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Physical inventory count: three words even the most experienced warehouse manager dreads to hear.

Even with the best will in the world, sometimes things don’t always go to plan, and many warehouse managers find themselves experiencing the same common pitfalls.

Read on for the 7 deadly sins to avoid during your physical inventory count.

 

Sin #1 – Focus on the negatives

First things first – look on the bright side! Although pain, stress and time are commonly associated with stock taking, believe it or not there are some benefits to keeping on top of your inventory. Counting your inventory gives you the chance to reconcile physical stock to the stock levels in your WMS system, identify variances, and discover issues with stock management and control. Which in the long run can all lead to cost savings for your business.

 

Sin #2 – Don’t organise your warehouse

Remove some of the pain of inventory counting by maintaining a well-organised warehouse. Sounds simple but keeping your warehouse clean and tidy with easily identifiable stock items doesn’t only help during counts, day-to-day activities such as picking orders and putting away deliveries also become easier. Think well labelled inventory areas, clear signage and item descriptions. And if an area doesn’t have any stock – label it with what will be there in the future.

 

Sin #3 – Fail to prepare

The old saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to gearing up for a physical inventory count.

Schedule your count way in advance, and let your customers, suppliers and production team know about your plans so any adjustments to supply can be with as much notice as possible, and employees can prepare for the count. If you have time, try a practice run to help estimate the time and resource needed for the actual count.

 

Sin #4 – Avoid using technology

Why count inventory items by hand when technology can do the job for you? The monotonous nature of inventory counting can lead to miscounts and reworks. If the items you’re counting are identical and have a fixed or known weight (i.e. components or parts), think about using a digital counting scale in place of counting by hand.

 

Sin #5 – Assume your team’s experience

Make sure your employees know what’s expected of them. Start by splitting your workforce down and give them specific areas to work on. If your warehouse is huge, draw up a map of the warehouse which shows where items are located (this also makes it easier to assign people to each section), or even better, physically show your team where the items are located.

Give stock takers clear guidance on the way they should count i.e. start at the top shelf and work your way down, left to right. And get supervisors to spot check certain areas to ensure maximum levels of accuracy and avoid reworks further down the line.

 

Sin #6 – Drag it out

Despite the mammoth task involved, don’t spend longer on your inventory count than you need to. There are many ways to minimise downtime and disruption such as bringing in extra labour, holding a count after normal working hours, or using counting technology which can cut your auditing time by up to half.

 

Sin #7 – Trust the labels

As keen as you and your team might be to finish, never try to speed the process up by trusting what’s on the label of a box or guesstimating quantities. Don’t cut corners - open, count and record everything. Yes, we know this is time consuming, but you’ll thank us later!