What Is MRO Inventory Control and Can It Help Shopify Businesses?

By using MRO inventory control, Shopify businesses can ensure they have the right inventory on hand when needed.

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By Sandra Stepan
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Edited by Nelsy Mtsweni

Published June 25, 2024.

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Running an e-commerce business on Shopify involves juggling various crucial aspects, including MRO inventory management. MRO inventory encompasses all the supplies, parts, and materials necessary to keep your business operating seamlessly on a daily basis.

Understanding what MRO inventory is and implementing effective MRO inventory control strategies can significantly influence your bottom line. From acquiring products and managing inventory optimally to order fulfillment and shipping, every element plays a vital role in the success of your business.

Meet the Expert

Sandra Stepan, a seasoned digital marketing and eCommerce expert, is the founder of SnapAdvantage. Her diverse portfolio includes collaborations with startups and companies with $20 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), solidifying her as a leading resource for brands seeking growth and revenue optimization.

Understanding the Basics of MRO Inventory

MRO stands for maintenance, repair, and operations—it encompasses all the products, parts, and materials important for the ongoing functioning of a business.

This definition of MRO inventory highlights its importance aside from the primary sales inventory, emphasizing that MRO items, although not sold to customers directly, support core business processes and enable teams to function productively.

MRO items include:

  • Spare parts like screws, motors, valves, and fuses needed for equipment maintenance and quick repairs.
  • Tools, hardware, and shop supplies like wrenches, nuts, and bolts for facilities upkeep.
  • Cleaning materials, protective gear, and lubricants for general maintenance and safety.
  • Packaging materials, including tape, bubble wrap, labels, and boxes for fulfillment.
  • Office supplies like printer ink, paper, pens, and stationery.

MRO inventory control is crucial for preventing operational disruptions by keeping stock levels balanced. Additionally, AI inventory forecasting is increasingly essential, particularly for e-commerce platforms like Shopify, to ensure efficient operation. This technology supports predictive planning for MRO inventories, helping businesses meet operational needs without overspending.

» Check out the easiest products to manage on Shopify

4 Ways MRO Inventory Control Benefits Shopify Businesses

Egnition infographic showing the 4 ways MRO inventory control benefits Shopify businesses

1. Minimizes Equipment Downtime

Maintenance of spare parts, tools, and shop supplies in inventory means operations will not grind to a halt for minor equipment issues. This means that teams can quickly troubleshoot and fix problems without delays in sourcing replacement components.

2. Generates Significant Cost Savings

Closely monitoring MRO inventory usage and optimizing stock levels reduces unnecessary purchases, overstocking, and expensive rush orders. This results in major cost savings and conserved working capital.

3. Supports Customer Service Levels

Proper planning and availability of MRO inventory directly ensures uninterrupted internal operations. This, in turn, enables your team to meet production targets and service levels, which ultimately boosts customer satisfaction.

4. Enhances Operational Productivity

The steady availability of MRO items like packaging materials, protective gear, and office supplies ensures staff can fulfill orders and manage warehouses smoothly without impediments. This translates into higher productivity and leads to increased profits.

» Explore these best practices to help you manage multiple Shopify stores

Key Challenges to Managing MRO Inventory

Achieving Ideal Stock Levels

Insufficient MRO inventory can cause workflow disruptions and emergency purchases while overstocking can lead to capital inefficiencies. Determining the right inventory level to avoid both extremes can be challenging.

Limited Visibility of Item Usage

Another major challenge is limited visibility into the usage of MRO items, making it difficult to forecast demand accurately. Data silos can further make the integration of operational analytics difficult.

Availability of MRO Items

Sudden equipment failure, spikes in seasonal order volume, and warehouse expansions can all lead to unexpected demand surges for certain MRO items. Incorporating such variability into plans can be difficult.

Finally, the process of sourcing MRO supplies during stockouts heavily relies on the strength of supplier relationships and the resilience of the supply chain. These elements are critical in MRO inventories management. Unfortunately, this dependency on external factors can hinder inventory planning efforts.

