Stocktaking is never enjoyable. The biggest issue is having to stop orders going out to customers, so getting a stock take done quickly is key. The pressure is on but it has to be performed right otherwise stock figures won't be accurate and the whole procedure becomes futile.
One of our Clients has several hundred employees, some 700 lifestyle brands, and upgraded their warehouse management software to cope with the 100% growth they were experiencing every year. The first stock take with them lasted 3 days. It was exciting and sometimes nerve-racking but it was a massive success. We thought we'd share the ins and outs of how to correctly perform a stock take in an eCommerce warehouse so you will never have to do a major stock take again.
1. Resource scheduling
The best way to work out how much time a stock take is going to need is by performing a micro-stock take on a few locations first. The time it takes to complete this section can then be extrapolated to estimate the time needed for the total number of locations. It is probably best to then add an extra 30% as contingency. It's always better to overestimate and finish early than to underestimate and rush to finish.
2. Day by day schedule
Getting your ducks in a row is essential in making the process run smoothly and efficiently. For our Client, everything from the delivery of handhelds and testing of warehouse management software, to training of staff and printing checklists for operators, was in order. Getting this done in advance will save you time and hassle during the actual stock taking process.
You wouldn't show your whole army a key maneuver in one big group so why would you do the same here? Training your operators should take place in small groups whilst they are working as normal in the days leading up to the stock take. A good tip is to start by training up the few key people, management and operators, who are going to be the go-to people for questions and training.
4. Dedicated warehouse areas
On the dreaded day of stock taking, areas should be set up as points of contact. Though it is dependent on the size of your business, these are the areas we'd recommend:
>> Barcode area: any items incorrectly barcoded or not able to be scanned are flagged to this team to be re-labelled and updated in the relevant systems.
>> Stock take area: any questions relating to how a stock take is done correctly, or checking that a completed location has really has been completed if the operator was interrupted for instance, are asked here. The team in this area also tells people what to do next and tracks the progress of the stock take against the anticipated time.
>> Technology area: any issues with the wireless coverage, guns losing connection mid-process or the printers not printing, should be handled here. There should be very few of these issues if the technology has been properly tested, but inevitable issues do pop up.
5. Live tracking
Keeping track of how many locations have been completed will enable you to hit your deadline. Any that are yet to be done should be worked on immediately. The last thing you need is to go-live without a stock take being completed or having to push the go-live back.
6. Inventory variances
Once you have finished the stock take, you need to do a comparison of the inventory levels you thought you had versus the stock take quantity. Most companies tackle the large variances first due to the financial impact. For eCommerce, we recommend starting on the ones where the new stock take says there is 1, but the previous listed zero. If you can do this for the fastest selling items, that is even better. This should help eliminate 'out of stocks' on your web site.
Naturally, the time it takes to complete a stock take will vary from business to business depending on the number of available employees, the size of the warehouse, and the volume of stock. That said, defining a clear process for how the stock take will be carried out, and informing your staff of this, will keep the time scale as short as possible.
For more tips on handling a stock take in an eCommerce warehouse, check out our 3 tips for making stock takes easy.