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Minimum Order Quantity – MOQ Meaning and Best Practices

Minimum Order Quantity – MOQ Meaning and Best Practices

Setting a minimum order quantity for products can be a very beneficial move for distributors and manufacturers. Here we look at the ins and outs of MOQs and give recommendations on how best to manage them.

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What is the minimum order quantity (MOQ)?

Minimum order quantity (MOQ) is an inventory management method that specifies the minimum number of units that a manufacturer or wholesaler is willing to accept for a purchase order. In other words, it’s the smallest quantity of products that a business will sell to buyers.

The main reason for setting a minimum order quantity is to increase the profit margins of sales orders. MOQs help to increase the cost-effectiveness of capacious manufacturing processes, recoup inventory carrying costs, and fine-tune the expenditure of supply chain and inventory management operations.

Determining the minimum order size is not a one-size-fits-all process. It is dependent on a myriad of factors and should be tailored to a company’s circumstances. For instance, a higher MOQ can encourage bulk purchases to drive cost efficiency, while a lower one might attract a broader spectrum of potential clients.

MOQs can be set relatively simply based on one criterion, or be informed by two or more variables, in which case they are called complex MOQs. Either way, setting the minimum order quantity value should be determined through analysis, taking into account market dynamics, customer demand fluctuations, competitive positioning, etc.

Capable inventory management software can play a crucial role in managing MOQ settings. These sophisticated platforms can automate and inform large parts of MOQ calculation based on real-time data analytics and help optimize the balance between inventory costs, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

What’s the difference between simple and complex MOQ?

Simple MOQ

Simple MOQ refers to a straightforward, fixed minimum quantity that a buyer must order for a particular product. It’s typically set by suppliers to ensure that the cost of producing and selling the product is covered, making the transaction worthwhile. A simple MOQ is easy to understand and manage both for the supplier and the buyer.

For example, a supplier that uses batch production might have a simple MOQ for its orders set to the number of units in a batch, as it wouldn’t be financially feasible to start a production run but only sell half of its output.

Complex MOQ

Complex MOQs entail a multifaceted approach to determining the minimum order quantity as here, more than one variable can influence the order size. Unlike a simple MOQ, a complex MOQ may encompass tiered or multi-level order structures, making the minimum order requirement contingent on a combination of factors.

A supplier might set a complex MOQ based on a mix of product types, delivery locations, or product parameters. The order size may be limited by the number of units or the minimum amount of spend. It may further fluctuate with seasonality or be affected by other factors. It comes down to how well the supplier is able to manage their stock and plan production, and reconcile these with customer satisfaction and profitability.

For example, suppose an assemble-to-order bicycle manufacturer offers bikes with different colors. Certain special paints, however, only come in large containers and the paint becomes perishable once opened. The supplier needs to cover the cost of the whole jar to justify purchase orders with the special paint. Therefore, the MOQ is conditional on the price of the paint jar, not the bike itself. A good inventory management tool can be instrumental here, providing real-time data on the availability of the paint, and dynamically allowing for smaller order sizes if multiple orders have come in with the same paint requirement.

Setting a high or low minimum order quantity

Setting the MOQ level high or low distinctly impacts the profitability as well as the supply chain and inventory management for both suppliers and buyers. It’s a careful balance best determined on a case-by-case basis.

Setting a high MOQ

A high minimum order quantity is often set by suppliers to maximize production efficiency and cover the fixed costs associated with manufacturing. A high MOQ helps ensure that production runs are cost-effective and the per-unit cost is reduced, thus improving the profit margin. On the other hand, a high MOQ means more warehousing requirements, a heightened risk of overstocking, and may limit the client base to only larger companies.

On the buyer’s end, a high MOQ might lead to bulk purchasing which could result in better raw material prices due to economies of scale and lower lead times if the buyer is a manufacturer. However, it also necessitates a significant upfront investment and requires substantial storage space. This could escalate the carrying costs including warehousing, insurance, and potentially, spoilage, especially if the products have a limited shelf life or are seasonal in nature.

Setting a low MOQ

A low MOQ is usually favored by suppliers who wish to cater to a broader range of customers, including small businesses or startups with limited purchasing power. It reduces the entry barrier for buyers, making it easier for them to engage with the supplier. From an inventory standpoint, a low MOQ reduces the risks associated with overstocking and minimizes holding costs. On the other hand, it may put more pressure on the sales team, thus increasing administrative costs, as more orders need to be completed to match revenue.

For buyers, a low MOQ provides the flexibility to better manage cash flow and respond to market changes more quickly. It allows for a leaner warehouse management approach, reducing carrying costs and mitigating the risks associated with obsolescence or seasonal demand fluctuations. However, it may also result in higher per-unit costs which could impact the pricing strategy and overall profitability.

How to calculate the minimum order quantity?

There are many ways of coming to the right MOQ level. A structured approach ensures that the MOQ is set at a level that aligns with both financial prudence and market reality. Here are four basic tenets that should inform setting optimal MOQ levels.

