You may think that warehouse inventory management is the practice of arranging your inventory so that it can be found quickly. But, there is more to it than that. Good warehouse organization is not only about putting everything in its place. Let me explain, it’s about maximizing productivity while saving time and money to increase inventory accuracy.
For example, some practices like labeling are intuitive and can be done without the use of software. But, practices like using bar codes and scanners are a part of a warehouse and inventory management system. These systems focus on the flow and accuracy of product inventory.
Today, I’m sharing some helpful tips on how to manage inventory. Keep reading to learn how to improve a warehouse’s performance with or without software.
1 | Good warehouse inventory management starts with upkeep
Firstly, make sure your warehouse meets your current standards. To do this, you should inspect your operation and organization regularly.
Ask questions like: is the stock located so you can easily and safely access it? Are “hot” sku’s between waist and shoulder height so that they can be picked quickly? Is there an area in your warehouse for damaged items? Are damaged items being dealt with daily?
I’m sure you know: an organized warehouse can quickly become a disorganized mess. A mess is undesirable because it can slow your pickers down. In conclusion, you should reorganize before your operations slow down. Also, you should have a daily checklist for the manager to stay on top of tasks. Make sure you hold him or her responsible for the warehouse. Click here to learn more about warehouse optimization.
2 | Know your high sellers
Next, place your high volume items closer to the shipping area. Make sure they are easily accessible – you’ll eliminate a lot of unnecessary labor time. However, this should only apply to your proven top sellers to avoid unnecessary physical inventory re-allocation.
If you really want to pinpoint what your high sellers are use a tool like SkuVault’s Reporting Feature. This feature allows you to pull aggregated data using advanced settings. Then, you can filter by brand, class, and supplier to help you to notice patterns and make more informed decisions about both purchasing and warehouse placement.
3 | Utilize cycle counts
Don’t wait until the annual physical inventory count comes to perform regular inventory control audits. Perform cycle counts and analyze their discrepancies to perfect the time it should take you to go through all locations. For those of you who don’t know, cycle counting is a type of perpetual inventory counting that takes places in waves over time. Only small subsets of inventory are counted during each wave. It’s good to have cycle counts go through all locations every quarter so that you have a more accurate back-office system. Check out our article on improving your cycle count procedure if this sounds daunting to you!
4 | Minimize unauthorized traffic
Do you ever notice someone walking around your warehouse and think, who is this guy? A new hire? A lost pizza delivery kid looking for your shipping office? Someone from customer service picking something they shouldn’t? Eliminate the risk of having unauthorized people walking around the place where your inventory is stashed. Give your employees some kind of an identifier (like special t-shirts) that can distinguish those working in the warehouse and those that shouldn’t.
5 | Make room for receiving
A lot of inventory errors can happen at receiving if your inventory management personnel don’t have enough space to work. However, you can prevent receiving errors by giving them a small office at the end of the room. Eliminating receiving errors will relieve you from losing time, money, and credibility.
6 | Label everything
Do you have any product in your warehouse without labels? Put labels on ’em to make it easier for pickers to choose the right inventory. It’s all about reducing errors. You can avoid future trouble by taking some simple preventative measures.
For example, you can either come up with your own labeling system and purchase thermal printing labels to print them on, or you can use a labeling software. SkuVault allows you to print out your product and location labels. With SkuVault, You can also determine what gets put on your labels so that you can customize them to fit your exact needs.
7 | Implement quality control
Avoid having to fix your mistakes after the fact by double checking your orders. This is called quality control and it adds another layer of responsibility. The process usually involves checking a picked item against an order to make sure it’s the correct SKU and quantity. Meanwhile, QC can also check the item for damage to make sure that it is being shipped in it’s advertised condition and that the customer receiving it will be happy. Now, get one of your veterans to do this and you can save your business a lot of money.
8 | Practice priority picking
A nice trick we’ve learned over the years is to create colored orders or pick lists. These will help your material handlers identify the products that go to your most valuable customers because they can observe the color priority.
9 | Finish right, start tight
Give your warehouse crew the chance to finish order processing and clean up before they clock out. You’ll need to schedule a time to stop processing orders, maybe 30 minutes before the end of the day, and allocate the remaining time specifically for cleaning. By the end of the day, your warehouse will be organized and your inventory will be right where it belongs, instead of just lying around waiting for the next day to start in disarray. Compare how fast your employees will clean up at the end of their day versus how slow it will get done in the morning.
10 | Work on warehouse organization
You know how in libraries / bookstores / movie rentals / shoe stores / any place that houses a large inventory of product for rent or sale, everything is neatly categorized and the sections are clearly labeled so as to assist customers in finding what they’re looking for? Yeah. That’s super convenient. Make signs and labels to direct your personnel through your warehouse and help them find the inventory fast and easy, and ideally without having to continually bother supervisors by asking for directions.
BONUS | Use a warehouse management software (WMS)
Finally, when you’re ready to put it all together and take your warehouse operations to the next level, consider a warehouse management software like SkuVault. And just what can you do with a WMS? Warehouse management software allows you to use barcode scanners with barcode labels to ensure that you can locate any product in your warehouse at any time. With a software like SkuVault, you know that the quantities listed in all of your marketplaces are completely accurate.
Warehouse inventory management doesn’t have to feel like a never-ending cycle of receiving, picking, packing, and shipping with no method to the madness. If you take the time now to put warehouse organization into practice on a daily basis, it can actually feel quite refreshing. Operations can run smoothly, products can get picked faster, and employees can be happier with the right tools and techniques. So don’t wait, make the decision and take the steps to improve your warehouse inventory management today!