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Understanding Inventory Flows

Differences Between Sales and Rental Inventory Flows

Updated over a week ago

Navigating inventory management involves understanding how product catalogs and inventory flows differ significantly between sales and rental operations. This knowledge is crucial for effectively managing the physical assets represented by articles and Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) in your inventory, which may not always align directly with the offerings listed in your product catalog.

Sales Products: Inventory and Catalog Flow

For businesses that sell products, there is typically a high correspondence between the inventory articles, SKUs, and the product catalog. For instance, a white t-shirt is a white t-shirt both in the inventory and in the product catalog.

Flow Overview:

  1. Product Listing: Customers browse the product catalog, e.g. through a company's website.

  2. Inventory Matching: Each product listed online corresponds directly to a specific inventory item.

  3. Order Fulfillment: When an order is placed, the inventory management system checks the availability of the SKU.

  4. Restocking: Once the order is fulfilled, the inventory is updated by reducing the stock count by sold articles and the inventory is restocked as necessary.

An infographic depicting the sales inventory flow. It shows individual physical items, known as articles, grouped into SKUs to track stock level.

Rental Products: Managing Time-Based Inventory

Rental operations differ as they focus on selling time from an inventory article's timeline rather than the physical item itself. This distinction means that even though the physical items in inventory are the same, their representation in the product catalog and how they are managed can vary greatly.

Flow Overview:

  1. Service Packages: Rental services might offer packages (e.g., a Bike Package including helmet and lock) that utilize the same physical items as regular rentals (e.g. for the Bike alone) but are presented differently in the catalog.

  2. Booking Management: An inventory system designed for rentals ensures there is room on the articles' timelines for new bookings and prevents overbooking.

  3. Continuous Availability: The same physical item can be booked multiple times for different time slots, emphasizing the importance of effective timeline management.

An infographic showcasing rental inventory management. It illustrates that each rental item, or 'article,' has a designated timeline for bookings. Items are grouped under SKUs, indicating their availability. The graphic includes a sample SKU code, demonstrates how SKUs link to the product catalog, and indicates that customer orders book time slots on the items. It also notes the maintenance of items between bookings and their eventual recycling or resale.
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