One of the constant challenges that warehouses face is managing and maintaining an accurate count of all of their inventory. Not only do you have to keep track of everything on the floor, but you also have to manage what is being picked and shipped, as well as what is coming in. Because there are so many moving parts, many warehouses fall behind and are unable to stay on top of everything.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. We’ve learned from industry leaders about how to properly manage all inventory from receiving to shipping. While it may seem like a lot of changes to implement, the fact is that even if you make incremental adjustments to your operations, you can get huge benefits. So, with that in mind, here are what the experts are saying.
Use RFID Tags
This is one of the simplest and most effective tools that you can have at your disposal. However, many warehouses are reluctant to start using these tags because of all of the infrastructure that goes along with it (scanners, wireless network, etc.). However, if you really want to be accurate with your inventory, then this is the best way to do it. Top level companies have jumped on the RFID bandwagon because it reduces errors and streamlines the inventory process so significantly.
Here are the steps you need to take to get started with RFID.
- Tag All Products: you should be able to find a company that can produce as many tags as you need to get all of your inventory up to date.
- Buy RFID Scanners: make sure that there are enough for pickers and loaders to have one handy.
- Set Up a Wireless Network: you should be connecting all of your devices to a central system anyway, so this can help you move that process along. Make sure that your routers are laid out so that there are no dead zones on the floor.
- Create a Back-of-House Management System: as items are scanned, you should be able to see them in real-time, as well as monitor their position on the floor. This way you can see items as they are scanned in on the loading dock, put away, and then scanned out when picked.
For many companies, they go by SKU rather than individual barcodes or tags. However, this is a mistake as it doesn’t provide you with an accurate picture of what is on the floor at any given time. As such, you need to tag each product as it’s own item so that you can get more precise inventory numbers and make decisions accordingly. This is particularly helpful for retailers as it will ensure that you know how many of each product is on display at any given time. When it comes to the bottom line, accuracy matters.
Improve Stocking Techniques and Eliminate Shrinkage
Many companies lose money every year to items being stolen, misplaced, or lost entirely. RFID tags can help eradicate this problem by making it easier to be as accurate as possible, but another step will be to reconfigure your stock in such a way that nothing is out of place. Too often, warehouses will go based on convenience rather than following operational procedures, so it’s imperative that you go by the book when stocking your products so that nothing goes missing. If you can reduce shrinkage, you will vastly improve your bottom line.
Train Employees Thoroughly
One of the biggest problems with taking inventory is that staff members usually hate having to do it. This is especially true in a retail setting, as many times they are interrupted by customers and have to resume counting after multiple breaks in concentration.
One way to help alleviate this problem is to make the job as streamlined and easy as possible (with scanners) and also by keeping employees properly trained on accuracy. Be sure to let them know how important accurate numbers are to the bottom line and the company as a whole. If they don’t care about it, then you will get plenty of mistakes.
Keep Your Inventory Balanced
The more data you have regarding how fast products move, the better you can be about keeping only what you need at any given time. Many problems occur when you have too many products cluttering up the stock area, which makes it harder for pickers and loaders to do their job. In this case, having a comprehensive back-of-house system with RFID tags should enable you to get a refined sense of how much stock you can have on hand to keep up with demand.
This means that you should be able to avoid running out of products as well as overstocking on anything. In the end, by making your warehouse as lean as possible, you can make it as streamlined as possible.
Prioritize Your Inventory
If you have certain products that are making up the majority of your sales, then you should have employees focus their attention on them first and then everything else afterward. By prioritizing items based on your ROI, you can reduce time spent on lower level items that don’t move as quickly.
Essentially, you can create a rolling inventory system where top tier products are counted on a constant basis, whereas bottom level items are counted less often. This will enable you to focus your energy on profitability as well as accurate management.