Every product-based business needs to count stock — no matter how sophisticated your inventory management is. Find out everything you need to know about stocktaking here.

What is stocktaking?

Stocktaking (or stock counting) is when you manually record all the inventory that your business currently has on hand. It’s a vital part of your inventory control, but will also affect your purchasing, production and sales. Much like any aspect of inventory, the process of stocktaking will vary hugely from company to company.

Businesses employing a periodic inventory management system, for example, are entirely reliant on stocktakes to get visibility over current levels. For these companies, recording stock can mean closing for a day or requiring staff to come in after hours. A perpetual system, meanwhile, should take some of the onus off stocktaking: making the process a little less disruptive.

Why are stocktakes important?

Any inventory-based business will need to ensure that their levels are 100% accurate from time to time. Here are 3 key reasons why.

1. See how well you’re tracking inventory

Relying entirely on your inventory system for accurate stock levels is usually a bad idea. By comparing the figures from a stocktake to what you thought you had on hand, you can identify any discrepancies and fix them before they become problematic.

2. Discover stock issues

Cloud software enables you to easily track your inventory levels and location, but it can’t do everything. Use a stocktake to identify any problems that your inventory management system might have missed: such as damaged products, missing orders, poor control or theft.

3. Ensure your business is meeting targets

When it comes to monitoring the performance of your business, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Regular stocktakes give you maximum peace of mind, as you can be 100% that your business is running well.

How to stocktake

There are a few steps that every business should follow when counting stock.

Beforehand, for example, you’ll need to cut off all purchases and sales. Otherwise, the incoming and outgoing stock will play havoc with your figures. And once the tally is complete, you’ll need to set aside time to resolve any discrepancies: even ones that work out in your favour.

Watch Greg Murphy, Unleashed’s Founder and Channel Manager, discuss his essential steps.

How often should you count stock?

The frequency of your stocktakes should be a key consideration when choosing an inventory management system — but how do you decide how regular your counts should be?

The exact answer will vary widely from business to business, depending on the complexity of your inventory and a host of other external factors. However, there are a few things you should bear in mind when deciding how long you can leave until your next tally.

How often should you count stock?

  • Your product-tracking accuracy. The more confidence you have in your inventory tracking, the fewer counts you’ll need.
  • Your reliance on accurate figures. If you’re a food manufacturer who needs to deal with expiry dates, for example, you might want to stocktake more often.
  • How much disruption you can handle. Bear in mind that a business that rarely counts stock will find it far more disruptive than one that does it regularly.
  • Improving your stocktaking

    There’s no single method that will work for every company — but there are lots of ways to improve how you record stock. Here are some tips to get started.

    Use a barcode scanner

    Manual counts are prone to error, especially as your business grows. Barcode scanning technology reduces these risks by allowing you to quickly record stock levels and store the data at the same time. A barcode scanner uses a light source, a lens, and light sensor to allow you to scan and view large amounts of data in one place.

    Dodge distractions

    Distractions such as cell phones and background noise can mean that you miss important details. Cutting them out might seem cruel, but concentrating on the task at hand will help you finish the job quickly and efficiently.

    Keep the stockroom tidy

    A messy, disorganised stockroom makes the process of counting stock difficult and can lead to increased mistakes. The more organised your warehouse is — preferably with labels to differentiate between items — the easier your count will be.

    Count each item

    Individually counting every item might seem like a tiresome task, but cutting corners can have drastic consequences. So take the time to do your count properly: don’t just rely on what the labels say.

    Consider dedicated software

    Inventory management software enables you to see stock levels updated in real-time, reducing your reliance on stocktakes for accurate information. When combined with other tools such as barcode scanners, you can begin to automate the entire process.

    Find out more about implementing inventory management software — or to learn more about getting started with inventory management with our guide to purchasing, production and sales.