A sure way to disappoint customers is to offer products for sale that are not in stock for a period of time or are sold out. By focussing on stock control and ensuring data is correct and accurate, you can ensure that you can satisfy your customers demands, reduce disappointment caused by mis-picks and even create a trigger for the customer to buy.
6 steps to improving stock control and accuracy in your warehouse include:
Provide a uniquely identifier each product across your ecommerce platform and warehouse
A product code provides a way to uniquely identify a given product, from the point of view of purchasing from suppliers, selling to your customers, and stocking in your warehouse. Ensure that each product is identified using a code so that orders can be correctly fulfilled and be aware that products may be bought and sold in different units (e.g. packs vs, singles) which may necessitate an additional code again. Where using drop-ship suppliers to fulfil orders, be aware that their businesses may utilise different product codes as well, which need to be recognised within your systems.
Track where stock is at any point in time in the warehouse and what it is doing.
Even with the most simple WMS, it is possible to identify where in the warehouse a stock of an item is, with a stock status, e.g. Has it been picked? Is it at the receiving areas awaiting putaway? Or in QA?, quantity at that status and which stock location, e.g. which shelf or bin location is it in. Regular stock counts can ensure that the correct quantity is in each location, and stock management can ensure that the stock is at the status to maximise stock availability. Also note that there is complexity with stocking multi-part items or make-to-order items.
Data accuracy is vital
The data about stock can often be a cause of inaccurate stock. Stock not in the correct stock location can cause mis-picks. Different colours, sizes or styles of a product (think t-shirts) are sometimes identified using the same SKU number and a warehouse operative’s eye, which can cause problems. Incorrect or inconsistent units of measures (UOM) for example, products stocked in packs and sold as single items, or products being stocked in metres and sold in centimetres. Ensure that the product set-up and maintenance processes cater for all systems and put in place regular validation checks between your product list (or PIM), what is on your sales channel and also your warehouse to ensure that data is kept up to date.
For all key activities make sure that their performance is measured regularly and with a range of different measures. For areas of concern, take steps to rectify. And ask your staff what they think will help to improve efficiency and accuracy in a process.
Focus on training and process
Inventory accuracy is often a reflection of how well warehouse operatives are trained and whether the warehouse processes are fit for purpose for your fulfilment operation.
For example, outside of picking, a key source of inventory error comes from the initial goods receipting process where goods are initially, tagged and put away. Using a two-step process to receive items into your goods receiving area and then to check them into the stock location can help to resolve this.
Also the experience of staff can have a bearing on overall stock accuracy. Look at your staffing profile and to assess whether bringing on seasonal staff has an impact on overall inventory accuracy.
Cycle count stock
When stock is on the shelf, use a schedule of inventory checking also called Cycle Counting to verify what is there is what is recorded accurately. Use the 80/20 rule to count the fastest moving stock more often.
Is stock accuracy a problem in your fulfilment operation? How do you deal with it?
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