Who loves stocktakes? No matter how good your automated systems are, you still have to send people to do physical stocktaking from time to time. Otherwise-productive employees are put to work making sure your stock is adequate to your needs and that the numbers your computer is giving you really are correct.
Thank goodness, most businesses do have technologies that can help with getting the numbers recorded and into the system automatically. But even with help from software that captures results instantly, there’s still a lot of work involved. Can you cut down on the time you need for your stocktake and manage your inventory better? Here are some basic ideas that may help you.
1. Multipurpose Materials
Are you holding two or more products in stock when one would do the job? Look for ways to multipurpose. For example, kerosene has many uses. If you’re already using it as fuel, you might be able to replace some of your cleaning agents with kerosene, and for each one you eliminate, there’s one less thing to buy and keep track of. Look for things that can be repurposed to fill a variety of different needs without sacrificing efficacy, and you could improve efficiency.
2. Get Rid of Dead Stock
Are you taking up space and using stocktaking time monitoring things nobody wants or needs? It’s time to get brutal and ditch those “maybe someone will need it someday” items you have drifting around in your store. Apart from adding to stocktaking blues, these items, and the space they occupy, need regular maintenance. Forever falling over those boxes of labels that don’t fit your printer? Hanging on to discontinued packaging supplies? It’s time to clean the house! Find a use for them now, or get rid of them.
3. Categorize your Inventory
Messy stores account for a lot of wasted time and effort. Whether you’re dealing with a storeroom or retail floor, be sure to keep stock orderly so that the stocktaking process can go smoothly. Apart from keeping items of one particular kind together, organize stock into categories – this not only helps the stocktake but also makes things easier when drawing items from stores in the course of regular business. It will take some planning, and you might find it necessary to reorganize periodically, usually just before your next stocktake, but it’s worth the effort.
4. Eliminate Unnecessary Duplication
There’s a fine line between convenience and unnecessary duplication of stores. While you do want to make it easy for each department to access the things they need to get the job done, having multiple “mini-stores” holding the same items will make stocktaking much more difficult. Centralized inventory stores will often hold less inventory at a time than several, decentralized stores will, are easier to manage, and easier to take stock of.
5. Escape Pen and Paper Systems if Possible
The bad old days of stocktaking meant juggling clipboards, pens, and calculators. Once the data was collected, it still needed to be input into a central system by a clerk or team of clerks. If it’s at all feasible, consider switching over to an inventory management system that uses scanners and barcodes. It takes a lot of the time and hassle out of the stock counting process and will reduce the number of opportunities for errors to slip in. If it isn’t feasible to use barcodes, ensure that stock lists are well-organized so that employees can easily find the correct place to enter information as they gather it.
5. Train Your Staff
Stocktaking may seem like a simple process: count items, write down the total, and move on to the next one. But there are many additional things your staff needs to know. For example, when counting materials stored in cartons, should they open the box to verify its contents or not? What should they do if they find damaged items? What system should they follow to ensure that nothing is missed or counted twice? Mistakes and variances make even more work, so getting it right the first time means ensuring that everyone knows what to do and how to do it.
6. Implement Cycle Counting
Getting over the rough ground of taking inventory could be a simple matter of splitting up the job into sensible chunks. Instead of counting everything on the same day, inventory checks can be divided up over a period of time. Or, when you’re fairly confident that current inventory records are accurate, could even consist of counting a sample to see if it’s consistent with what would be expected. There are several approaches to this method of checking stock, and not all of them may be suitable for your context. Nevertheless, it’s worth looking into, especially since it can eliminate the need to halt operations during stocktakes.
7. Analyze Results
When analyzing the results of a stocktake, you aren’t just looking for variances between what should be there and what actually is in storage. You’re also looking for wastage that you may be able to eliminate in the future. So, apart from trying to solve the mystery of “missing” items, you’re also looking for spoilage or damage, identifying its cause, and trying to address it. Did you buy too much of a particular supply? Are handling and storage practices causing damage? Do you need to tighten up access control? Sometimes, a few simple changes to the way your business works can solve potentially costly problems that place your inventory at risk.