Quick Steps to Take to Improve Your Inventory Management
Warehouse inventory management isn’t always as big of a priority as it should be. If you’re concerned about your warehouse and current inventory management procedures, here are five quick steps you can take to help improve your warehouse’s efficiency and streamline inventory management.
1. Improve Your Inventory Tracking
We’ve left behind the days of paper inventory tracking, but even modern tracking software always has room for improvement. Take a closer look at your inventory management program and see where you can improve. This might mean implementing barcode, QR code or RFID scanning for each item in your warehouse, or it could require upgrading your tracking software to better account for changes.
2. Set Strict Processing Hours
While having picking and packing quotas can help ensure your crew is working consistently throughout the day, coming in for a shift and just jumping right into picking and packing could increase inventory and packaging errors. Instead, set strict hours for processing orders. If your standard shift is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., set processing hours from 9:30 to 4:30, leaving the first and last half hour of the day for cleaning and organizing the workspace. This will help to reduce processing errors while maintaining a clean and organized workspace.
3. Implement Manual Inventory Counts
Digital inventory management software is a useful tool, but it is only as accurate as the data you put into it. With that in mind, you should implement regular manual inventory counts to ensure the inventory data in the system is accurate.
You don’t have to do this every day, though. Set up biannual or quarterly inventory counts, so you’ll never be left without a vital component when you need it just because someone didn’t scan it into the system.
4. Create an Inventory Management Flowchart
If you’ve got inventory coming and going out of your warehouse at all hours of the day, it can be hard to keep track of the process. A flowchart gives you a visualization of the process, so you can better assess the situation and figure out how to improve it the most.
For most warehouses, a flowchart would look something like this:
- Raw materials and components come into the warehouse.
- From there, the raw materials are sent out to production.
- The finished product is then sent to quality control before returning to the warehouse for storage and packaging.
- From the warehouse, the packaged products are then shipped to whichever shipping company you work with to be sent to stores and customers.
This process also serves as a tool to help you identify the individual or individuals who are responsible for each step. If one step in the flowchart seems to be lagging, you know who to go to for ideas or improvements.
5. Reorganize Your Warehouse
Organizing your warehouse by each piece’s item number might make restocking your shelves quicker, but it isn’t as efficient as it could be. Take the time to reorganize your warehouse so the items you sell more often are closer to your picking stations, and the things you don’t need as often are further away. It will take some getting used to, but it will help to improve your overall efficiency and make inventory management easier.
Start by moving the less-frequently ordered pieces further away from your picking and packing stations. From there, you can move more popular items closer to the stations, reducing the distance your pickers need to travel to complete an order. This isn’t something you need to do all at once, either — you can do it in small stages and still be effective. Just make sure to let your crew know when you’re moving something, so they can find it without too much difficulty.
Inventory management in a warehouse setting is essential to keeping things running smoothly. These five steps are quick and easy, and you can accomplish them without making too many changes to your current inventory management processes. The goal here is to take what you have and reorganize it into something that allows you to maximize efficiency while keeping careful track of your on-hand inventory. Be sure to take time to consider how these steps apply to your facility and choose which ones you can quickly adapt to your processes.
Megan Ray Nichols
STEM Writer & Blogger
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