Tracking in-transit inventory is difficult for any Ecommerce business, but Parabola automates this process easily. Read how below.
What is in-transit inventory?
In-transit inventory, also known as pipeline inventory, refers to inventory that has been purchased and is en route to a physical store, warehouse, or distribution center. Though this inventory hasn’t been received at a physical location, it is still included as part of a brand’s overall inventory levels. A miscalculation of in-transit inventory can be disastrous when looking for an accurate picture of your company’s cash flow, planning out storage space, or making sales.
Why is in-transit inventory important?
Teams need to be able to have the most up to date information about their inventory levels. This is helpful across multiple teams: from logistics teams that are responsible for making sure inventory gets from point A to B, to retail teams needing to know when they are getting merchandise in their stores. Having a consistent pulse on your in-transit inventory allows your teams to plan and execute effectively.
What makes tracking in-transit inventory difficult?
If you’re the person at your company that tracks in-transit inventory, you’re probably already painfully aware of these challenges. This is what we hear most frequently from our customers:
Important data lives in multiple locations
When tracking in-transit inventory, your team may find themselves having to use multiple tools to access information that is stored across various files and locations. If you’re working with multiple suppliers, that adds an extra level of complexity to the already time consuming task of tracking data with shipping partners and warehouses.
Data is presented differently across partners and tools
Even after accessing all of your data, each supplier may format their reporting and tracking information differently. The manual process you take to clean data may be unique for each supplier you have. This is not only time consuming but gets difficult to maintain as you scale your operation.
Inventory data is always updating
Long after the workday ends for members of your team, inventory continues to move as it makes its way to you from your suppliers. As shipping containers cross oceans and travel through the air, mechanical issues or inclement weather may cause unexpected delays. With inventory continuously moving and data constantly needing to be updated, it can be easy for information to slip through the cracks. It is important to have a clear, accurate picture of your inventory at all times to maintain a sustainable supply chain. However, keeping this information up to date can be be a significant resource drain, especially for leaner teams.
Tracking in-transit inventory is a critical component across all parts of the business. It allows teams to make sure they’re managing their bottom line effectively by not overspending on shipping and meeting their fulfillment goals. Having an up to date view of in-transit inventory allows companies to make better business decisions.
How can Parabola help?
To begin accurately tracking and actioning off of your in-transit inventory data, you first need to create a single source of truth for your inventory across multiple suppliers and freight forwarders. Parabola makes it easy to access data from wherever they exist, whether it be in email attachments, static CSV files, Dropbox folders, APIs, or FTP servers.
In the example below, one of our customers is bringing in distinct CSV files from three different factories and three different freight forwarders. They normalize these distinct CSV files until they’re ready to be stacked together. They also reference a CSV file of product information to be able to have all important SKU information alongside the data from their factories and freight forwarders.
Next, it’s time to clean and format this combined data. This customer is using transform steps like filtering rows, selecting columns, and renaming columns. No matter how you need to transform your data, Parabola’s pre-built transform steps can accomplish it. Not only will this Flow automatically transform the data to your specifications, but this Flow itself becomes a valuable documentation of your process. If one of your source files changes or if the output format needs to be updated, you can easily make adjustments to the Flow.
Finally, the data needs somewhere to go to be readily accessed by the rest of your company. This particular brand needed two outputs: both to Google Sheet files that the team could already access. The top branch updates an inventory tracker that shows the shipped quantity and expected delivery date per SKU. The bottom branch updates a summary report that sums the shipped quantity of all SKUs included in a single container.
Here’s what this customer’s entire in-transit inventory Flow looks like. This Flow helps them consolidate data from their factories and freight forwarders in a single place, clean and format in a way that serves the needs of the business, and updates this data on a regularly scheduled cadence in a tool that the rest of the team is already using.
Twillory uses Parabola to give the rest of their company a better, more digestible view of their in-transit inventory. Before Parabola, only their Logistics Team was able to make sense of the expected delivery times of the various SKUs because of their deep familiarity with their inventory process and data. Their Parabola Flow now automatically updates a Trello board that their Customer Support Team utilizes when helping customers with questions about expected order delivery dates. Their customer support representatives can easily look up specific SKUs and give their customers accurate information about their order delivery date. This improvement resulted in a happier team and happier customers!
If you’re interested in building a similar Flow to solve in-transit inventory challenges at your company, you can start building your own Flow for free by signing up for Parabola. Email us at email@example.com and we can help you get started!