Imagine a bustling storeroom filled with shelves stacked high with corporate gifts ready to be used for your initiatives. The smooth operation of your storeroom relies on a well-executed inventory management system, and your employees can accurately track stock levels to ensure timely replenishment. This is the equivalent of the American dream for all corporate communication, human resources, or marketing practitioners out there.
This is still quite far from reality, however, as many departments around Malaysia are still struggling with inaccurate stock count, confusing stock management systems, and a limited budget pertaining to upgrades concerning their storerooms. This causes inventory management to become a hit-and-miss affair, with managers often finding out too late that their stock levels are inadequate for upcoming initiatives because of an inaccurate inventory tracking system.
In this article, we will explore key strategies to improve your inventory management system in Malaysia and to ensure that your corporate gift inventory is up to date.
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Conducting A Thorough Analysis Of Your Corporate Item Inventory System
1) The State Of Inventory Management Systems In Malaysia
In Malaysia, every field that requires stocking up on corporate gifts or marketing collaterals (e.g., corporate communications, human resources, marketing, events etc.) manage its own inventories in-house with manual tracking systems due to the limited size of its operations.
Managers simply cannot justify the need for an automated warehouse inventory system similar to the ones used by shipping companies because it may cost hundreds of thousands just to implement it. Their initiatives just don’t require an inventory of such a scale. With this, we often find ourselves juggling between a lacking system and a lack of manpower to consistently audit storerooms to keep stock levels up to date.
Inventory management is, however, a crucial element for any business to operate efficiently and effectively, ensuring that corporate gifts, marketing collaterals, and materials are always adequate for internal or external initiatives. Hence, for inventory management in Malaysia, we often have to resort to creative, free means to keep our corporate items in check.
2) Improving Your Inventory Management System
The first step in improving your corporate item inventory system in Malaysia is to conduct a thorough analysis of your current inventory management process. This process involves assessing the current system and identifying any inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or areas for improvement. Some factors to consider when figuring out how to manage your store is to identify the level of automation, accuracy, and reliability of the system. Other items to look into to manage your inventory includes the frequency of audits and the efficiency of procurement processes.
We understand that inventory management can be a painstaking process, involving endless red tapes and many levels of management, but it is crucial to involve all relevant stakeholders, including department heads, inventory managers, procurement department staff members, and above all else, interns (yes, because they’re usually the ones doing the heavy lifting). This ensures that all perspectives are considered, and shortcomings within current systems are identified.
Some shortcomings in an inventory system may include:
- Unlabelled racks
- Multiple databases
- Duplicate databases from different employees
- Multiple PICs for inventories
- Multiple touch points for corporate gift/ items requests from your department
Once the analysis is completed, a report should be compiled with recommendations for improvements. This report should include the following:
- A detailed description of the current inventory management process
- A list of identified inefficiencies and areas for improvement
- A set of recommendations for improvements, including suggested changes to the system’s automation, procurement process, and auditing frequency
- An implementation plan, including timelines, milestones, and responsibilities
- If required, a training plan for new employees on how to manage your inventory
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Centralising Your Corporate Item Inventory System
Inventory management in Malaysia is, in short, conducted like we’re in the wild west. Due to budget constraints and a lack of SOPs, inventory management systems are different across companies. The cons of this are obviously a lack of guidelines or benchmarks we can refer to, and the pros of this are that you can essentially make up any system as you go, giving you unprecedented freedom of improvement in this area.
A majority of shortcomings within inventory management systems in Malaysia is that there are often too many PICs for the same task, resulting in duplicate database files, corporate gifts taken from inventories without the knowledge of other PICs, and ultimately a database which doesn’t tally with your actual stock count.
With this, the second most important step for inventory management in Malaysia is to centralise your corporate item inventory system. This is an important step in improving its efficiency and accuracy and ensuring that everyone within the department is on the same page.
1) Two Is The Magic Number
From our experience, the maximum number of PICs for inventory management is two. These PICs should also be the only touch point for corporate gift requests from other departments. They will be in charge of creating and managing a central database or system which tracks all items in your inventory. Items to track include the location of items, quantity, and usage depending on the section or department.
The reason two personnel are required for this is that if one person is out of commission, the other can take his/ her place. Another reason is that if too many PICs are involved in the process, your database can become diluted, and this leads to inaccuracies.
