Most times we receive items from shops and do not even bother to think on how these items reach our hands from the manufacturers. We have the easy part of buying them from the store, but the truth is that all these items have to go through some type of warehouse sorting. They are stored somewhere and proper administration has to be taken to efficiently keep these items till they would be needed by the consumer.

Some of these items are perishable while others are very sensitive and could become damaged if not properly managed. If a business does not know how to effectively manage their inventory, then the business will suffer a great deal when certain lapses begin to show up due to improper management of items. Orders are delayed, items are damaged or even missing, without anyone being able to give a proper account of what and how things are being run.

If one is a manager of a warehouse where items are received, kept and taken when needed and does not know how to manage those items properly, it will cause problems in the entire operation of the business. So it is important for anyone who will go into inventory to take out time for training, so they can know how to manage inventory in a warehouse.

Below are a list of interesting tips and tricks to help such a person be informed of how they can go about managing inventory for that small business. These tips will help give the person an idea of how to put things in order so that unbidden mistakes will cost the business much loss.

50 Best Warehouse Inventory Management Tips and Tricks for Small Businesses

  1. Table of Content

    USE FIRST IN FIRST OUT APPROACH

One of the best ways to organize your warehouse is to use the first in first out approach. This is especially great for perishable items that may go bad if they stay on the shelf for too long. This will ensure that it was the items that came in first that will be taken out first. Even if the items are not perishable, this approach will help to avoid items sitting on the shelf for too long a time. This usually causes the damage of the item in question.

  1. NOTE HOW FREQUENT ITEMS ARE ORDERED

If you look at your inventory, you will most likely know the items that are being ordered with more frequency than others. You would know the ones your clients are most fond of and the ones they order more often, these ones will do well to stay at places of easy reach as it will help you restock accordingly, so as not to allow items you may not receive orders to fill up your storage.

  1. PLAN YOUR SPACE

Identify how much items would be placed in your warehouse per each square meter. If you know the entire size of your warehouse you should know the number of items that would be fitted into your warehouse properly. One other way to effectively maximize your space without necessarily expanding the size of your warehouse is to use racks or stack your items, and then of course get some type of fork lift or another machine to make it a lot easier for personnel to go up to higher racks to fetch items.

  1. NOTE BEST-BEFORE DATES

Identify your expiry dates on the items in your warehouse, this will help you keep track on these items to be able to get them sold before they reach their due dates of expiry. It would be very dangerous to ship items away to customers when the items are already past their best before dates.

It could cause problems that may take your business to court, and one may lose a lot of money because of this type of negligence. It would be smart to keep track of the best before dates of all items, and device means of selling such items before their due dates.

  1. HANDLE RETURNED ITEMS PROPERLY

Some of these little organizational procedures may seem insignificant but they prove to be impactful if not properly handled. Certain items for numerous reasons can be returned, either because it was damaged or the wrong item was sent.

Now normally you should have already documented the release of these items from the warehouse, but if for some reason, they are returned, then you also have to document them properly and place such items in a special place or highlight the reason why they were returned for future references and better organization of your warehouse.

  1. ITEMS RECEIVED SHOULD BE WELL-PREPARED FOR

Usually when a person thinks about a warehouse, all they seem to think of is a place were items are stored for later use. But from time to time, or even very often items are added to the ones already there in the first place. How these new items are received and processed also matters in keeping the entire warehouse up and running smoothly. Device proper methods to handle your received items, it will make managing of your inventory more excellent.

  1. EVERYTHING SHOULD BE LABELLED

This has got to be one of the best ideas when it comes to inventory management, you are required to label everything in your warehouse. These labels will serve as location identifiers for items when you need to bring them out.

These labels carry information about the items you may be looking for and should corroborate what you have on your computer for better organization and operation. If all the items are not labeled then it would be very difficult for staff to pull out items when they have been ordered, organization would be far from a warehouse that has not properly labelled its items.

  1. CATEGORIZE YOUR ITEMS

This goes without saying, even after you must have labelled your items, you would have to find out the generic nature of these items and place them in their various sections within the warehouse. It makes it a lot easier for persons to find out where a particular set of items could be found.

For example, electronics could be grouped and placed at a particular section in the warehouse with a huge signage on the top of that area, then Furniture or other groups of items could also be placed at another section and so forth.

  1. ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF QUALITY CONTROL

In order to minimize items being returned for various reasons which could also involve damage or expiry, you would need to establish a strong system for quality control, usually assign a person that has worked in the warehouse for a much longer period to do this.

This person or persons are to check to see if ordered items are first of all the right item that was ordered by the customer. The item identification parameters must be consistent with that which was placed by the customer. The person would also check if the item is the right size, length and quality as advertised, he is also to check for any damages on the ordered item.

