Congrats on learning all about the pre-count. Let’s move on, shall we? Because you have to suspend operations while you’re doing your physical count, your business will be impacted. For this reason, most people do their count during the evening or over a weekend or when they’re normally not shipping orders. To make your count move along as quickly as possible, take care of the inventory planning while you’re still in operations. Namely, organize your warehouse, plan who will count what and when, assemble your gear, and print your lists. This will keep the suspension of operations as short as possible so you can get back to business (and selling) as usual. Here are some insider tips and tricks for planning and executing that physical count.
Get your ducks in a row.
For businesses that sell many average-sized items of similar value, it’s best to separate the warehouse into two sections. One section is the “picking” area, where your pickers go to get items to fulfill orders. The other section is for “overstock.” So the picking area is organized by shelf, column, and row. Usually named by number for the shelf, letter for the column, and number for the row (this mimic’s everyone’s familiarity with Excel). Having that letter book-cased by two numbers makes it easy for people to quickly identify where they need to go. More on SKUs and warehouse organization coming soon.
Make a list, check it twice. You’ll need to print out an item list of SKUs from which to drive your inventory rather than using your shelves. It’s important for those executing the count to look at a list, check items off, and write down what they’re counting rather than just looking at a shelf and assuming they’ve hit every piece of inventory. They may miss something that’s hidden or not shelved correctly. This list will also serve as a physical backup of your counts and changes, in the event that something were to happen to your digital records during the count.
Remember paper? And speaking of writing, we recommend the old school way of using a printed piece of paper and a pencil for your physical count. You may have iPads or some other electronic device to help you with tracking inventory, and you may have spreadsheets on that device to print out take with you when you’re counting. Unless you have a sophisticated barcode scanning system that enables you to scan each item to count it, you really can’t beat a clipboard and paper with a printed item list. This is the most common method for most employees to do their best work.
Divide and conquer. Divide up your departments or team so that you have different members of different departments counting each other’s area. This enables a kind of peer evaluation, so to speak, so that employees are counting departments that they’re not in charge of. This is done to eliminate any kind of bias or natural (but less accurate) shortcuts that comes from your employees counting their own areas. Would you let someone make up their own test to gauge their knowledge? Of course not. Same idea here.
Care to make it interesting? Consider the fun factor when tasking employees with the job of counting hundreds of items multiple times. Challenge yourself to turn the event into something they don’t see as just counting. Make it a competition with rewards and incentives. Since you’re already asking them to stay past regular hours, help them out with a little motivation. We find that inventory counts are great for team-building, and how nice that you’re doing necessary work at the same time. Think outside of the box to make it fun for all. Otherwise, you may have some grumpy workers on your hands.
Ready, set, count! When you’ve set out the instructions and the ground rules, set the team free to count. Remind the counters to count every item even if the items are in boxes. They mustn’t assume a box is full or that the labeling is correct. Remember, all ecommerce inventory management needs to be counted twice, each time by a different team. If there are any discrepancies between the two counts, you (or someone you choose ahead of time) act as the controller and go in for the count yourself. Compare your count to the other two and make the adjustments accordingly in the accounting automation software. So always know how you’re going to be counting and who’s going to be the final say in your account.
Whew! There’s so much involved in counting. But wait, there’s more. Next up, we’ll discuss how to Avoid Chaos with the Cycle Count. What on earth is that? Tune in to find out.
– QuickBooks ProAdvisor Rafael Ruiz