But what about workload you may ask? As managers, our responsibility is to efficiently delegate tasks, and that includes inventory systems. While our suggestion is to only involve two personnel in the inventory management process, you are free to appoint more staff members for more procedural tasks like inventory audits. This prevents your staff members from becoming inundated with unrealistic workloads on top of their current tasks.
While we’ve mentioned that software programmes are beyond the budget of most departments out there, one of the best ways to centralise your corporate gift inventory system is still through the use of software programmes. Some of the more popular options out there are NetSuite, Mobe3, and Sphere WMS.
These software programmes are designed specifically to help businesses track and manage their inventory, making it easy to monitor usage, identify trends, and make informed decisions about procurement. Some of the features you can expect to find in an inventory management system include real-time inventory tracking, automated ordering, usage tracking, and barcode scanning.
Centralising your inventory system also means that you are tackling the problem of succession planning. People come and go, and while handover documents are more often than not adequate to fill in the knowledge gap between your last and current employees, a proper inventory management system will ensure that your new employees are kept up to speed and can begin working immediately.
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Conduct Regular Audits Of Your Corporate Gift Inventory
While we hate to admit it, theft is a major problem for inventory management systems in Malaysia. corporate communications, human resources, and marketing practitioners are often faced with discrepancies within their corporate gift inventory records with no way to justify the discrepancies to internal auditors.
It’s not always theft though, sometimes we’re just too bogged down with work that we are unable to keep our records updated, leaving unexplainable gaps within our inventory records. Once you have centralised your corporate item inventory system, below are the next steps to improve your inventory management system:
- Create a Corporate Item Auditing Framework: Come up with SOPs on how frequently you should audit your inventory items. This allows for consistent auditing and a fixed timeline for more efficient workflows.
- Identify Your PICs: As auditing your corporate items is a time-consuming process, you would want to identify staff members who will be taking up this task to avoid unwanted interruptions within your department. Ideally, you would only want a small group of staff members to be involved in this process, and only one to two managers handling your records. This prevents any miscommunication in the auditing process, preventing any discrepancies in your corporate item records.
- Random Sample Audit: Begin by selecting a sample of items from your inventory. The samples should be large enough to be statistically significant while at the same time small enough to save time. Auditing only key corporate items in your inventory saves precious time while allowing you to identify any discrepancies in your records. Remember, auditing inventories involves hard physical labour, and depending on necessity, it’s not always necessary to conduct a full audit.
- Keep Track Of Historical Data: The entire point of auditing your corporate item inventory is to compare it to previous records. While it might be easier said than done, keeping track of historical audit data ensures that you’re always on top of your records. Also, do ensure that each audit cycle has been signed off by the respective PICs so that you will always know which PIC to refer to.
Essentially, with USD 1.75 trillion in losses each year from overstocking and understocking each year, the idea of even having an SOP for inventory management in Malaysia is already setting you far ahead of your rivals.
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Excel Inventory Templates
While we are not advocates of having your entire corporate database in Excel file formats, their efficiency when combined with the use of formulas, their availability, and their super low cost of being free of charge makes them hard to ignore. In fact, many corporate communications, human resources, administration, event and marketing practitioners in major corporations found many creative ways to use Excel to their advantage, pushing them to the very limits of their potential.
Excel inventory templates can be a cost-efficient method to stay on top of your corporate gift records. While you may scoff at the idea, the templates actually allow you to keep track of your inventory levels and monitor usage pretty efficiently. All you need is discipline and complete adherence to your audit schedules.
There are many different types of Excel inventory templates available online, ranging from basic spreadsheets to more advanced templates with pictures and automated balance updating. To ease your troubles, we have created a free Excel inventory template which you can integrate into your inventory management system in Malaysia.
This template was meticulously prepared based on our years of field experience in the corporate communications field, and is even utilised by some major Malaysian corporations! Our template includes:
- Inventory tracking
- Usage tracking
- Customisable fields
- Automatic carry-forward inventory tracking
- Annual corporate gifts reporting (Average figures)
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Set Up A Clear Inventory Management Policy
Having a clear inventory management policy for inventory management in Malaysia is crucial for ensuring consistency and accountability across all departments and sections. This policy should outline procedures for:
By setting clear policies and procedures, you can reduce errors, improve accuracy, and streamline your inventory management processes.
