The new year is here and in our last blog we discussed (physical) inventory counting and the basic rules to make your life a bit easier. We have some additional tips and tricks for you and no, the abacus is not one of them ;-).
1. Orient your staffSee to it that your team is familiar with all of the steps you are taking. If you created a map, show it to them and ensure they know where people are assigned. Did you change the position of certain items or re-label boxes and sections? Tell them, or better yet, show them. Take a walk with them on the floor so they can familiarise themselves with everything. This will make the task of actually counting and reconciling much easier. Don’t assign your inventory counts to just any employee. The group conducting your stock counts should consist of seasoned employees as well as those who can provide fresh eyes. You’ll need seasoned team members, as these employees would be more familiar with your policies and the location of different items. However, someone who’s so used to your store or stockroom may overlook small issues and details, so having people who are a bit new to the team may be beneficial.
2. Prepare food and drinks for your staffWater, sodas, and a few boxes of pizza will go a long way in keeping your employees happy and efficient. Physically counting inventory is a tedious process, so you want your team to stay on top of their game. Keeping them well-fed and watered helps them do just that.
3. Map your warehouseDraw up a map of your warehouse that illustrates where your products are located.Doing so will give an at-a-glance view of your store and make it easier for you to assign people to each section so you can determine the best way to go about the counting process (i.e. where to start counting, how to move around the store). Your map can also serve as a handy checklist when you’re actually counting products. You can mark off the sections that have already been counted, making it easier to see how much you’ve completed.
4. Make use of technologyTraditionally, physical inventory counts are done with a pen and paper. The staff would use a physical inventory count sheet to tally up the products and reconcile the data in their system. While this method can get the job done, it’s highly inefficient and it requires double entry. Not to mention, since physically counting inventory is already a “manual” task as it is, the last thing you need is to manually tally and record data.
- A. APP for Handscanners Digitize the counting process with Scanner, a free mobile app that makes counting inventory a breeze. Scanner lets you do full and partial inventory counts using your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Just scan your product barcodes using your device’s camera, and the app will automatically save and record all the necessary product information. Scanner also syncs completed counts with your Vend account, so once you’re done counting, you can easily update your stock levels.
- B. RFID Need a more sophisticated tool for inventory counts? Consider RFID technology. Short for Radio Frequency Identification, RFID lets you embed chips into the packaging of your merchandise so you can easily track their location. RFID is really handy, not just from a loss prevention perspective, but also when it comes to maintaining inventory accuracy.
5. Label boxes and shelvesDon’t go into the task blind. If you’re doing a physical count of your inventory, be sure to mark the boxes or shelves in your stockroom if the products in them aren’t visible. Those loose boxes and stray pallets without a home are often the problems that come back to haunt you while you try to reconcile. Even if you must make new, temporary locations for the duration of the count, put everything in a well-marked and defined place, and leave it there.
6. Think about items that are in limboWhen planning your inventory counts, figure out how you’re going to deal with things that are in limbo. These could include merchandise in transit — such as outstanding orders from suppliers or products that have been returned. Ideally, these items should be processed and dealt with before performing the count to avoid any confusion later on.
7. Post-count: keep your inventory in checkFinished counting your stock? Take immediate steps to improve your inventory accuracy. Here’s how:
- Double-check and audit your counts ASAP It’s always a good idea to double-check your inventory numbers before updating your stock levels, to make sure everything was counted correctly. And the time to do this is right after you complete your inventory count. The information needs to be fresh in your mind, so avoid postponing your inventory checks and audits.
- Pull up inventory reports. Doing so will enable you to analyze the data and see what you can do to improve your business. This task should be straightforward if your POS or retail management system has reporting and retail analytics capabilities. Just generate the right reports and study the data for actionable insights. Alternatively, you can use a tool like Vend’s free Excel Inventory Template to gain the data and insights you need.
- Pinpoint high-risk zones. Use your inventory reports to identify high-risk zones or regions in your stores. Tell your staff about these high-risk areas and figure out how you can minimize losses in those regions.
- Compare multiple completed inventory count reports. Once you’ve completed multiple counts over a period of time, it’s beneficial to examine those reports so you can spot patterns. This will help you figure out why losses or discrepancies are taking place, so you can take preventive action for the future.Comparing past reports with current ones will also help you see if your inventory practices are working. Are discrepancies decreasing over time or not? Whatever the case, the only to find out is to compare the data.