Improve the Efficiency of Your Facility with Inventory Control
Whenever attempting to improve the efficiency of your facility, one of the best places to start is your inventory control. If this area is not operating properly, it will slow down every other aspect of your facility.
For this reason, you should go over the industry best practices and make sure that you have implemented them properly within your facility. Take some time to gather the necessary data, and see how and where you can best make improvements to streamline your inventory control system.
In order to help facilitate this, review the following top ten inventory control best practices.
Top 10 Inventory Control Best Practices
#1 – Constantly Review Priorities
When implementing an inventory control system, you need to know what your specific goals are. Once they are in place, however, you need to go back and look at them again on a regular basis to ensure nothing has changed.
In every industry, things are consonantly changing and adapting to the market needs. If you aren’t making changes to your inventory control to keep up, you’ll quickly find that you are not operating nearly as efficiently as you once were.
#2 – Meet Demand
Some inventory management systems attempt to minimize the amount of inventory that is kept in a facility so much that it ends up causing delays in fulfilling orders. This is essentially a just in time system that has gone too far.
Whenever using JIT methods, you need to make sure you are always able to meet the demand of the facility, even if that means keeping slightly more inventory on hand than you thought you might need. With good data collection and forecasting, you should be able to find a good balance between excess inventory and making sure you always have what you need.
#3 – Know your Returns
One of the things that can really cause problems in any inventory control system is returns. When items come back from a customer or from another facility, it can throw your whole system off very quickly.
This is why you need to gather as much data as possible about all returns. It will allow you to more accurately predict the number and type you will get, so you can plan accordingly. This is one area that can be constantly tweaked and improved over time.
#4 – Reduce the number of Touches
Every time someone has to touch a piece of inventory it is wasting time. When an item comes into the facility, it should be brought immediately to the place where it needs to be until it is ready to leave the facility.
While this is not entirely possible with every item, it is a good goal. The fewer number of times an item gets touched, the less time someone is involved with it. In addition, when items are being moved there is a greater chances of them getting broken or damaged.
#5 – Keep age of Inventory Low
You don’t want to be storing items in your facility for months at a time. Whenever possible, make sure items that come in first also leave the facility first. Some facilities can fall into the trap of pushing the oldest items back on the racks so they really never leave.
Even if it is the same item, you want to make sure you’re always putting the oldest one out first. There are often warranty or return issues that need to be considered, which is one of the reasons this is so critical.
#6 – Automate Data Collection
Many facilities take the time to automate just about everything that happens in their facility, which can be a great thing. The one area where far too many warehouses forget to automate, however, is in data collection.
If you see a person walking around with a computer, or worse, a notepad, that means that you aren’t collecting data very efficiently. It is essential to start using barcode scanners, or even better, RFID technology to track items as they move through the facility. This way you can set up scanners in specific places to keep track of how things are going.
For those areas that do need manual scanning, at least it will go more quickly if you have a scanner that will take down all the essential information. In addition to being much more efficient, you can also manage to gather a lot more information than if you were having people write things down by hand.
According to Denny McKnight and Inbound Logistics featured story, “Best Practices in Today’s Distribution Center“:
“People writing numbers on pads of paper or keying strings of numbers into a keyboard is a bad sign,” – Denny McKnight, partner, Tompkins Associates Inc
#7 – Hands Free Picking
Another benefit you will enjoy if you starting using RFID technology is that you can start using hands free picking of inventory items. Rather than having to look on a computer screen or even a piece of paper to identify the item you’re looking for, the picker can just be holding the hand held device that will communicate with the RFID tag in the inventory.
When you get close to the area where the item you need is, a light can turn on or a noise can be made. Every system can be different, but the bottom line is people who are picking inventory items can simply walk to the area and quickly grab the item rather than having to look through each storage area to find it.
#8 – Advanced Notification of Shipping
Whenever possible, make sure your suppliers are using an advanced notification system of some sort. These types of systems will allow your facility to be notified when a shipment is being made, and when it can be expected. This will allow your facility to plan for its arrival so you can smoothly unload the items and bring them right where they need to be.
#9 – Stop Hiding Inventory
One of the biggest problems in many facilities is that people who need specific inventory items will hide things away. This is especially true of items that occasionally run out of stock. When people take items and intentionally put them in a place where they don’t belong so that they will be there for them later, it throws the whole system off.
Even though most people think they are just taking precautions to ensure they can do their own job properly, it can actually cause major issues with ordering and inventory control. Take the time to locate these hidden inventory items and get them placed where they belong. Then take steps to ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen again.
#10 – Look at the Big Picture
Whenever making changes to your inventory control system, make sure you are looking at the big picture for the whole facility. Even if a change might be good for one area, check to see if it will cause problems in another.
You never want to start making change just for the sake of change. In addition, you never want to start pitting one part of the facility against another one. Take the time to really look through how the implementation of any of these best practices, or any other changes, will really effect the entire facility.
Inventory Control Best Practices and Your Customers
While these ten inventory control best practices have the potential to dramatically improve the way your facility handles inventory, you need to make sure you always remember who your customer is. Whether it is an actual customer who buys your products or it is a manufacturing plant that requires your facility to provide them with the inventory they need, you always need to keep their needs in mind.
Some facilities fall into the trap of over optimizing for their own goals, causing the customer to suffer. This is never acceptable and should be considered before making any changes.
Inventory Control and Labeling
Another important component of inventory control is inventory labeling. When inventory is properly labeled on racks or other organizational devices, products can be located easily and quickly to enhance overall levels of efficiency. An industrial label maker like the LabelTac 4 PRO can help you to create customize labels right in house. This label maker is user friendly and will save you both time and money when it comes to labeling your warehouse for inventory control.
Consistent inventory control is a necessary component of any well-run business enterprise. When you use the 10 tips mentioned above, not only will your inventory process go smoothly, but you will also achieve accurate results.
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