Here are some ideas for implementing an effective inventory management policy for inventory management in Malaysia:
- Identify Key Procedures: Identify the key inventory management procedures that will be included in the policy, such as the process flow for receiving, storing, tracking, and auditing inventory items.
- Outline Roles: Clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of employees involved in inventory management, such as warehouse personnel, purchasing staff, and accounting staff.
- Establish Procedures: Establish clear procedures for conducting regular physical inventory audits to reconcile inventory records.
- Set Standards: Define the standards for accuracy and completeness of inventory records, and specify the consequences of failing to adhere to these standards.
- Communication: Ensure that the policy is communicated to all relevant employees, send out company-wide memos if required, and provide training as necessary to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Implement A Tracking System For High-Value Items
Dealing with high-value items is a norm for inventory management in Malaysia as departments are required to deal with high-ranking officials from time to time. For high-value items such as branding collaterals, electronics, tools, VIP gifts, or art pieces, implementing a tracking system can help deter theft and ensure that the items are not misplaced.
So how do you manage your inventory with high-value items? This can be done through a variety of methods, such as requiring employees to sign items in and out, or by using RFID tags to track item locations. By implementing tracking systems, you can reduce the risk of lost or stolen items, which can be costly to replace.
Here are some ideas for preparing a tracking system for high-value items for inventory management in Malaysia:
- Determine the Value of Your Items: Determine which items are considered high-value based on their purchase cost, or based on their importance to business operations.
- Identify Appropriate Tracking Methods: Develop a tracking method that is appropriate for the items being tracked, such as sign-in or sign-out sheets, barcodes, or RFID tags.
- Develop A Training Programme: Train employees on how to use the tracking system, informing them on the relevant SOPs, and establishing clear procedures for reporting lost or stolen items.
- Valuation of High-Value Items by Professionals: Some companies invest in art pieces for their appreciating value and also as a VIP gift for high-ranking official visits. An annual valuation from professionals (e.g. Balai Seni Negara) combined with a comprehensive database is required to keep these items in check.
- Audit, Audit, Audit: We can’t stress this enough, conducting regular audits for high-value items is a must to prevent any audit issues down the line and to ensure that all corporate items are properly accounted for.
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Forecast Requests For Corporate Gifts
To improve your inventory system, forecasting the volume of requests for your corporate gifts is required to help you predict demand and plan procurement accordingly. By analysing past events and initiative data, especially for external departments, you can determine which items are in high demand and decide on which corporate gifts to order.
Internally, you would want to work with your respective sub-section managers and compile a list of events and initiatives for the following year, allowing you to plan out your inventory better. Also for inventory management in Malaysia, remember to take note of major festivals like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Merdeka/ Hari Malaysia, Deepavali, Christmas etc., as there is usually an influx of requests during these periods. This can help prevent stockouts and reduce excess inventory which can take up valuable storage space.
Inventory Management In Malaysia: Develop A Training Plan
Providing training for employees on how to properly manage their inventory is important for improving accuracy and reducing errors. This can include training on how to use your inventory management system, how to conduct physical inventory audits, and how to properly receive and store inventory items. By ensuring that employees are properly trained, businesses can improve the overall efficiency and accuracy of their inventory management system.
To manage this for your inventory system in Malaysia:
- Develop a Training Programme: Developing a training programme helps you cover the key aspects of inventory management, such as receiving, storing, tracking, and auditing inventory items. Take note to include training for the handling of high-value items like art pieces on the correct way to handle them.
- Create Variety: Use a variety of training methods, such as classroom instructions, on-the-job training, and company-wide online training modules.
- Ongoing Support: Provide ongoing training and support to ensure that employees remain knowledgeable and up-to-date on best practices for inventory management in Malaysia.
Improving your corporate item inventory system is an important aspect of any business in Malaysia. By combining the above aspects of centralising your inventory, conducting regular audits, and using inventory templates, you can see a reduction in waste and an improvement in productivity.
When implementing these strategies, it’s important to keep in mind the specific needs of your business and the size of your inventory. For example, a small business with a limited inventory may be able to manage its inventory using a basic spreadsheet, while a larger business with a more complex inventory may require a more advanced inventory management system.
Regardless of the size of your inventory, the key to successful inventory management in Malaysia is dependent on having established SOPs, guidelines, and most importantly, adherence to these guidelines by your employees. By regularly auditing your inventory and updating your records, you can ensure that your inventory data is accurate and up to date.