VENDOR MANAGED INVENTORY (VMI)

A means of optimizing Supply Chain performance in which the manufacturer is responsible for maintaining the distributor‘s inventory levels. The manufacturer has access to the distributor‘s inventory data and is responsible for generating purchase orders.

Vendor-managed inventory (VMI) is a family of business models in which the buyer of a product (business) provides certain information to a vendor (supply chain) supplier of that product and the supplier takes full responsibility for maintaining an agreed inventory of the material, usually at the buyer’s consumption location (usually a store). A third-party logistics provider can also be involved to make sure that the buyer has the required level of inventory by adjusting the demand and supply gaps.

As a symbiotic relationship, VMI makes it less likely that a business will unintentionally become out of stock of a good and reduces inventory in the supply chain. Furthermore, vendor (supplier) representatives in a store benefit the vendor by ensuring the product is properly displayed and store staff are familiar with the features of the product line, all the while helping to clean and organize their product lines for the store.

One of the keys to making VMI work is shared risk. In some cases, if the inventory does not sell, the vendor (supplier) will repurchase the product from the buyer (retailer). In other cases, the product may be in the possession of the retailer but is not owned by the retailer until the sale takes place, meaning that the retailer simply houses (and assists with the sale of) the product in exchange for a predetermined commission or profit (sometimes referred to as consignment stock).

Vendors benefit from more control of displays and more customer contact for their employees; retailers benefit from reduced risk, better store staff knowledge (which builds brand loyalty for both the vendor and the retailer), and reduced display maintenance outlays. Consumers benefit from knowledgeable store staff who are in frequent and familiar contact with manufacturer (vendor) representatives when parts or service are required. Store staff have good knowledge of most product lines offered by the entire range of vendors. They can help the consumer choose from competing products for items most suited to them and offer service
support being offered by the store.

Vendor managed inventory (VMI): three steps in making it work
1. Clarify expectations. There needs to be thorough discussion about how the system will benefit both organizations in the long term or one of the parties, particularly the supplier, is prone to disappointment with some of the short-term results. If these items are not addressed the program will likely be terminated quickly with neither side gaining any of the benefits expected from the program. The objective is clear and constant communication between the supplier and customer. When the two parties work in conjunction they can be assured that the planning function, for both sides, will begin to smooth over time.
2. Agree on how to share information. If the supplier and customer can agree to share information vital to restocking in a timely manner, then the odds of a synchronized system will dramatically improve. Proprietary information would not have to be shared between the supplier and customer, but enough information to maintain a steady flow of goods is necessary. The customer should be willing to share production schedules and/or forecasts to provide some visibility for the supplier.
3. Keep communication channels open. When the two parties set out to implement a VMI program, they need to meet and discuss their goals and how they need to proceed in order to realize those goals. Once a VMI program has been activated, each side needs to understand that there are going to be some miscues. These miscues need to be studied as opportunities for learning and then used to avoid repetitive problems in the future.

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