Because J&L is so small and only has one person making everything, Out of Stock issues will be common for many items at any given time. I am adjusting to the significant growth of business at a time when many factors make that an immense challenge. My work is spread thin, and distributed among many tasks on any given day. If I let just one task fall behind, it creates a problem that affects all that I do.
Production is scheduled based upon needs that reach beyond the next couple weeks. I make a batch of any given product that is expected to satisfy months of demand. Productions is done to forecast. With sales growing, my forecasting is not as accurate and leads to not having enough sometimes. Then factor in supply chain issues that have led to not having the ingredients needed at the time production is planned. Pricing of goods fluctuates greatly from week to week as well as supplier stock levels. Some items I use, I have only 1 or 2 reliable suppliers that will sell to a business this size.
If I delay production to make an emergency batch of a hotter or long out of stock item, then that increases the chance that other items go out of stock before I get a chance to replenish inventory. Part of this is still a learning curve as I go from making and selling single digit units of some items to selling dozens in a month. Where I used to make items 3 to 6 at a time, I now need to do a dozen or two. I know I offer I lot of options and that is a factor that leads me to stretching myself too thin. As I go, and more tasks get automated or are adequately managed with less time, I have more time to address other tasks. In recent months I have increased buying quantities to suit longer range forecasts and planning my production schedule in more detail.
A huge hindrance has been the problem with a suppler of our new Syndet solid soap base. This is a new item, only introduced a year ago. When jumped on this as a replacement for our all solid soaps with great success. When it came time to order more, the product had changed. We have had to work with the maker to discover what happened and learn what to do to ensure consistency of quality. We have been informed that the current supply is correct to all their QA/QC standards. Any issues we are experiencing is normal. This was not good news and did not address the concern over why it had changed in performance from our initial batches. Our solution came through educating myself around the properties of a Syndet and to learn how to create a more cohesive bar that remains firm. A simple addition of 2 common soap ingredients, stearic acid and sodium lactate, has been the right solution. This has allowed us to improve our bar production while preventing waste of inferior product. Now, it will take time to repair the damage this has done to our inventory and image while we also maintain inventory across all categories.
Where J&L sits today in regards to inventory levels
There is post I made recently where I noted where key items and categories sit in regards to inventory levels. Many of the big holes are being filled rapidly and still able to bring back old favorites and plan new items. With the upcoming festival season I have increased the quantities I make of each item to not only have plenty on hand for the festival, but to also prevent a hot item selling out due to that festival appearance. Like I said, this is a learning curve.
Initially many items I made could be replenished rapidly. I could sell out one day and have new stock the next. Many of our beard oils are still handled this way to ensure we have a fresher product. Lotions, candles, bar soaps take more time. They take more time to make and need time to rest and cure after being made. More of the items I make require the such timing. Quality cannot be rushed. If I sell a lotion before it adequately sets, then I cannot assure that it set correctly. With lotions being a water into oil emulsion, sometimes it looks like everything went to plan and science yet for some reason the emulsion breaks down and the water separates out. This is rare, but it happens.
Where I would only do a production run when I had 1 left in stock on some items, or even when I sold that last one, I now need to make more while I still have a few in stock as those last remaining items can sell quickly before the next batch is ready to sell. With more customers stocking up and buying multiple units of their favorites, and seeing the need to produce even more of certain scents in some categories.
I am certainly not complaining about all of this. My policy has always been to be open and honest about what I do and what to expect. If you see many items out of stock, it does not mean I am going out of business or having trouble buying more goods. It is purely I am selling beyond my dreams and may need a little extra time to catch up. I ask that you let me know when there is something sold out that you really want so I can try to elevate the replenishment or let you know when to expect it to be back in stock. I know that many of you took a risk buying from me, and I greatly appreciate you giving me a chance. I look forward to having you all coming back again and again and giving more things a chance. You are my bedrock that I have built this upon and I wish to keep meeting your expectations as I work to exceed them.