Warehouse Inventory Management
Warehouses can be several football fields long with miles of walkways between the shelves. Your collective inventory within these areas must be organized with today’s modern tools and methods. Keep up with IMDG Code 2022-2024 regulations and follow these best practices for improved warehouse inventory management. Reduced loss and improved profits may be in your business’s future.
Tip 1: Creating Space
A warehouse is a complex maze of aisles and shelving. These items must be spaced just right in order to facilitate easy picking and to maintain optimal safety measures.
Compare your inventory’s physical size to the aisle’s width, for example. Employees must be able to efficiently move items from the shelves, through the aisles and into the shipping area. If there are forklifts and other machinery in play, calculate their sizes compared to the aisle’s dimensions, too. You need to strike a balance between having too much space or too little so that you can stock everything without hindering inventory movement.
Tip 2: Provide Time
Improve your warehouse inventory management by focusing on the human element. Employees shouldn’t be picking, sorting and shipping until the very end of the workday.
Ideally, they should have some downtime near the end of the day. For example, the last 30 minutes of the workday can be dedicated to cleaning up the shipping and receiving area. Allow them to finish off those administrative duties that can add up to a more accurate inventory count at quarter end. This cleanup time is valuable to your bottom line and employees’ mental well-being.
Tip 3: Prioritize Labeling
There shouldn’t be any item in the warehouse without a label or SKU number. Proper labeling keeps your inventory in order and counted. For those items that are incredibly small, such as fasteners, consider storage lockers and cabinets with labels on each door.
Today’s warehouses depend on these labels so that they can be scanned by employees each day. Inventory loss is inevitable when an item becomes misplaced without a label. Any inbound inventory shouldn’t leave receiving’s desk without a label.
Tip 4: Amp Up Security
Inventory management is inherently difficult if there’s a potential theft. Businesses must be aware of how they can control theft on a daily basis. For larger facilities, assign uniforms to the employees. These color-coded outfits can be easily seen on the warehouse floor, which tells managers if those employees are meant to be there or not.
Think about using ID cards to scan people in and out of the warehouse area, too. When employees are held accountable, theft can be brought under control.
Tip 5: Know Your Bestsellers
Improve your inventory management by simplifying the shipping process. Every company has a set of bestselling items. Place these items on shelves that are easy to pick from, such as at a waist-height level. These shelves should also be near the shipping desk.
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Your employees will maintain peak productivity when bestsellers are easy to access. You’ll also have a quick view of supply levels. If any items are growing low in stock, you can immediately reorder them.
Tip 6: Try Cycle Counting
Inventory counts control loss, but they can take away from productivity. Conduct physical counts each year while adding in cycle counting each quarter. Cycle counting requires a count of a certain area in your inventory. Each quarter might involve a different area, which allows you to get an idea of how well the inventory is being managed at a given time.
Your warehouse operations can continue to operate with periodic cycle counts. Catch any missing inventory faster with this method.
Tip 7: Explore Cross-docking
Every warehouse is unique to its industry. Your facility might hold items for a few days or several months. If possible, explore the concept of cross-docking. This management method involves receiving inventory from your supplier and immediately shipping it out to its final destination. There’s no stocking process at your warehouse. The facility is simply a transition point.
Your business moves inventory without loss when you utilize cross-docking. Although this method may not be possible in every industry, it’s worth the effort to consider its possibilities.
Tip 8: Use and Update Inventory Software
Inventory software keeps track of every item in your warehouse. Every manager should be familiar and comfortable with this software. Train all employees on the software whenever possible, too. Between inventory counts and software management, your warehouse can be organized and profitable.
Don’t overlook software updates, either. Without the updates, glitches and software crashes are real possibilities.
Tip 9: Keep Up With FIFO
Regardless of the inventory type, warehouse management must prioritize FIFO or first in/first out practices. Organize your warehouse so that the oldest stock moves out the door before a new batch. Manufacturing dates, serial numbers and other tracking numbers will have a logical flow with this method.
FIFO is especially important when it comes to items with expiration dates. Inventory loss is substantial if items expire before they even leave the facility.
Tip 10: Experiment With Picking Strategies
Improvements might be made with just a simple adjustment to your picking strategies. Piece picking may be taking too long as your warehouse grows in size, for instance. Try batch picking, where an employee only picks from a select number of SKUs. Zone picking might work for an even larger facility. Employees pick items from their assigned zone and pass them on to shipping.
Experiment with a mixture of these picking strategies to see what works for your company. Shaving a few minutes off your picking times each day can add up to enhanced productivity.
Inventory Management Improvements Take Time
Every small change in your management style can slowly improve a business’s bottom line. Communicate with your team about these changes while providing feedback on their achievements. Successful warehouse inventory management processes can make a big difference in a company’s financial goals.