Every year our business does what would be called a “physical inventory count.” To me, just looking at those three little words seems daunting. Last year, myself and five other co-workers braved the warehouse shelves in order to update our product inventory count. As a small business, this is important for us to do in order to keep an accurate count of inventory we have. However, since it can be extremely time consuming, here are a few tips for you to consider before diving into the inventory trenches!
- Set a Date - As some of you may have found out the hard way, taking inventory is not something you want to do randomly one day when you may have nothing else to do. Since taking inventory takes a lot of time, it is important to set a date in the coming days or months that can give you time to make a plan.
- All Hands on Deck - Setting a date and planning ahead is important, but if you don’t check to make sure your fellow department co-workers are at work that day…good luck doing it on your own! Check the company calendar and make sure you set the physical inventory count on a day that all members can be there!
- Be One with Your Warehouse - Now that you have a date set on a day that people will actually be at work to help you, it is important to know your way around in your warehouse. Just because you have a group of co-workers ready to dive in, if you have no plan of action, the only physical thing happening will be chaos. Go through each isle and figure out how you want to sort or section out the different parts of inventory before you start the process. For us, we have found that having the product sorted by manufacturer makes it easy to find what you need. Using labels as a visual marker can also be a huge help as well.
- Assign, Assign, Assign! - Now that you have set a date, have co-workers to help, and labeling in the warehouse, assign each person or persons to a row or isle that they can be in charge of. When you are dealing with thousands of products, organizing and assigning a section to each group of people will help the counting go quickly. If you release your team to the warehouse without an action plan, chaos is inevitable.
- Technology - Now that all the working pieces are in place, you need a way to capture the information! For most, it’s all going to be inputted into a computer. As silly as it may sound, it can be easy to miss the importance of how you will be capturing the data. It would also be best to leave a column for notes, in case you run into “problem” products, like those without defined brand names or model #s.
- Pro-nun-ci-ate - I can not tell you how many times this last year we all spent yelling back and forth at each other because the person taking down the numbers could not understand the person reading off of the labels. Add in a few passing trains and deliveries from FedEx and UPS and you have a mass reverberating chaos of sound. Make sure if you are the person the information is coming from, to pronunciation each word and letter very clearly so that the receiver isn’t asking you to repeat yourself a hundred times.
- Team Huddle - Now that you are ready and have communicated all the necessary information about to your team, take a moment to encourage them! Let them know to be quick but efficient. Most importantly though, let them know that if they find a product out of place or with an incorrect label to get it down on the computer, move it to the correct section.
- Sound the Alarm - Make sure you let the rest of your office and your customers know that you are doing a physical inventory count! For most of us this will take up an entire morning if not longer. By letting the rest of your co-workers and customers know, it will cut down on questions regarding inventory quantity. Also, your fellow co-workers won’t have to wonder where everyone is when they see an entire department gone from their desks and no where to be found!
What about you? Do you have any tips that weren't listed here, that help when doing an inventory? Make sure to leave them in the comments!