This person is also encouraged to confirm that such an order is sent to the right recipient. Taking these measures for proper quality control will help you avoid the bad impression that may come with constantly receiving returns from your customers.

  1. TRY PRIORITIZING YOUR PRODUCTS

There are certain clients that are known for ordering a set of products you usually have in your warehouse. Apart from labelling and categorizing your items, it is also prudent to prioritize certain items well within the category for these choice customers, who are known to constantly order these items. It only makes it easier to conveniently process such items when the orders come in and these items can get to reach the hands of the customer in good time, because such things have already been planned for.

  1. ESTABLISH QUICK ALERTS FOR INVENTORY CHANGES

When things change in your inventory it is important to inform all the major players in your supply chain process. Your suppliers would need to be notified of shortages in the items they provide for you or your other staff members may need to be notified of new items coming in and so on. When all the key players in your warehouse operation have real time notifications when things change, it makes operations to be a lot smoother and confusion to be a lot less.

  1. FORECAST YOUR INVENTORY

You have to be able to effectively forecast your inventory in order to anticipate which items are running low, which items are in excess and so on. Looking into what you may be needing as you forecast will help in a great way to ensure that you do not have excess stock that will take up space and may eventually become damaged because of its lack of movement.

There are software that can help with inventory forecasting, these software can give you notifications for when items are running low, how certain items are purchased and at what rate they will be purchased based on previous patterns and so on.

  1. TRACK YOUR CARGO

It would be a smart thing to effectively track your cargo, looking at the schedule and paying attention to the estimated time of arrival. When you track your cargo, you can make proper preparation for what you are about to receive, you can get to know the quantity you are expecting, and the estimated time of arrival. All this information makes for better organization and management of your warehouse operations.

  1. USE ANALYTICS TO MANAGE YOUR INVENTORY

Analytics basically looks into information about the nature of movement within item purchase. You will be able to analyze how certain items are purchased, received, processed and all. When you have all this information properly presented to you, then you are well informed to know the state of your goods. You can think of better ways to manage your items; you can look at various innovative approaches to your operations and so on.

  1. ESTABLISH MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

This management system is simply some type of second documentation representation either on your computer or some other device. It would really help to have a system by which you can double check your processes. For example, when you have changes made on the physical side of the plan, you would be able to edit the digital profile of the inventory to match.

This assists you so much when you have to balance information in the ware house with the ones on your system. Usually if the inventory on the device is the same as the inventory on site, then everything is good. It would also be very prudent to keep all sides of your operations updated as changes are usually a constant thing.

  1. SET GOALS FOR THE SALES OF ITEMS

This usually comes in handy when you are faced with certain conditions, like items reaching their expiry dates, or items that have stayed in the warehouse too long and have to be sold if not they may become damaged or even perishable items that haven’t been sold for a long period of time. The management can come up with creative ideas on how to sell these items, by giving the sales people sales goals.

  1. ANTICIPATE INVENTORY NEEDS

You should be able to pay attention to your inventory, never let anything run out, you can’t afford to run out of any item. Your guests should not have to suffer for a moment because your hotel is out of tissue paper or something like that. So pay attention to inventory, good thing there are software to help with this too.

  1. IMPROVE YOUR PROCESS

You can always improve on your processes so make room for improving the procedures by which you both receive, stack and deliver your orders. There will always be room to update your methods, upgrade the support systems you use and so on.

One of the best ways to do this is to look for certain things that are not working as efficiently as they could, certain procedures that are currently giving you trouble with execution. These procedures may make you slow in delivering or generally make operations less smooth. Having a brainstorming session to improve this will help tremendously. Also, certain things that have been working may also get an upgrade as well.

  1. WORK WITH MULTIPLE VENDORS

When you may be having a sale or promotional exercise at your business, you may choose to work with quite a number of vendors so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where you run out of stock in the middle of the sales period. So working with multiple vendors or suppliers will ensure that you don’t have to upset the order of your warehouse, by having excess items in there because of the season.

  1. EXPLORE DROPSHIPPING OPTIONS

You could work with a number of online sales companies that may require the services of a warehouse. This will help you effectively sale items regularly. It will be especially effective when running any promotional exercise as the digital world is fast gaining more influence over how we do things.

  1. MAKE COMMUNICATION CONSISTENT

Your communication with your suppliers must be very consistent so that there are no confusions as to what operations are being engaged in and what changes are being made. If you are inconsistent with how you pass along information to your suppliers, it may cause interruptions within the entire supply chain system.

  1. SPOT LOW SALE STOCKS

There are certain items that may be in the warehouse for more than six months due to lack of orders. You should be able to pay attention to such stock or items, because when an item remains in the warehouse for too long it may begin to get damaged. Look into these types of items and refrain from ordering some more, and actually generate ideas on how to sell more of these items.

