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How to Reduce Time Managing Low-Demand Items

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Cut Time Managing Low Demand Items - Demand and time
Vince Montanaro
Vince Montanaro
April 28, 2023

Low demand for a product does not mean that customer expectations are also low. In the age of social media, exceeding expectations has gone from being a competitive advantage to being a survival skill. You must deliver products successfully regardless of demand to surpass your customers' expectations and retain market share. Meeting customer demand for these products while maintaining a competitive lead time often means keeping an inventory of low-demand products. This is especially true if next-day or same-day delivery is standard within your industry. Of course, that also means that you will need to expend precious resources like warehouse space, labor, and time to ensure that items that are in low demand can get to customers. Although it might sound impossible to reduce time managing low-demand items without reducing customer service, it can be accomplished.

Meeting Supply with Demand

Demand - Supply

Like most elements of business, the key to success revolves around conforming supply to demand. Unpredictable demand is often the primary challenge. Because you have little control over demand, it is often the more problematic factor to manage. In contrast, while you control supply, you are also responsible for its failure. Figuring out how to have the right amount of supply on hand to meet demand – even if that demand is low – is a delicate balance. Luckily, there are ways to influence demand and strategies to ensure supply chain success.

Of course, moving your product or service into an emerging market, resulting in increased demand, is the best outcome. However, this is only sometimes possible. To manage low-demand items, begin by analyzing demand. If you can predict demand, you can supply the right items without wasting warehouse space. Demand forecasting combines historical data, external factors, and internal forces to model future demand. Successful demand management then necessitates that data be passed on to the relevant departments and suppliers. While demand management is crucial to effective supply chain operation, it is important to remember that this function is based on your data.

Through demand shaping, you can influence demand. This involves shifting the equilibrium between supply and demand by lowering prices or adding incentives to purchase certain items. By lowering the price, you also lower revenue. This is best done when costs to continue storing low-demand items become too high to make a profit.

Supply-Side Strategies

Supply chain management might have more moving parts, but does offer actionable strategies for optimizing your operation. Keeping large stocks of low-demand items in a warehouse might be a stress-free way to meet demand, but is unrealistic. Because warehouse space is valuable, every inch should be used to its fullest potential.

One way to best use limited space is to consider how much space bulk supply orders take up. If inputs for the low-demand product consume large amounts of space, you should review your supply chain procedures. A single bulk order might ostensibly be cheaper, but the extra storage space makes it a more expensive option. One way to reduce costs for low-demand products is to receive smaller input deliveries more frequently.

Decreasing the number of suppliers for those low-demand items will help save you time. Negotiating with multiple vendors takes time and effort, which can be saved by consolidating to a single supplier. This could involve switching from specialized components to more standard, cheaper parts. To keep your supply chain resilient, cultivate a backup supplier or two.

Effective inventory management is another way to save time. If implemented successfully, an inventory management system increases visibility for those low-demand products throughout your organization. This can reduce your time communicating with others inside your company regarding these products' current inventory levels. Reliable pallets can also add efficiency to your operation. Understanding the difference between kiln dried and heat treated pallets might mean less time moving products off cracked or warped wood.

Managing Your Product

Beyond managing supplies and demand, applying a product management strategy can lead to better productivity. Performing a product lifespan analysis on low-demand products shows where exactly you are sinking resources. Then, you can work on minimizing those resources wherever possible while still being able to provide the item to customers on time. If further reducing the time, labor, inputs, or storage costs is not possible, can you make more efficient use of them regarding this product? You can reduce low-demand product costs and increase their profit margin.

Time Management Strategies

If time consistently seems to be your limiting factor, it might be worth exploring good time management strategies. These will allow you to plan for issues instead of reacting to them. Creating a time log is the first step to efficiently using your time. For a day, a week, or a month, a record of which tasks you spend time performing every day. Breaking your workday into 15-minute increments can help you see where you are spending your time now. Then, you can begin to reduce time managing low-demand items. After you know which tasks eat most of your time, you can begin experimenting with different strategies. Here are four time management strategies that can make the biggest difference in your workday.

Strategy 1: Daily Schedule

Schedule and clock

If staying focused on high-priority tasks is challenging, implementing a daily schedule is one of the easiest ways to boost your time management. Of course, because every operation is different, there is no best way to organize your workday. However, a few ways exist to make the most of a daily schedule. Setting time limits for tasks can create a sense of urgency and ensure you will complete what you must do daily.

Before beginning each day, identify priority tasks and assign them earlier in your workday. To build momentum, schedule a few simple, quick-to-complete items to finish before tackling larger projects. Including periodic breaks gives your brain a chance to reset and will help you feel fresh. Although multitasking sounds like a good idea, it overloads the brain and leads to inefficiency. It seems counterintuitive, but scheduling unscheduled time into your day will give you time to strategize larger-scale issues and troubleshoot unforeseen problems.

Strategy 2: Prioritize and Delegate

As you develop your daily schedule, rank each task based on its priority. Ensuring the high-priority tasks are completed will leave you in a much better position at the end of the work day. This strategy is particularly effective if you are trying to reduce time managing low-demand items. By prioritizing low-demand items as less important, you can ensure you are devoting your time where it needs to be spent.

Delegation is another way to manage your time better. For every task on your list, ask yourself if you must be the one to complete it. If you still need to, you can ask someone on your team to ensure it gets completed. This, in turn, means that they can be more easily delegated. If applicable, delegating work is an excellent opportunity to cross-train your team. In addition to saving you time, this adds a layer of resilience to your operation.

Strategy 3: Work in Batches

Instead of working on each product or problem individually, it might make more sense for you to group similar tasks. For instance, use the same scheduled time slot to make all your phone calls. Because your brain will not need to switch gears as often with this strategy, you will be more productive.

Strategy 4: Organization

Time management strategies usually focus on harnessing the brain's fullest potential. Keeping your space uncluttered is crucial to maximizing your brain's processing capacity. Starting the day with a clean workspace means you can jump right into your workday. To achieve this, try sorting paperwork into different containers based on either priority or task. At the end of the workday, sort everything on your desk so it can be clear for the next day. Once this has been completed, you might be surprised at how much better you function.

A clean desk is a great start, but only one piece of the puzzle. Organizing your intangibles is just as important as tidying physical areas. This applies to both your digital workspace as well as your mental facilities. Emptying your email inbox or clearing your desktop is a great way to keep yourself on track. To keep your mental spaces clear, be bold and take breaks to improve your mind.

Boosting Your Bottom Line

Low demand vs supply

Low-demand items might not be low priority, but they should claim fewer resources than products in higher demand. If you regularly allocate large chunks of your time to products with low demand, something needs to change. Of course, to keep customers happy, you need to be able to supply low-demand products on time.

While there is no foolproof method to reduce time spent managing low-demand items, approaching the issue from multiple angles is the best way to achieve success. Begin by predicting demand as accurately as possible. Then, try to match your supply to meet that demand. Sometimes, that means reducing the number of suppliers for your low-demand products. It might also mean finding a supplier who understands your needs to meet them better. Streamlining your product and improving your time management strategies are other ways you can reduce the time you allot to low-demand items. Harnessing a combination of the above mentioned strategies is the best way to increase profit margins on low-demand items. To start on that journey today, contact a pallet company ready to work with your specific needs.