The key question that must be answered for inventory is “How much?” Understanding the best inventory levels to carry is critical to the organization because too much inventory and too little inventory are both costly to the organization. Inventory that exceeds what is needed to satisfy customer demand imposes unnecessary costs such as storage, deterioration, obsolescence, theft, and money tied up in inventory that cannot be used for other purposes. Too little inventory means the organization cannot meet 100 per cent of its customer demand and sales revenues are delayed or lost.
For example, a restaurant that specializes in serving fresh fish needs to make careful purchasing decisions so it has enough fresh fish each day to serve its customers, but not so much that unsold fish must be severely discounted or discarded at the end of the day. Computer companies such as Dell must carefully manage its computer chip inventory so it can meet current customer orders, but not be stuck with too much inventory if a new computer chip comes out or if vendors reduce prices.