In VMI a manufacturer or distributor assumes the role of inventory planning for the customer. Extensive information sharing is required so that the manufacturer/distributor can maintain a high degree of visibility of its goods at the customer’s location. Instead of the customer reordering when its supply has been exhausted, the supplier is responsible for replenishing and stocking the customer at appropriate levels. Wal-Mart has mastered VMI and is the company against which many other organizations benchmark themselves.
When the supplier can see that its customer is about to exhaust its inventory, the supplier can better prepare to replenish the customer because the supplier can then better schedule its own production/distribution. Customers will reduce/eliminate stockouts because they will not have to reorder goods at the last minute without knowing whether the supplier has the ability to restock without interrupting the customer’s operations. Therefore, part of VMI’s goal is to reduce uncertainty that arises when the supplier is blind to the customer’s inventory status.
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As long as the supplier carries out its task of maintaining predetermined inventory and avoiding stockouts, it will be able to lock in a VMI-supported customer for the long term with or without a contract. This will produce a steady and predictable flow of income for the supplier and reduce the risk that the customer will switch suppliers (Switching would be too costly for the customer). A VMI arrangement will allow the supplier to schedule its operations more productively because it is now monitoring its customer’s inventory on a regular basis. Furthermore, reductions in inventory will be achieved once the supplier develops a better understanding of how the customer uses its goods over the course of a year.
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