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Surplus Inventory - What It Is and How to Manage It (2024 Guide)

2.5 minutes

In this article, we will explore what exactly inventory surplus is and what causes it. We also provide a step-by-step framework on how to effectively manage it. Read on to learn more. 

surplus inventory

What Is Surplus Inventory? 

Surplus inventory occurs when a business accumulates more goods than it currently needs or can quickly use. It signifies an overstocking situation where there is an abundance of items beyond what can be sold or used in the near term.

Example: Furniture Creations Inc. once produced an extra 500 dining tables due to a miscalculation in market demand. These surplus tables occupied warehouse space and tied up capital that could have been invested in other areas of the business.

inventory surplus

What Causes Inventory Surplus?

Inventory surplus can arise from various factors. These can include: 

Seasonal Fluctuations: Businesses often overstock in anticipation of seasonal demand changes, leading to surplus inventory during off-peak times.

Forecasting Errors: Inaccurate demand forecasts can result in overproduction or overordering of goods.

Production Overruns: Sometimes, manufacturing processes lead to the production of more items than initially planned.

Market Shifts: Sudden shifts in market trends or consumer preferences can leave businesses with excess inventory of outdated or unpopular products.

Supplier Delays: Delays in the supply chain, such as late deliveries from suppliers, can lead to the accumulation of surplus inventory as businesses compensate for uncertain lead times.

what is surplus inventory

10-Step Surplus Inventory Management Plan

There are many ways we can manage surplus inventory and minimize financial losses. Below is our step-by-step process that you can apply: 

Step 1: Inventory Assessment

Conduct a comprehensive inventory audit to identify surplus items based on factors like product type, shelf life, and market demand.

Example: Fresh Mart identified 1,000 kilograms of tomatoes and 500 heads of lettuce as surplus due to over-ordering.

Step 2: Analyze Causes

Determine the reasons behind surplus inventory, including factors like seasonal fluctuations, forecasting errors, and production overruns.

Example: Style Trend, a clothing retailer, realized that it had 2,000 surplus winter coats in stock due to forecasting errors caused by underestimating demand.

Step 3: Set Clear Objectives

Define specific goals for surplus inventory management, whether it's reducing storage costs, freeing up capital, or preventing obsolescence.

Example: TechGear Inc. aimed to free up $500,000 in working capital by reducing surplus raw materials inventory.

Step 4: Prioritize Inventory

Rank surplus items by their potential impact, such as those at risk of obsolescence or occupying valuable warehouse space.

Example: GadgetZone  prioritized its 500 outdated smartphones over 1,000 excess cables, given the smartphones' higher storage costs and obsolescence risk.

Step 5: Inventory Optimization

Implement better demand forecasting, maintain safety stock levels, and calculate reorder points to align procurement with actual demand.

Example: Book Buddy improved demand forecasting for its top 20 book titles and adjusted reorder points, reducing excess stock by 30%.

Step 6: Liquidation and Promotion

Offer discounts, promotions, or consider donations/recycling to reduce surplus inventory and minimize financial losses.

Example: Fashion Frenzy offered a clearance sale with 50% discounts on last season's clothing, resulting in the sale of 80% of excess inventory.

Step 7: Supplier Negotiations

Negotiate return policies with suppliers and explore consignment agreements to mitigate surplus inventory risks.

Example: SeaDelights negotiated with its supplier to accept returns of $2,000 worth of unsold perishable seafood and implemented consignment agreements for seasonal items.

Step 8: Progress Monitoring

Continuously track the results of surplus inventory management efforts, reviewing sales, reduced storage costs, and their impact on financials.

Example: AutoParts Co. monitored its surplus inventory reduction plan, noting a 15% increase in sales and a 10% reduction in warehousing expenses.

Step 9: Documentation

Maintain detailed records of surplus inventory management activities, including actions taken and outcomes.

Example: TechSolutions documented surplus inventory reduction initiatives, recording a 25% reduction in excess stock and key lessons learned during the process.

Step 10: Sustainability and Review

Evaluate the environmental impact of surplus inventory management and establish regular reviews to maintain ongoing efficiency in inventory management.

Example: Eco Food Distributors assessed the environmental impact of excess perishable inventory disposal, implementing recycling and donation programs, reducing waste by 40%.

Example: Tech Treasures 

Let’s consider a real-world case scenario. Tech Treasures is a leading electronics retailer that urgently needs to implement a comprehensive surplus inventory management plan to mitigate financial losses caused by an overabundance of electronic accessories.

Here's how they applied our step-by-step plan:

Step 1: Assessing Inventory

Tech Treasures conducts a thorough inventory examination, identifying 5,000 surplus smartphone cases and an additional 2,000 excess charging cables in their storage facilities.

Step 2: Analyzing Causes

They delve into the root causes behind the surplus inventory, attributing it to inaccuracies in forecasting the demand for smartphone accessories, which resulted in an overstock of 7,000 items.

Step 3: Defining Objectives

Tech Treasures establishes specific objectives, aiming to reduce storage expenses and improve cash flow by selling or liquidating the surplus accessories, potentially freeing up $50,000 in capital.

Step 4: Prioritizing Inventory

They prioritize addressing the surplus smartphone cases, as they occupy valuable storage space and represent an inventory value of $30,000.

Step 5: Optimizing Inventory

Tech Treasures enhances demand forecasting to prevent future over-orders and maintain more precise inventory levels, potentially reducing excess stock by 20%.

Step 6: Liquidating and Promoting

They initiate a clearance event, offering a 30% discount on smartphone cases, which led to the sale of 70% of the surplus stock, equivalent to 3,500 cases.

Step 7: Negotiating with Suppliers

Tech Treasures engages in negotiations with suppliers to facilitate the return of 1,000 excess charging cables, potentially recovering $10,000 in inventory value, and establishes consignment agreements for future inventory management.

Step 8: Monitoring Progress

They maintain continuous oversight of outcomes, observing a 20% reduction in storage costs, resulting in savings of $5,000, and a 15% increase in accessory sales, generating an additional $7,500 in revenue.

Step 9: Documenting

Tech Treasures diligently maintains detailed records, capturing the efficacy of each strategy implemented and gathering insights for future reference.

Step 10: Ensuring Sustainability and Review

They evaluate the ecological impact of their surplus inventory management endeavors, reducing waste by 30%, and plan for regular reviews to preempt future overstock issues, sustaining an optimized inventory system.

We hope you now have a better understanding of what surplus inventory is and how to manage it effectively to minimize its impact and optimize your inventory management practices.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article on inventory replenishment or our article on inventory reduction.

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