» Customize your sorting rules by changing Shopify's default "Sort by" option

Overcome Challenges With the Best Practices for Integrating MRO Management With Shopify

Egnition infographic showing the best practices for integrating MRO management with Shopify

1. Centralize Inventory Management

Use Shopify's unified inventory management system to track your MRO and regular sales inventory. This consolidation enables real-time visibility and easier tracking and control of your MRO stock levels.

Using Shopify apps like Out-of-Stock Police, you can receive alerts and notifications when inventory is low, ensuring timely reordering of critical MRO supplies before they run out of stock and helping you manage out-of-stock items effectively.

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Out-of-Stock Police

Shopify store owners: Manage inventory with ease

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Customer support

24/7 availability

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Automated workflows

Save time with seamless processes

Out-of-Stock Police by EGNITION helps you manage inventory with ease. It's a powerful tool designed to optimize and automate the management of out-of-stock items in your Shopify store. The app ensures a streamlined process, automatically pushing sold-out products to the bottom of collections or hiding them until restocked.

Out-of-Stock Police offers a straightforward interface, though setup may take a little time for automated workflows. Its natural integration with Shopify and available customer support make it an excellent choice,.

  • Push sold-out products in collections automatically in real-time
  • Hide out-of-stock products the smart way to keep organic traffic
  • Receive low-stock and out-of-stock notifications to your email or in-app
  • Export and download low-stock and out-of-stock products for re-stock planning
  • Improve SEO and generate more assisted conversions with out-of-stock products

Free plan available for up to 49 products

Easy-to-use interface for efficient inventory management

Customized sorting rules for tailored product displays

Automated workflows to save time and effort

Boosted SEO performance for increased visibility

Can have a slight learning curve

2. Implement Data-Driven MRO Forecasting

Analyzing historical data will help you review past maintenance schedules, repair frequencies, and usage rates of MRO items. Use Shopify's analytics and reporting tools to gather data on inventory trends and usage patterns, facilitating more accurate forecasting of MRO requirements.

3. Streamline the MRO Reordering Processes

Establish efficient processes for replenishing MRO inventory as it is consumed. Incorporate automated reordering for frequently used supplies by integrating suitable Shopify apps.

These apps can automate inventory management in various ways, such as generating purchase orders based on pre-defined minimum inventory thresholds to ensure just-in-time fulfillment and avoid shortages.

» Want to automate your Shopify Store? Manage inventory with the best apps

4. Manage MRO Vendor Relationships

Maintain strong relationships with MRO vendors by managing contacts and order histories systematically. Use Shopify's platform to create and maintain a vendor database, integrating it with your CRM app.

This integration assists in tracking interactions with various MRO suppliers, promoting reliability in the supply chain.

5. Review MRO Reports Regularly

Routinely review MRO inventory reports within Shopify to identify usage patterns, production bottlenecks, and upcoming maintenance needs. Use the insights to optimize safety stock levels, adjust reorder points, avoid obsolete inventory, and make data-backed MRO inventory decisions.

The Future of MRO Inventory in E-commerce

New approaches are needed to manage the indirect supplies that support the complex online retail operations. Incorporating advanced technologies such as AI and predictive maintenance can forecast MRO requirements well in advance, enabling proactive planning and bulk inventory management.

Incorporating digital marketing for MROs into the strategy can also enhance the visibility and accessibility of supplies, ensuring that operations can continue smoothly without interruption. This integrated approach to managing MRO inventory emphasizes the importance of leveraging technology and strategic relationships to overcome common challenges in the field.

MRO management systems must be adaptive and resilient to disruptions, and building agility and flexibility is crucial for smooth operations in the face of changing market conditions. Therefore, e-commerce leaders should be willing to invest in pilots of emerging MRO technologies even if the benefits are not immediate.

» Find out how to hide out-of-stock variants in Shopify

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