Warehouse Inventory Management: Perfecting Your Process
Warehouse inventory management goes beyond just keeping tabs on where your inventory is located around your warehouse. It’s your lifeblood. Proper warehouse inventory management means utilizing what you have to keep your business operating at its peak efficiency; saving time, and money.
Labeling, barcode scanning, and proper and efficient product placement are all key concepts you should understand if you want top performance. It’s not an absolute requirement to have a software to help manage your warehouse, though it does provide substantial help, especially if you have multiple warehouses.
Regardless, this article should provide you with some info whether you’re using a software or not to manage your online or offline business.
This is easily one of the simplest (not easiest) things you can do to make your warehouse management system extremely efficient. If you’re tracking your orders (made much easier with an order management software), you should have a good idea of which of your products are the top sellers, and which particular customers buy the most if you’re in the repeat business, at least we’d hope.
With this information, you can strategically place your products in your warehouse in a way that allows you to get to them the fastest, and have them shipped out equally as quick. It’s a good idea to map out your warehouses floor plan on the basis of product importance, with the top selling products being the most easily accessible.
Using a reporting module to pull up aggregated data can easily give you the info you need to make informed decisions regarding high volume sellers. An inventory management software can also allow you to “map out” your warehouse so you know where every product is located both in your system and physically on the floor.
Question to ask yourself:
- When was the last time we did a profit/loss report for individual products?
- Has my product offering changed in the last year?
- Do my best sellers have seasonal trends?
- Are my best sellers located in the best position in the warehouse?
2 | Evaluate Your Design
Having your warehouse(s) clean and organized is essential. No one wants a cramped and disorganized warehouse, least of all your employees who have to rummage through it and grab products/stock. A disorganized warehouse isn’t only an eyesore, but it can also increase the risk of human error in stock counts, as well as increases the potential risk of injury. You always want to look to the future when designing your layout.
Question to ask yourself:
- If our sales increased by 20% in the next month, would we have room for the new inventory?
- Where would we put it?
- If this were to happen, what’s the best way to organize the warehouse in such a way that makes it efficient to handle this new increase in sales?
You want your warehouse to help you, not hinder you. Everything you can do to make your warehouse more organized means you can save time. Sure, organizing it now might be a pain, but just think of the time savings it’ll bring you in the future.
If you are using a software, then it’s beneficial to map out your floor plan with it to keep it organized.
How can you ensure items aren’t lost, misplaced, or accidentally sold?
With barcode labels!
Your warehouse management should involve you tracking each item in your warehouse by assigning specific barcode labels to them. This ensures you know where it’s located in your warehouse, as well as allowing you to scan these products in and out of your system.
As your business (and inventory) grows, it’s essential that you know exactly what’s entering and leaving your warehouse, as well as where everything is located. An effective warehouse inventory management solution should have the capability to create barcodes and should integrate with scanners to control the flow of your inventory.
4 | Authorized Personnel
While you should know who has access to your warehouse physically, you also want to ensure that the appropriate staff have access to your digital warehouse if you’re using a warehouse management solution.
An effective warehouse management solution should have different logins for different users with the ability to set restrictions to their respective accounts to limit access to their specific roles. For example, only people who stock/pull items from your warehouse should be able to access the warehouse management portion of your software.
Questions to ask yourself:
- (If applicable) Which employees have the ability to access our warehouse management software?
- If we have terminated any employees, have we made sure to delete their accounts so they can’t access the system any more?
- Do we have a system in place to limit system access if using a system?
5 | Have Fail safes
Picture this: You hired a new part-time employee, Mark, your nephew, who just finished Grade 11 and was looking for a job to keep himself occupied over the summer. You hired Mark because you needed someone to pull customer orders from the shelves and package them up to get ready to be received and shipped out by your shipping/receiving personnel.
On his second week of the job, a customer order comes through that tells him he needs to go to the back of your warehouse to pull the iPad from the second shelf. Mark goes to the back and checks the second shelf and sees two iPads. He grabs the one on the right because they’re in identical boxes and he figures they’re the same and packages it up and it gets shipped out the same day.
What Mark doesn’t know is that he just packaged up the brand new iPad instead of the refurbished one that the customer had actually purchased. Maybe Mark didn’t see the “refurbished” in the order slip, but all the same, you’re now out $300.
What could have prevented this? Besides slowing down and actually reading the orders, having a failsale measure can save you from simple human errors like this.
Let’s revisit this scenario assuming this warehouse has proper failsafe measures in place.
Mark goes to the second shelf and sees the two identical looking iPad boxes. He scans the one on the right (we just talked about having barcode scanners and labels in place, right?), and the scanner beeps and gives him an error because this product is not associated with this order. Ah, right, that’s the brand new one. Now he scans the one on the left and it registers all clear and it’s ready to be packaged and shipped.
What fail safe mechanisms do you have in place currently?
If your business is growing to the point where you find it difficult to manage your warehouse and the inventory in it, it’s probably time to utilize a warehouse management software. Managing your warehouse can become increasingly complex as your orders/inventory increase, and multiple warehouses increases the complexities of this greatly.
If you’re at this point with your business, this is a good problem to have. But, you want to deal with this problem while it’s still manageable to keep your customers happy.
What you should look for in a warehouse management system:
- Ability to manage multiple warehouses and sync inventory
- Create custom storage locations
- Ability to assign inventory to locations in your warehouse for easy order management
- Ability to utilize barcode scanners and print labels
- User access restrictions
Wrapping It Up
Worrying about your warehouse should not be a priority in your business. Of course, you want to make sure it’s handled, but you need to be focusing on growing your business and selling first and foremost.
Making sure you have an effective warehouse management solution in place before you scale your business ensures that you and your team can keep up with the demand for more orders and inventory. Don’t wait until the last moment when it’s already too late. Get started now rather than later and you’ll be thanking yourself.