As sales of consumer electronics and related accessories grow, InVue Security Products’ business increases at a similar rate. Their parallel growth is due to the fact that retailers recognize the value of openly displaying merchandise. InVue develops and sells display security solutions found in most electronics stores around the world. The company’s products provide theft protection while enabling customers to interact freely with cameras, tablets and smartphones.
Although the InVue security solutions appear to be relatively simple products, the company navigates many unique challenges in servicing its customers in the 70-plus countries in which it does business. The product solutions are constantly evolving to accommodate the ever-changing electronic offerings. Customer demand, while great, can be sporadic in nature. Finally, supply of key components including electronics and rare earth magnets can be volatile.
To maintain its leadership position, InVue developed a passion for operational efficiency and devised a strong strategy to tackle its unique challenges. Keeping this global supply chain for the company’s 1,500 products running smoothly is the responsibility of InVue Vice President of Operations Jason Fullmer and the 50-plus employees in departments he leads worldwide.
“We sell to the largest retailers around the world, both consumer electronics and cell phone retailers,” Fullmer says. “A lot of their demand is spike or burst demand, [which is] tied to when they are going to open new stores or have a new product offering being launched. Our demand comes in pretty large spikes. We might have a 100-piece run rate for several months and then get an order for 20,000 pieces.”
With product development headquartered in North America, manufacturing in China, and three major warehouses worldwide, InVue is truly a global company. In order to react to the volatile nature of supply and demand, InVue developed a distributed operations team.
“Constant communication with our suppliers and sales teams is essential,” Fullmer stresses. “One of the main reasons I have invested in a team in China is to work directly with our contract manufacturers. My team is on-site regularly to help resolve manufacturing and supply constraints to ensure quality product is being produced and shipped on-time to service our customers.”
Likewise, having local teams that constantly have face-to-face communications with sales gives Fullmer intelligence to better understand upcoming demand. “There is no better demand intelligence than talking to our local sales team or directly with the customer,” he maintains. “Having a distributed team enables us to keep inventories of finished goods low, but still respond quickly to spike or burst demand. Managing the supply chain from demand through fulfillment as a global business is certainly a key to success.”
As retailers open new stores or when new products are launched, demand can come in large spikes. Fullmer’s team not only plans inventories based on historical sales, but also on potential orders driven from sales quotes. Having a local presence ensures communication with sales is both timely and crystal clear.
Fullmer states that InVue Security Products traditionally keeps two months’ inventory of its standard parts that turn approximately five times annually, but the bulk of large orders are manufactured on-demand.
All of InVue products have components whose pricing and supply can be unpredictable throughout the year. Although Fullmer’s team tries to keep the inventory of finished goods low, they will routinely make strategic decisions on purchasing essential components anticipating market availability.
“All of our magnets are rare earth magnets, and anybody who’s been involved with them understands their volatility in price and supply,” Fullmer emphasizes. “We use rare earth magnets in almost every product we sell. If supply gets tight, it could essentially shut down the company, so we manage these directly and supply them to our contract manufacturers. This allows us to maintain a consistent and reliable supply chain for these custom and critical components.
“We also do risk buys and try to buy ahead of the cost and supply trends we see,” he adds. “In a matter of months, both the price and lead times of these rare earth magnets can double, causing both cost and supply challenges for InVue. By buying ahead of upward trends, we are able to minimize the total impact of this market volatility and protect these critical components in our products.”
InVue recognizes that operational excellence is achieved by continuously re-evaluating processes and responding quickly to emerging opportunities. The company relies on strong data analysis to help guide its decisions.
“We have built a custom set of web-based tools around our IBM server to run our business,” Fullmer notes. “Not only does it help real-time collaboration between our suppliers and customers, it continuously measures our performance to goals.” InVue shares its performance metrics with its entire supply chain to stay aligned on expectations and hold each team accountable for its contribution to success.
The future outlook is strong for InVue Security Products. The company was recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private U.S.-based companies for the fourth consecutive year. Fullmer is excited about InVue’s future opportunities and is looking to continually improve its operational efficiency. He believes the real-time communication with suppliers and customers, along with constant measurement of results, will be essential for ongoing success.