We often are asked, “Why is the software driving up the inventory?” The answer is that Smart isn’t driving it in either direction – the inputs are driving it, and those inputs are controlled by the users (or admins). Here are four things you can do to get the results you expect.

1. Confirm that your service level targets are commensurate with what you want for that item or group of items. Setting very high targets (95% or more) will likely drive inventory up if you have been coasting along at a lower level and are OK with being there. It’s possible you’ve never achieved the new higher service level but customers have not complained.  Figure out what service level has worked by evaluating historical reports on performance and set your targets accordingly. But keep in mind that competitors may beat you on item availability if you keep using your father’s service level targets.

2. Make sure your understanding of “service level” aligns with the software system’s definition. You may be measuring performance based on how often you ship within one week from receipt of the customer order, whereas the software is targeting reorder points based on your ability to ship right away, not within a week. Clearly the latter will require more inventory to hit the same “service level.” For instance, a 75% same-day service level may correspond to a 90% same-week service level. In this case, you are really comparing apples to oranges. If this is the reason for the excess stock, then determine what “same day” service level is needed to get you to your desired “same week” service level and enter that into the software. Using the less-stringent same-day target will drop the inventory, sometimes very significantly.

3. Evaluate the lead time inputs. We’ve seen instances in which lead times had been inflated to trick old software into producing desired results. Modern software tracks suppliers’ performance by recording their actual lead times over multiple orders, then it takes account of lead time variability in its simulations of daily operations. Watch out if your lead times are fixed at one value that was decided on in the distant past and isn’t current.

4. Check your demand signal. You have lots of historical transactions in your ERP system that can be used in many ways to determine the demand history. If you are using signals such as transfers, or you are not excluding returns, then you may be overstating demand. Spend a little time on defining “demand” in the way that makes most sense for your situation.