1. Determine demand. Understanding demand is the cornerstone of planning production volumes and inventory. Demand forecasting involves analyzing past sales data, market trends, competition, seasonality, and any upcoming marketing campaigns or other circumstances that might influence sales volumes. All of this can be used to paint a realistic picture of order volumes.

2. Calculate holding costs. Holding or storage costs denote the expenses associated with storing inventory such as warehousing costs, insurance, or spoilage. Assessing these helps suppliers maintain sufficient stock to meet demand without incurring excessive expenses. For greater accuracy, it pays to keep tabs on inventory turnover rate and other inventory management KPIs.

3. Establish the break-even point. Identifying the break-even point, or the price per unit at which total revenue equals total costs, helps in setting an MOQ that ensures profitability. For manufacturers, this mostly entails calculating the production costs and overheads of the goods, including production, labor, and delivery. For distributors, it’s all about finding the right suppliers and negotiating the best prices with them to ensure a profitable and mutually beneficial relationship.

4. Set and confirm the MOQ. Armed with the demand forecast, production and holding costs assessment, and the break-even point analysis, determining and confirming MOQs is objective and data-based. The MOQ should ensure cost recovery and profitability, help to maintain a good relationship with suppliers, and keep the clients happy.

MOQ Example

Small Wood Inc. is a small business specializing in producing bespoke wooden tables. The producer’s craftsmanship has garnered a local reputation, leading to a steady stream of incoming orders. With a local cafe showing interest in placing a large order for their outdoor seating area, the manager anticipates that demand could significantly increase in the near future along with the order volume. With that, the decision to implement minimum order quantities for larger orders is set in motion to ensure that each order is financially viable.

Analyzing sales and production data, Small Wood estimates a consistent demand of around 20 tables per month, with a rising potential for larger orders from local businesses. The workshop has limited storage space, however, so accommodating larger orders necessitates renting additional space, thus incurring higher holding costs. Additionally, to keep lead times acceptable, the company would need to outsource varnishing to a contractor. The break-even analysis determines that for bulk orders, at least 20 tables should be sold at a time to offset the added expenses.

The company sets an MOQ, ensuring the costs are covered, the profit margins stay protected, and the manufacturer can handle the larger orders without overstretching its resources. As this MOQ is set for bulk orders only, the company can continue serving smaller clientele with minimal changes in order requirements. With this MOQ, Small Wood Inc. optimizes its operations for larger orders but also retains the existing customer base, striking a balance that positions the business for sustainable growth.

How is MOQ related to economic order quantity (EOQ)?

Minimum order quantity and economic order quantity (EOQ) are both fundamental concepts in inventory management that serve distinct yet interrelated purposes. While MOQ is about the minimum quantity of units a manufacturer or supplier is willing to sell, EOQ focuses on the optimal order quantity that minimizes total holding and ordering costs. EOQ is most useful for buyers with stable demand, like make-to-stock manufacturers.

Balancing MOQ and EOQ can be a tightrope walk. The supplier’s MOQ may often not align with a buyer’s EOQ, necessitating ordering excess stock or looking elsewhere. On the other hand, well-aligned EOQ and MOQ can provide insight into a long-term beneficial partnership. Effective communication and negotiation between suppliers and buyers are essential in finding a middle ground that respects both principles and fosters a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Read more about economic order quantity

The benefits of MOQ

Implementing a minimum order quantity can play a pivotal role in optimizing the operational and financial efficiency of manufacturers and distributors. By setting a well-calibrated MOQ, manufacturers can align their production and purchasing activities with market demand and ensure effective resource utilization. The MOQ strategy can aid in managing cash flow, controlling inventory levels, and achieving a balance between demand, supply, and cost management, instrumental in sustaining profitability.

MOQ benefits for suppliers

  • Cost efficiency. By establishing an MOQ, suppliers can ensure that each order covers the fixed and variable costs of production, making the transaction financially viable.
  • Demand forecasting. Well-established MOQs may help to stabilize demand. Additionally, MOQs can aid in better demand forecasting as they encourage buyers to plan their purchases in advance, thereby providing suppliers with a clearer picture of future sales.
  • Lower inventory. By having a lower MOQ, companies can maintain overall lower finished goods and raw materials inventories. This reduces the inventory level, freeing up cash and holding costs. Conversely, in cases of high stable demand, a higher MOQ can encourage faster inventory turnover.

MOQ benefits for buyers

  • Better pricing. Buyers often secure better pricing when they purchase products in quantities that align with the supplier’s MOQ, taking advantage of economies of scale.
  • Inventory management. Adhering to MOQs helps buyers manage their inventory levels better, ensuring they have enough stock to meet demand without overstocking.
  • Supplier relationships. By respecting the supplier’s MOQ, buyers can foster stronger relationships with suppliers, potentially leading to better terms and collaboration in the long run.

5 best practices for utilizing MOQ

Finally, let’s look at five best practices for setting and managing the minimum order quantity for manufacturers.