  1. MANAGE YOUR MISTAKES PROPERLY

If there were any mistakes due to any number of reasons, it is the best to have procedures by which such occurrences can be handled without causing more damage to an already bad situation. It’s no news that in such a system like this, one little mistake in a particular part of the supply chain may make the entire process to be affected just like falling dominos. So make sure that mistakes are handled with precision and professionalism.

  1. PAY ATTENTION TO GUESTS’ OPINION

When guests give opinion about how they think services should be done, don’t shrug it off and act as though they are not professionals and so their opinion does not matter. Endeavour to make adjustments according to their suggestions when it is necessary.

  1. COUNT YOUR STOCK

Once or twice in the year it is very prudent to physically count your stock, even if you may have already listed the number of items you have on your management software. This enables you become double sure of the items you have, as when changes are made, certain things might be lost in the process of making those changes. So knowing that the physical numbers are the same with that on the system is solid assurance.

  1. MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY

A lot of things could happen in a warehouse that could be very hazardous to people’s lives. Vehicle malfunction, stacks falling and so on are just a few of the things to consider when running a warehouse. Make sure that the warehouse is fitted with safety instructions; in case any of these events happen, such information should be made available to the users of the warehouse. Fire extinguishers should also be made available in the case of such an event.

  1. KNOW THE CATEGORIES FOR YOUR PRODUCT TYPES

There are different categories to organize your products within your warehouse, there are items that may need to be put together in the warehouse before sending to customers, and they arrive at the warehouse in parts. There are also items that come into the warehouse as they are and do not need assembling before shipping to customers, in fact nothing needs to be done for items like these, etc.

  1. INSTALL SECURITY MEASURES

In a system like this, it could be easy for staff members to steal, hide or misplace items. Actions like this may cause the loss of items within the warehouse. So installing security cameras, tags, labels etc. can make sure items are not stolen from your warehouse. So apart from the software providing some type of security in the digital space, your physical security measure provides security physically.

  1. PRACTICE SPEEDY MACHINE REPAIR

If a particular machine needed to make the receiving and processing of items more efficient is out of order, it could cause silly mistakes in the entire warehouse process. So ensuring that machines are repaired with urgency is going to be a welcomed practice. The quicker such machines are fixed, the sooner workers can get to work.

  1. USE CLOUD TECHNOLOGY

Quite a number of things can happen to your inventory management software on your computer in the office. It is good that technology has come to the place where information can be stored on the cloud, so that in the case of a computer virus or some other type of happening which may make you to lose all your data, you would have the assurance that your vital inventory information is backed up on the cloud.

  1. KNOW YOUR INVENTORY MANAGEMENT TYPE

You would have to ask yourself the question as to how frequently you order items from your supplier to establish the type of inventory management style you would use for your warehouse. For example, do you order the same quantity of items with each request? Or do you order a set or items from period to period. The way you order supplies will determine the best approach to properly manage your inventory.

  1. USE STORE KEEPING UNIT (SKU) AND OTHER TYPES OF SPECIFICS

The store keeping unit SKU number is very useful type of description parameter that will ensure that one knows the specific item that is meant for their particular warehouse. Two shops may have similar items, but through the store keeping unit number, they can be differentiated. Barcodes are another very useful tool in identifying products, other terms of specification could be the color, size, UPS numbers and so on.

  1. IDENTIFY FAST SELLING ITEMS

As someone in this kind of business, through history you should have known the items that sell fast. You should know these items and develop a separate type of administration for receiving them, processing and storing them within your warehouse. This gives you a more efficient approach to handling the process of these items and will also give you great insight into the items that are not moving as fast.

  1. USE ABC METHOD

There are certain items that hold high importance when it comes to your business, these items drive sales and profitability for your business. These set of items can be placed in the class A category of items so that they can receive specialized treatment when it comes to their processes within the warehouse operation scheme. Other categories to place items are the B and C classes that describe entirely different levels of importance.

  1. USE LAST IN FIRST OUT FOR HEAVIER ITEMS

When you have effectively placed your items in different categories, you would know the items that are very heavy, these items may receive a different type of approach when it comes to receiving and processing. You can practice the last in first out approach for these heavier items as it would be very stressful to bring down all the items on top of the first item that came in, just to take it out.

  1. STOCK LEVEL TRACKING IS IMPORTANT

Constantly keeping track on your stock level is highly important when it comes to making sure that items do not go below what is necessary or that you do not get over stocked on a particular item. The positive thing when it comes to tracking your stock levels is that there are software that have been developed to offer such services and make it a lot easier for you to know the conditions of your stock.

