Doing a stocktake involves counting your business’ inventory on hand. Although it might seem like an arduous task, carrying out a stocktake is important and useful as it allows you to reconcile your physical stock with your inventory as recorded and to identify discrepancies. A stocktake is also a great chance to highlight other potential inventory-related issues in your business such as slow moving products, stock shrinkage and obsolete or expired stock. Here are ten tips to improve your stocktake.
1. Work out what you need to count
Understand what stock your business owns and, if you operate across multiple locations, where different types of stock are held. For different types of stock, make sure to determine what constitutes a “unit” of that product. Make sure to separate out stock that has been paid for by customers but which is still held in storage.
2. Think about timing
Consider how you will resource your stocktake and think about how it will be carried out. Will you close down during business hours, or will you carry out your stocktake after hours? If the stocktake will be over several days, you will need to think about how you will keep track of stock movements during the stocktake.
3. Determine the scope and purpose of the stocktake
Good stocktake planning also involves establishing priorities for the stocktake - will the stocktake simply be a count of inventory on hand or will it focus on resolving a particular problem or set of issues?
4. Ensure staff follow a consistent process when counting
Give stock counting staff clear directions about how you want them to count items. For example, staff could work from left to right, starting from the bottom. Having all staff follow a consistent process will reduce the potential for counting errors.
5. Mark items as you count
By having staff mark items after they count them, missed items are prevented and staff are able to more easily identify items that they have missed.
6. Identify ‘practical’ problems that make counting stock difficult
Even if you give staff clear directions about the method they should follow when counting stock, some non-standard items might present problems during the stocktake. It is a good idea to work out an appropriate procedure for counting ‘problem’ items before the stocktake gets underway. This tip is particularly important if some of your stock is hard to count or hard to reach. It is also important if your business deals in hazardous goods. Also, ensure that all staff participating in the stocktake understand the procedure which you come up with.
7. Reduce distractions where possible
Another way to reduce counting errors is to minimise distractions during the stocktake process. Make sure that staff are not unnecessarily interrupted during the stocktake process, whether by interruptions from other staff in the business or by mobile phones and other personal distractions.
8. Have appropriate oversight
To ensure accountability and accuracy, consider appointing a staff member to supervise the stocktake. You may also wish to have another staff member ‘audit’ the stocktake by randomly checking some counts.
9. Carry out a final check
After investing a potentially large amount of time and money into a stocktake, it makes sense to check to make sure that everything has been counted and that all of the documentation is in hand before returning to business as usual.
10. Review the process
Immediately after this year’s stocktake is a great time to think about the successful and not so successful aspects of the current process. Spend a little time thinking about ways to improve on this year’s effort and you could save a lot of time and stress next time around.Better yet, investigate using a perpetual inventory management system!