Best practices for stock taking in WMS

Stock taking is an important process in inventory management, necessary to ensure you have an accurate measure of your inventory. Stock taking helps to ensure you know exactly how many units you have, and where they're located in your warehouse.

There are three steps to a stock take:

  • Creating the stock take
  • Counting your inventory
  • Reviewing your count

This guide will walk you through best practices on all three to help ensure your count goes smoothly.

Before you get started

There are some steps you should take before getting started with the actual stock taking process.

  • Make time

    Even if you're only counting a small section of your warehouse you need to be able to complete the count as quickly as possible. The longer you take, the more chance you'll have of introducing discrepancies, particularly if deliveries are arriving or sales orders are being received during the count.

  • Tidy up

    Make sure your space is clear of clutter. If you're in a store, make sure you restock the shelves to allow as much stock in one place as possible.

  • Take care of allocated stock

    Typically, inventory is allocated to orders as soon as the order's been created. That inventory is still in stock, but it's reserved, so it's not on hand. You will have to make a decision about how to count it. There are two options:

    • Clear all allocations. Fulfill and ship as many orders as possible, so you have no stock allocated. This is the preferred method.

    • Count all stock, including allocated stock. If you can't fulfill and ship all your allocated inventory, make sure that you count all units of inventory, including the allocated inventory.

      Remember that you won't be able to reduce your in stock inventory level to below your on hand inventory level, so you may run into an error when trying to do your final adjustments.

      See the "Review" section of this guide for tips on how to manage exceptions.

  • Take care of inbound deliveries
    Make sure any inbound deliveries are booked in and ideally put away so they don't get double-counted when doing the stock take.

Creating a stock take

The process for creating and configuring a count is covered in the "Cycle counts / stock takes" article, but this section will summarize the basics and discuss why you may choose certain types of count over others.

As a manager, you can create a new count by logging in to WMS, then going to Stock take > Counts and clicking "New count":

mceclip0.png

You'll be taken to a page where you can configure a new count.

Types of cycle count

Location

Choose at least one location, and count all the inventory in that location.

It's useful for dividing the task up into manageable sections. Instead of counting all of your inventory all at once, you can count a few locations on a regular basis.

This will likely be the main type of count you perform.

Brand, category

With this kind of count, you are counting all products with certain product attributes.

It's useful if you're counting in a store, where it may not be practical to name every location on the shop floor, but where products of the same kind are grouped together in a certain area.

When undergoing this kind of count, the person counting isn't tied to a location. Therefore it's important to make sure they're familiar with the area they're counting and know all the places to check for products that would be included in the count. The to-do guide is a good way to make sure they know what they need to be counting.

Top sellers, high value

These kinds of count concern items which are most prone to discrepancy, or those which have the highest impact to your business when a discrepancy is found.

The exact products and locations will change over time, so a good knowledge of your product catalog and counting area is key. Once again, the to-do guide will be useful.

This type of count is usually performed in addition to more regular cycle counts of another kind.

Special selection

This kind of count is the most flexible, allowing you to manage a cross-section of your catalog that isn't solely covered by one of the other types.

Again, having a counter who is familiar with the catalog and warehouse layout will be an advantage.

The cycle count guide

One of the options when configuring a count is whether to "reveal guide".

The guide, or to-do list, tells someone where to go and what to count. It's particularly useful when counting inventory based on product attributes instead of location. 

When choosing to display the guide, you choose whether to display the SKUs to be counted, their locations, or both. Which option to choose depends on what kind of count you're performing.

  • With a location count, you may only want to remind people of which locations they should count, not what they might find there.
  • When counting by brand or category, you may only want to remind people of which SKUs they should count, since they are likely to all be in one location.
  • When counting top sellers, high value items, or a special selection, you may want to include both location and SKU, so counters know which items need counting and where they might be found.

Tip: Telling the counter only what they need to know to perform the count correctly will help to reduce bias. For this reason, WMS does not display expected inventory levels on the guide - that way, the counter will have to count the items each time.

Location reminder

Setting a location reminder means the counter will be reminded to check what location they're counting in after they've counted a certain number of items.

It's useful if users are doing large increment counts, or counts where they won't need to check locations much (e.g. counting an entire bay from start to finish).

Counting your inventory

The "Performing a cycle count" article goes through how to perform a count and use the counting screen. This section provides some tips on how to make counting easier and more effective.

  • The count screen tracks the progress of the count. Initially, there won't be any information shown, but it will populate as locations and items are scanned in.

    mceclip1.png

    Ensure the counter is aware of what the first location is - if performing a location count, it will display on the screen - or what product needs to be counted first - clicking To-do will bring up the guide.

  • The counter should be aware of what kind of stock take they're performing. Although the to-do guide can help, knowing the context of the count will improve its efficiency.

    For example, if you are doing a location count, the counter will be able to draw a logical path through each location. For other kinds of counts, they may wish to develop a plan to decide how it should be best tackled.

  • If you are scanning items in increments (e.g. 10 units at a time), use the count reminder function to remind the counter that the scanning quantity has been increased. This will prevent the user from accidentally over-counting.
  • Encourage staff to make notes if required (e.g. if they find damaged product), to make reviewing the stock count faster.
  • Ensure all new staff are properly trained on how to use the counting screen. It may be a good idea to walk them through counting the first few products.

Reviewing the count

Once the count has been performed and and submitted, a manager will have to review the count.

The "Reviewing a cycle count" help article goes through how to review a count. This section goes through some best practices when reviewing a count.

  • Complete the review as soon as possible to avoid discrepancies being introduced.
  • Ensure the correct cost price list is selected, so your value variance is as accurate as possible.
  • Read any notes your staff have made.
  • All the lines on the stock take are ticked by default once you open a count. Work through them methodically, line by line, and make sure to untick anything that needs further investigation.
  • Sort by SKU or use the summary view to help spot discrepancies that may be related to inventory being booked in to the wrong location. You may wish to correct those lines using an internal inventory transfer instead.
  • Try to identify why each discrepancy has occurred, so that you can address the root cause and ensure it doesn't happen in future. 

Managing exceptions

You may find that on accepting a count, you receive a message indicating there was an error with performing a correction.

The most common error regards being unable to remove inventory from stock. It occurs when you try to set inventory levels below their "allocated" value, because allocated stock is reserved and cannot be removed.

When encountering this error, you need to examine why the discrepancy has occurred. Brightpearl thinks the unit of stock exists, but it has not been counted in the stock take.

  • Does the unit exist, but in a different location? If so, you can transfer the unit into the correct location and adjust the count.
  • Does the unit not exist at all? If so, you will need to do some further investigation.
    • Was the order packed and shipped in real life, but not in the system? If so, complete processing the order in the system then proceed.
    • Was the unit damaged, or is otherwise missing, and had to be written off? If so, unallocate inventory from the order and proceed with the correction. You will have to communicate the issue to the customer and follow your procedure for fulfilling sales containing out of stock items.

Once all exceptions have been resolved, the count is complete. Any rejects can then be counted again until all the desired products have been counted.

Have more questions? Submit a request