesses become dependent on whoever created the document. Given that this individual could move on or even get hit by a bus tomorrow, risk leaving themselves dangerously exposed to a single point of failure.
Regardless of changes of personnel, for a stock control software to be effective, it must support business continuity. Consequently, forecasting, demand planning, allocation and replenishment procedures must not only be robust but also standardised.

How efficient are spreadsheets as stock control software?

To keep up with the dynamic nature of today’s complex marketplace, supply chain teams must be able to respond to change quickly. However, if your entire inventory management process is underpinned by spreadsheets, keeping up with changes in customer demands or shifting supply conditions is an impossible undertaking. After all, how can the business remain responsive if the spreadsheets in question must be completely re-invented every time a change occurs?
Change is unavoidable and, thus, to work efficiently, supply chain teams need dynamic stock control software to stay one step ahead. The problem with spreadsheets is that every change requires manual intervention. Even in relatively stable environments, given the sheer number of SKUs, keeping up with the demand of the business can be hugely time-consuming.
Whereas with spreadsheets, where planners are left firefighting, an effective stock control software solution should allow planning teams to work proactively.
Through enabling businesses to automate inventory management processes across most of their assortment, supply chain teams can focus their attention on the more critical issues. By allowing the stock control software to do the “heavy lifting”, supply chain teams can focus their time and attention where it is required.


How reliable are spreadsheets as stock control software?

Whether planning to place a large order with a new supplier or phasing out a struggling product, inventory management decisions can have a far-reaching impact on the wider business. Consequently, it’s important that the insights used to underpin these decisions are reliable. But to what extent can you trust a spreadsheet-based analysis?
Ultimately, a spreadsheet is only as accurate as of the person who created it. Given that even a minor issue such as incorrect data input or formula could have a profound impact on the output of any analysis, spreadsheets are not the most robust solutions. Furthermore, when you consider that spreadsheets require constant refinement and human intervention, it’s very easy to lose sight of which is the most up to date version.
Your stock control software should provide you with insights you can trust. Through utilising proven forecasting models and robust data structures, an effective stock control solution will minimise the risk of errors, ensuring that the analysis is consistent. The result: solid insights on which you can base supply chain decisions with confidence.

Can spreadsheets keep up with your business’s growth?

When a business is first starting, spreadsheets are probably sufficient. However, as demand grows and the organisation expands to encompass more locations, the complexity of the operation will spiral. But how scalable are spreadsheets? Do they offer the capability to support growth?
For most businesses, growth results in greater demand. Thus, planning teams must manage bigger networks with more customers and more products. However, all these combined results in an exponential increase in data. If you try and manage this with spreadsheets alone, the number of lines of data and the formula required to keep everything in check would be simply mind-boggling!
Effective stock control software should not only support growth but actively harness the complexity to provide businesses with meaningful insights. Your stock control software should not only support growth but effectively harness the complexity to provide your business with meaningful insight.

What should you use instead?

With our inventory optimisation solution, Slim4, you can say goodbye to your cumbersome spreadsheets and start reaping the rewards of true stock control software.
Slim4 is our purpose-built inventory management solution for forecasting, demand planning, and inventory control. Underpinned by the basis of management by exception, Slim4 enables businesses to efficiently strike a balance between working capital, operational costs and the optimal service level.
Slim4 allows businesses to re-align their operations with the expectations of their customers while removing the complexity from inventory management. Customers who replace spreadsheets with our solution typically see the following benefits:

  • Up to a 50% increase in efficiency
  • Automated forecasts for up to 95% of the assortment
  • Greater insight and more control

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