Many businesses dread stock take time. At best, the stock take is an expensive, time consuming exercise in confirming what a business already expects: that the stock in a warehouse matches the stock the business has on its books. At worst, it reveals systematic inventory issues, unexplainable variances or much more loss and damage than the business expects. In reality, stock take time is an opportunity to physically inspect the health of one of your business' biggest assets. Here are some hacks to make the most out of the stock take.
Don’t Conduct a Stock Take Too Often
Although stock taking is not as burdensome as many businesses believe, it is costly and time consuming especially given a proper stock take will usually involve shutting down operations for a day or counting after business closes for the day. Stock taking is more helpful when done as an annual health check and data validation exercise rather than a way to query inventory levels each month. In practice, this means you should look into a real-time, perpetual inventory system rather than a periodic inventory count. Carrying out a single stock take each year means your team is more likely to be engaged in the process. Because the interruption is a one off, you can also afford to carry out a more thorough stock take.
Plan and Organise
An ad hoc stock take is a poor idea, and is a sign that your business is not managing inventory well. Plan your stock take well ahead of time by identifying a non-disruptive time outside of core business hours and ensuring that staff (and potentially key customers) are aware of the date and time. You should also put together a map or plan of the stock take area and work out which staff will be responsible for which tasks.
Brief Your Staff Well
Especially if you take stock infrequently, many of your staff are likely to be unfamiliar with the process. To avoid unnecessary recounting, ensure that your staff are briefed on exactly what you need them to do. In a comprehensive stock take, the briefing should address common misconceptions, for example, staff should be aware that they need to count every item in a labelled box unless the box is factory sealed. Staff should also be briefed on the plan to prevent some rows being counted twice and others from not being counted at all.
Record Stock Condition, Not Just Stock Counts
One way to add value to the traditional stock take is to use it as an opportunity to keep tabs on the condition of your inventory. If your business produces or sells slow moving, durable goods, pay close attention to the effects of long term storage on your inventory, and particularly in extreme climates, this might involve checking for moisture or heat damage. Equally, businesses that use or sell perishable products should use stock taking as a chance to make sure that older product is being used first and that there is no expired product on the shelves. Carrying out this type of due diligence ensures that every person with an inventory responsibility is performing his or her role well.