  1. WRITE UP A BUDGET FOR YOUR INVENTORY

Budgets are always needed for every type of operation that will be a success, and running your inventory is no different. You have to develop your budget for the entire year, this will include the ownership cost, the processing cost, distribution costs, staffing and many other areas where money would be needed to effectively manage your inventory. This type of budget will keep you in the loop on what your finances are doing and will indicate where you are over spending and so on. Also make money available for miscellaneous activities that will come up from time to time.

  1. TRAIN ALL YOUR WORKERS

No matter the processes you put in place, if the people working for you are not well trained to handle these inventory management practices, then you will find yourself in constant problems arising from negligence and other malpractices that may cost your business a lot.

  1. LOGISTICS PROVIDERS FROM A THIRD PARTY CAN BE EFFECTIVE

Your inventory management system would need to be properly updated if you use a third party for storing or shipping your items. If you do not update your inventory management system to know what goes on in other places that handle your products, then there would definitely be errors and glitches arising from information that gets missing in the process of operations.

  1. BE UP TO DATE IN YOUR INFORMATION

This also means keeping your software up to date as well. In a world of constantly changing events, it is important to always document changes that occur in your management regime. Now technology is a serious aspect of every business, and most of these software will always require updates from time to time. Use a few minutes to update the software you work with as well as other information that may need updating as you go along.

  1. USE DIGITAL INVENTORY TRACKING AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Embrace software technology that are specially designed to keep track of inventory, refrain from using the more manual method for this practice. In as much as these more manual methods have been effective in times past, they are no longer efficient for today’s ever changing world. The manual methods are not quick to communicate updated information to all the parties affected by your supply chain process and also cannot keep up to date tracking of every changing activity.

  1. MAXIMIZE BARCODE SCANNING

Barcodes are one of the identification parameters used to effectively keep tabs on items in your warehouse. The use of barcode scanning to input data into your management system is very efficient and effective. It will make data entry a lot easier for you in the long run.

  1. PRACTISE CHOICE PURCHASE

Identify the customers that constantly order a certain type of product, keep track of such items and organize accordingly, so as not to cause delays or other setbacks when these regulars order from you.

  1. INCREASE THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY

There’s more technology beyond the use of the management system software, take note of all the technology available to make your warehouse inventory management better and take advantage of them. In as much as some of them may be expensive to either purchase or maintain, they would prove to make your inventory management process more safe and up to a world class status.

  1. ENGAGE MONTHLY AUDITS

Regular audits are very important to maintain proper up to date information as to what items are in your warehouse. This will include both the digital and manual auditing, so that both aspects can be balanced with each other.

  1. PROMPT PROCESSING OF ORDERS

When you process orders immediately, it will eliminate the event of order pile up, which will begin to cause mix up in certain order statements, evaluation and processing procedures. Things may begin to overlap and orders are either delayed or items may even be misplaced. This type of disorganization can be avoided when a person makes sure that every order that comes in is processed immediately.

  1. FOR NEW ITEMS AND ORDERS DO DAILY AUDITS

New orders are constantly coming in, these orders are to be processed immediately and checked to see if the information on the digital plan fits the information on the physical plan, and due to the fact that orders come in daily, this part of the process must be done daily also. It is always good to double check and even triple check orders like this.

  1. STRUCTURE YOUR PICKING LOCATIONS

For a much better work flow, you should structure and restructure your pick up locations so that this part of the process can be done with much more effectiveness. Certain items of a particular kind could be picked up at certain specific locations within the warehouse. It makes pick up more smooth and easy to execute.

  1. FIND THE BEST METHODOLOGY THAT WORKS FOR YOU

There are different methodologies out there when it comes to proper procedures for inventory management. One of which is the 5S methodology that simply speaks of Sorting, Setting in order, Shining, Standardizing and Sustaining. This methodology helps in sorting out the items in your warehouse with more precision.

  1. PLAN AHEAD

Look into certain changes that may be developing in your line of business when it comes to inventory management and plan to adopt such innovations into your way of doing things. It will help bring you to the level of professionalism in your inventory management process.

CONCLUSION

When we look at people achieving various things in their businesses, we tend to desire such experiences for our own. Some of us may imagine that it could just be a force of luck or these people have natural gift for those particular things.

But the truth is that those who are achieving those amazing things in their businesses operate on certain principles and rules. If anyone uses the similar principles, they too will experience the same kind of success.

We have listed quite a number of tricks and tips which could help any warehouse inventory manager become effective in their efforts to properly provide inventory management. These tips are carefully picked to inspire the one who chooses to manage inventory effectively. Feel free to read through the tips again and begin to implement them in your warehouse inventory management process.

Ajaero Tony Martins