Over the last few years, supply chain management — and inventory planning by association — have undergone significant structural, procedural, and philosophical changes. Many businesses are abandoning traditional models and processes in favor of tech-driven solutions drenched in agility, flexibility, and data. As a result, old-school inventory management processes (e.g., manual counts, ad-hoc picking systems, etc.) have been quickly replaced by data-fueled analytics and downstream automation.
To accomplish these robust and holistic transformations, supply chain managers are turning towards supply-chain-centric ERP platforms like Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, and JDE. These multi-billion-dollar platforms — which are backed by tech giants — provide a wealth of inventory management solutions, all packaged under a nifty licensing agreement.
But how do you know which of these massive platforms to invest in? Today, we want to look at NetSuite, Oracle’s supply chain ERP, and how it helps supply chain managers deal with inventory planning. While this post will serve as an introduction to the nitty-gritty of NetSuite, there are plenty of unique features packaged in NetSuite that exist outside of the “inventory planning” ecosystem. Also, for the purposes of this piece, we’re simply focusing on the inventory-forward capabilities of NetSuite.
Oracle NetSuite is an umbrella of software that businesses use to track financials, host their e-commerce stores, digitize their Custom Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities, and manage their inventory needs. There are a variety of solutions that exist under the NetSuite banner, including a CRM, HR solution, ERP, and analytics engine. Like Microsoft, Oracle sells various components of NetSuite under a license, so you can easily combine multiple NetSuite solutions together — but it will cost you capital each month.
For the purposes of inventory planning, NetSuite offers NetSuite Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) — which requires its own license. NetSuite WMS packs a variety of inventory-centric features aimed at maximizing your overall inventory posture, though there are some gaps in capability that many supply chain managers will need to supplement with third-party solutions. One of the core value levers of NetSuite is its API capabilities.
You can plug in solutions like StockIQ to add additional capabilities like automated inventory parameter calculations (e.g., safety stock, inventory forecasts, replenishment, etc.) based on a convergence of real-time and historical data (as well as physical receipt and order inputs).
Let’s take a look at what NetSuite inventory planning functions look like in practice. In addition, we’ll showcase how StockIQ adds extra features and capabilities to each layer of NetSuite’s inventory control and planning solution.
With +90% of your potential disruption “hot spots” existing in your inventory chain, efficiently managing replenishment is a critical component of a well-oiled supply chain. NetSuite comes packed with intelligent inventory replenishment capabilities. While robust in many areas, NetSuite does not have the most well-oiled replenishment processing, which is one of the major areas StockIQ picks up the slack. (More on this below.)
The UI for replenishment is relatively straight-forward. You can choose a location (for multi-site facilities), sort by vendors, and create reorder points and time-phased item purchases directly from the interface. It’s straight-forward, no-nonsense, and relatively bare-bones — which we think is generally appropriate for this type of solution.
StockIQ naturally integrates with NetSuite to provide a variety of additional replenishment capabilities, like:
McKinsey estimates that AI will have the largest impact — across all business verticals — on the supply chain. In fact, it suggests a massive $2 trillion in added value from AI alone. But AI isn’t perfect. And you still need to do manual, ad-hoc counts to ensure inventory levels are accurate and safety stock numbers are reigned in appropriately. NetSuite’s Inventory Count feature gives you end-to-end cycle counting capabilities, which provides advanced inventory tracking that lets you create regular periodic counts for manually-driven inventory insights.
You can also use this feature to categorize items based on volume and sales, which you can then feedback into an automated “prompt” system that alerts warehouse staff to go in and do a manual count on specific items. This feature is a fail-safe of sorts. It prevents AI frictions from causing stock issues, and it gives you a manual layer of overview that adds that extra little splash of security and ease-of-mind.
Supply chain management complexity grows with each new facility. For supply chain managers handling multiple locations, accurately tracking and controlling inventory across all of those locations can be a serious pain — especially when you consider the real-to-life fact that each of these locations contains a variety of publications. In other words, the complexity of multi-locations can get out-of-hand… fast.
NetSuite comes to the rescue with its fine-tuned inventory tracking capabilities. You can track inventory across a variety of locations — which can be hierarchical — and then split each of those physical locations into sub-locations. Finally, you can split sub-locations down into bins, which gives you a much more granular and fine-toothed method of tracking inventory across these locations. You can see each location, which is then broken down into sub-locations like cross docks, damaged goods, and QA.
NetSuite doesn’t only offer grand-scale inventory management based on location; you can drill-down into each specific item to track lots or serial numbers. Here’s a screenshot of NetSuite’s inventory-level view. You can see a variety of details (e.g., internal IDs, serial numbers, codes, display names, item names, unit types, etc.) Again, this is another layer of visibility and traceability that helps you build more holistic inventory ecosystems built on economies-of-scale, automation, and accuracy.
Are you interested in learning more about how StockIQ and NetSuite can help you take control of your inventory? Contact us to learn more about StockIQ or to try out a demo in your NetSuite environment.