The type of goods sold matters 

Some goods are more complex to manufacture while others are easier and relatively cheap to produce. Some finished goods require very expensive materials and/or well-trained experts. If the cost of labor or materials is extremely high, MOQ could be set higher to offset and optimize the higher cost of production.

Conversely, many goods have become commodified in the fast-paced manufacturing world, meaning they are easier to sell in bulk rather than individually. If finished goods are simpler to produce or if they require more unskilled labor with reduced labor costs, setting a lower MOQ is feasible in helping to keep stock levels desirably low.

Vendor negotiation is crucial

If a vendor’s MOQs are too high, building a relationship and communicating your unique requirements may lend itself to better terms that will result in lower minimums. However, it may also be advantageous to accept slightly higher pricing from new vendors with significantly lower MOQs if it still leads to lower inventory and holding costs in the long run.

Whatever the case, fostering communication with vendors can be hugely beneficial for both parties. For example, it could result in long-term partnerships that often result in better purchase terms down the road.

Higher MOQs may boost turnover

If an existing order agreement with a vendor suddenly exceeds your material requirements for whatever reason, think twice before ending the contract to avoid large quantities of unneeded stock. Settling on a higher-than-perfect supplier MOQ might actually prove worthwhile as it provides a powerful, if breakneck, incentive to sell goods faster.

This can lead to novel ways of boosting sales and finding new avenues for revenue such as bulk deals, kitting or bundling goods, promotions, etc., while saving or even boosting your relationship with a trusted vendor.

Diversifying the supplier base

As nice as long-standing relationships with your favored vendors can be, it’s never a good idea to be over-reliant on a single supplier. Things can happen, supply chains may change abruptly, shifting market dynamics can spike prices overnight, etc.

Diversifying the supplier base provides more flexibility in procurement operations. By having multiple suppliers with varying MOQs, you can better match your order quantities to your actual needs, manage risks associated with supply chain disruptions, and potentially negotiate better terms due to increased bargaining power.

Automation pays

In modern manufacturing, order management benefits from automation as much as production planning or inventory control. Capable ERP and MRP platforms or inventory management software automate large parts of a company’s manufacturing or distribution ecosystem. While balancing MOQ requirements can be done by hand, software platforms make it easier and more accurate to set MOQs thanks to features and enhanced analytics that help decision-makers determine optimum order sizes. 

Usually, the MOQ functionality can be applied at the purchase point for vendor management as well as in setting the proper MOQ for finished goods based on near real-time data. By automating, the system does the work faster, more accurately, and with better results, freeing up time for managers to take on more complex tasks.

Key takeaways

  • Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) is a critical inventory management principle that denotes the smallest number of units a supplier is willing to sell, ensuring that the cost of production is covered and the transactions are financially viable.
  • MOQs can be simple, in which a fixed minimum quantity is set for a particular product, or more complex, wherein multiple variables such as tiered or multi-level order structures influence the order size, offering more flexibility in determining the minimum order requirement.
  • Setting an MOQ high or low can significantly impact the supply chain, inventory management, and profitability for both suppliers and buyers. A high MOQ encourages bulk purchasing and cost efficiency, while a low MOQ attracts a broader range of customers and minimizes overstocking risks.
  • The benefits of effective MOQs include healthier cash flow, lower inventory levels, reduced freight costs, and higher profits by aligning production and purchasing activities with market demand, thus achieving a balance between demand, supply, and cost management.
  • 5 tips for utilizing MOQs are understanding the type of goods being sold, engaging in effective vendor negotiation, considering higher MOQs to potentially boost turnover, diversifying the supplier base to mitigate supply chain risks, and leveraging automation through ERP and MRP platforms for accurate and efficient MOQ management.

Frequently asked questions

What is an example of a minimum order quantity?

An example of minimum order quantity would be a supplier that uses batch production setting the MOQ level to the number of units in a batch. It simply wouldn’t be financially feasible to start a production run but only sell half of its output.

What is the difference between MOQ and EOQ?

MOQ, or minimum order quantity, is the lowest quantity of a product that a supplier is willing to sell to ensure they cover production and selling costs. EOQ, or economic order quantity, is a buyer’s ideal order quantity that minimizes the combined costs of ordering and holding inventory. While MOQ focuses on the minimum selling threshold, EOQ is more about optimizing the inventory levels and related costs.

What is the formula for the minimum reorder quantity?

There is no concrete formula for finding the minimum order quantity (MOQ) because effective MOQs are dependent on the unique circumstances of a company like its market position, supplier relationships, and even strategic outlooks. In most cases, calculating MOQ should start with analyzing demand, calculating holding costs, and finding the break-even point for the product.

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Mattias MRPeasy
Mattias Turovski

Mattias is a content specialist with years of experience writing editorials, opinion pieces, and essays on a variety of topics. He is especially interested in environmental themes and his writing is often motivated by a passion to help entrepreneurs/manufacturers reduce waste and increase operational efficiencies. He has a highly informative writing style that does not sacrifice readability. Working closely with manufacturers on case studies and peering deeply into a plethora of manufacturing topics, Mattias always makes sure his writing is insightful and well-informed.

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