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The word “inventory” comes up a lot in discussions of warehouse management.

Which makes sense, on its face – after all, what is a warehouse if not a facility to store and distribute inventory? But the storage, transportation, and overall circulation of this inventory can take several different forms, even while it remains inside the warehouse. 

Broadly speaking, inventory handling in a warehouse can be defined in one of two ways: inventory management and inventory control.


What is inventory management?


Inventory management is the process of identifying and responding to overall sales trends, in order to identify which inventory to reorder at what time. The goal is to ensure that there’s always enough inventory of a given product, material, or stock to meet customer demand, by knowing when to reorder that product – and how much to order.

Proper inventory management is vital to any warehouse, no matter what you stock, because it can reduce the risk of inventory becoming a liability. Imagine the typical inventory of a food storage warehouse – if not properly managed, sold, distributed, and/or disposed of, the warehouse could quickly run into a lot of issues with goods being spoiled or otherwise unable to be distributed. And if that becomes a consistent issue, the warehouse could find itself in a lot of trouble, so proper inventory management is key to avoiding financial trouble down the line.


What is inventory control?


Inventory control could be considered a branch of inventory management that deals with the day-to-day realities of warehouses. Whether handled by software, a series of procedures, or both, inventory control is designed to handle things like shipping and receiving, returns, picking & putaways, and other daily item movements.

The core focus of inventory control is to more easily track & manage inventory location, and inventory rotation. Knowing where a given item is, where it might be located on your warehouse pallet racking, and where it’s set to move yet are all crucial details that a warehouse manager should know – and inventory control can help you understand this information better


What is the difference between inventory management and inventory control?


The biggest difference between inventory management and inventory control comes down to the time span they focus on. Inventory control, for the most part, deals in the short-term future of your goods – where they’re located now, where they need to be headed next, when do they need to be shipped out, what needs to be disposed of in the immediate future, and so on.

Compare this to inventory management, which focuses on the longer-term of your overall inventory strategy. Inventory management tends to incorporate more historical data to create forecasts of sales trends, stock needs, and allows for easy reordering of needed goods, as well as a better understanding of when this reordering needs to happen. So, while the two of them serve different enough purposes, any successful warehouse will need both a strong inventory management plan and a strong inventory control system & process to stay successful.

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