Best Practices for Performing Inventory Cycle and Physical Counts

Best Practices for Performing Inventory Cycle and Physical Counts


Cycle counting is a perpetual form of inventory auditing procedure. To clarify, cycle counting is a way to audit a smaller subset of your inventory is audited in a specified location on a specified day. This happens continuously, dependent upon the amount of inventory you have in stock. The cycle count process could take anywhere from a week to several months.

Physical counting, on the other hand, is a process of counting the entire inventory in a facility and correcting inaccuracies in inventory records. This is a much more invasive process that halts all production, unlike a cycle count which can be performed as a daily task.

The purpose of a cycle count is to account for discrepancies between the quantities you should have (and in eCommerce, these are the quantities available for purchase on your online marketplaces) and the quantities that are actually physically present in your warehouse. In order to maximize the value of the audit and minimize the pain of the physical count, we recommend performing at least four full cycle counts per year.

Best practices in Inventory Cycle Counting that can make the process more effective:

1. Your facility should schedule cycle counting to be a part of the normal operations of the facility.

2. Schedule cycle counting frequently. The higher the frequency of cycle counting, the higher will be the accuracy of inventory and lower will be the inventory write-offs.

3. Properly classify items into ABC groups. In addition, you should review your classification periodically (monthly/ quarterly). Generally accepted rules of thumb are that Group A should comprise of about top 70% of inventory value, group B next 15% and Group C the bottom 15% of inventory value.

4. The assignment of dedicated cycle count teams allows the company to train a number of individuals to perform these tasks. The size of the team will be dependent on the size and complexity of a company’s inventory. A large organization could have a cycle count team of several full-time employees. However, a smaller organization could have as few as two employees that perform cycle counts for a small part of their work day.

5. Products should be counted at least once every quarter.

6. Two separate individuals should count the products, and a blind comparison of their counts should be made before adjustments are recorded.

7. Before cycle counting is performed, all open transactions such as receiving, shipping, WIP, should be closed out for the items that are selected for cycle counting.

8. You can prevent errors by investigating sources of error. It is crucial to identify and fix process or training issues that cause inventory errors.

9. You should track inventory accuracy metrics over time. In addition, you can set targets for inventory accuracy.

10. Coordination of activities of items being counted is critical in cycle counting.

11. Cycle counting should be done at the start of the day before the operations of the facility have begun in full-swing.

12. Cycle counting process should be well-defined and documented.

Let us do the cycle counting for you.

SkuVault’s automated inventory management features are designed to increase cycle count accuracy. Learn how today.


Best practices in Physical Counting or Physical Inventory that can improve the effectiveness of cycle counting:

1. You should carry out a mock count during the planning stage of the physical counting to accurately estimate the time and resources required.

2. Inform suppliers, customers and production should about the physical counting schedule so that any adjustments to supply can be made in advance.

3. Conduct physical counting of slow-moving SKUs a few days before the actual counting takes place to minimize the amount of time the facility has to be shut down for the physical inventory.

4. Before undertaking the physical counting, dispose of all defective and obsolete inventories so that the time spent on this process is reduced.

5. Do not display the economic values of SKU quantities during counting.

6. Designated counting areas are the basis for count team assignments and for monitoring the progress of the inventory.

7. Proper equipment as well as specialized devices should be made available.

8. Make sure to train your staff in physical counting activities to ensure the smooth progress of the counting.

9. Ideally, operations should cease completely for the count. At least, the movement of the materials should be minimized and well documented to ensure the items are not double-counted or conversely, omitted altogether.

10. Systems staff should be available for support if system issues are encountered during physical counting activities.

[Click here to learn 8 tips to adjust your cycle count procedure]

How SkuVault Helps with Cycle Counting

SkuVault’s auditing feature allows you to add or remove products from a location, as well as to bulk move products from one location to another, print all products in a location, and perform a complete recount of all products in a location, wherein you simply scan over the existing items, replacing them with the new SKUs.

After a recount, SkuVault generates an audit report, which shows the discrepancies between what you ought to have in stock versus what you actually have in stock. And, paired with our transactions reports and user tracking, it’s simple to see what went wrong, and who’s responsible.

Increased cycle counts means fewer physical counts, which means fewer man hours and more sales. Further, messy inventory is inaccurate inventory, and inaccurate inventory leads to

  • Oversells
  • Undersells
  • Stock lying around the warehouse not listed on your online channels

A well-executed cycle and physical counting program can lead to significant reductions in operational and inventory carrying costs. In conclusion,
increasing inventory accuracy can reduce safety stock levels. As a result, reducing inventory carrying costs. Try out some of the tips – and if you have any more, let us know in the comments!

Cycle Count Reporting

SkuVault’s Cycle Count reporting allows you to mark locations as “Counted.” This enables you to run the report to search for locations that have not been previously counted and allows you to be more efficient by not recounting locations multiple times.

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