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Making inventory counts less painful

April 14, 2016

Inventory counts are a dreaded part of managing any small business. Beyond kindergarten, the fun of bean-counting quickly fades. But, there are 5 simple things you can do to make your regular inventory counts less painful for you and your staff:

1) Plan for better storage.

A well-organized stock room is key to fast and efficient counts, and this starts with strategically planning the layout and organization of your stock room. Make sure you have designated shelving or storage units for all pieces of inventory — don’t make the “I’ll just put this here for now” mistake. Consider how to organize or arrange the space so that inventory can be most easily identified and counted. Then, make it a priority for your employees to keep this space neat and organized at all times. This way, an inventory count doesn’t start with cleaning — and doesn’t end with searching for needles in a haystack.

2) Visually separate counted inventory.

With all the technology that exists to make inventory management easier, one of the most reliable ways to ensure accurate counts is to create visual separation between the counted and uncounted inventory. If you have room, consider creating a designated space for the counted inventory. Alternatively, consider creating a clear and intuitive marking on all counted items or storage units.

3) Before the count, ship it out.

The less inventory there is to count, the fewer opportunities for mistakes. Before a planned count, try to ship out all existing orders. On the opposite side of that coin, delay all inbound inventory shipments until after the count is completed.

4) Get creative with small inventory.

Very small and very light items can be very difficult and very exhausting to count individually — and are often the least expensive items in your inventory. Find creative ways to reduce the need to individually count these items whenever possible. A sensitive scale can be a valuable tool, enabling you to count out a given quantity of the small item and use that standard weight to extrapolate for the remaining quantity.

5) Prioritize inventory accuracy.

In the rush to fill an order, it’s tempting to sidestep processes and create inventory headaches down the road. Make sure your employees prioritize all inventory processes — and reward inventory accuracy just as you do sales volume.

Let’s face it: Your staff will likely never be enthused about an inventory count. But by taking some time to consider and plan for this critical part of your business operations, you can make more accurate, a lot more efficient, and maybe even a little less painful for everyone involved.