Today, we are witnessing a shift in how businesses manage inventory. While departments used to focus solely on their own responsibilities, now it takes a cross-functional team effort to coordinate the movement of goods. Previously, only the purchasing agent spoke with suppliers about product requirements and specifications. Now, engineers reach out directly. The accounting departments were only concerned about the financials of the company, but are now involved in the purchasing and operational decisions. The shipping and receiving function now needs to work with the rest of the warehouse crew and production to get raw materials in quickly to the right location — and products out to customers — with the coordination of shippers.

These changes are a product of the larger transformation in business environments, or the way in which companies manage their resources. This has changed profoundly over the last 30 years. What used to be a centralized, hierarchical structure has evolved (some would say, “devolved”) into teams with shared responsibilities and collective accomplishments. Businesses worldwide stress the needs and benefits of collaboration and “team-building.” The results can lead to better outcomes for both the companies and the individuals involved.

Changing Roles in Inventory

Here are some examples of how roles have changed in regard to inventory in distribution and manufacturing processes:

Shipping/Receiving

The lowly receiving clerk function of many years ago has turned into a scanner-packing data ninja impacting the supply chain for production and the customer service area of sales. Shippers’ trucks now run on tight schedules, so receivers need to unload, scan, quality-control and “put away” to designated locations quickly to meet production and customer demands. Accuracy is important because an error can mean the holdup of a production line, or a delivery to a customer.

Impacts:

Procurement/Purchasing

These functions are sometimes separate, sometimes performed by the same person, but the collective role cannot be underestimated for the outcome of the business. Procurement is about finding the right suppliers and sources of product or raw material. Purchasing is setting in motion the delivery of those raw materials (in manufacturing) or complete goods to the right distribution center at the right time. This involves timing of deliveries, effective communication, and the financial resources to make it all happen.

Impacts:

Operations/Warehouse Management