Use PDCA to simplify managing your surplus ingredients

How to Use PDCA to Simplify Managing Your Surplus Ingredients

3-minute read

If you want to simplify managing your surplus food inventory—end-of-season and ongoing defect product—the PDCA cycle will make managing the excess ingredients much easier.

What is PDCA?

Plan-do-check-act (PDCA) is the repeatable four-step cycle for improving food manufacturing processes. It falls under the Continuous Improvement umbrella. 

By applying this simple PDCA model to managing your excess food inventory, product flows in and out of the plant—minus the build-up (and headaches!). 

Whether you’re managing your excess inventory in-house or working with an ingredient specialist, here are some of the benefits you can get with a PDCA approach: 

1. Put excess inventory management on autopilot

You can streamline the excess inventory process—from finding a buyer to managing packaging issues.

2. Simplify inventory reconciliation

When it comes time to reconcile your inventory, excess ingredients will be accounted for—no surprises.

3. Free up costly warehouse space

Eliminate scenarios like, “What should we do with the 160,000 pounds of expired invert sugar?”

4. Get cash back on unusable inventory

With a refined process in place for managing your surplus food ingredients, you can turn the problem product around faster and for a better return.

Let’s take a closer look at how applying PDCA to managing your problem ingredients works.


This first stage is for identifying where the ingredient problem exists and developing an action plan. 

Let’s break that down. 

Identify the real problem

Start by drilling down to understand your waste inventory issues and where they commonly occur.

For example:

  • Inventory mistakes—like overlooking creeping value erosion, where the food sits for too long, making it difficult to sell. Another error—focusing on a product’s expiration date alone (versus identifying the food’s ‘peak performance’ and getting a better return).
  • Your in-house inventory team gets busy with their primary responsibilities and the surplus piles up. At the eleventh hour, someone takes action, and your product goes onto an open vendor list (potentially putting your brand at risk).
  • Your product verification documents need organizing—from Original Manufacturer’s Specification Sheets to Certificates of Analysis (COAs).

Build an action plan 

Once you pinpoint the surplus ingredient problems, you can develop a plan.

Your action plan will correct for existing bottlenecks in your ingredient management—such as the accumulation of off-spec product your plant generates each day, week, or month.

Consider this: When you work with an ingredient specialist team, you lighten the load of managing defect product in-house. Learn more.


It’s time to launch your plan. For the best outcomes make sure all stakeholders know the plan’s details. 

For instance, getting everyone up to speed might include doing a qualifying document round-up with staff. That way, when it comes time to sell the problem product, your team can get all the necessary information together at a moment’s notice.


Once the plan is up and running, assess the results.  

  • Could staff quickly locate critical product verification documents (including images), when requested?
  • Did you turn around the affected product faster and with fewer complications?
  • Did you get a good return on the problem ingredients?
  • Did surplus inventory management get easier?


Revisit what you’re doing—what (if any) changes do you need to make? If you tested the process on one product type, can you do the same with other ingredients for even greater returns?

PDCA—a proactive way to manage surplus ingredients

The goal of PDCA for managing excess food inventory is to create a cycle of ongoing improvement. 

It’s a simple approach that shifts excess product from ‘problem’ to a refined and actionable process. Additionally, you eliminate build-up and “We need to get this product out of the warehouse” to receiving a return on otherwise ‘lost’ inventory.

Are you ready to simplify your surplus inventory management? At Ingredient Exchange, we partner with food manufacturers to streamline their ongoing problem inventory. 

Talk to our team today. PH: 314-872-8850