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7 best practices for warehousing and inventory management

A group of workers in safety gear packing boxes.

There’s no doubt that warehousing and inventory management holds your manufacturing operations together. Keep reading for seven ways to: 

  • Simplify your warehousing process.
  • Gain control of your inventory systems. 
  • Get your business back on your side.

But first, let’s look at the purpose of warehouse and inventory management.

What is warehouse inventory management?

Warehouse and inventory management is more than just storing products. It ensures a seamless flow from production to your customer’s hands.

Effective warehousing and inventory management organizes the storage, movement, and record-keeping of products in a warehouse. It tracks goods from the moment they enter the warehouse until they’re dispatched to the appropriate distribution channels.

Warehousing and inventory management:

  • Ensures a clear record of every product, its location, and quantity.
  • Minimizes overstocking or stockouts.
  • Establishes consistent monitoring and evaluation protocols, including adjustments as market demands shift.

What do inventory management and warehouse management have in common?

Inventory and warehouse management are the backbone of successful manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution operations. 

Both focus on the efficient storage and movement of goods. Here’s what else warehouse and inventory management have in common:

  • Product tracking during storage, transit, or processing.
  • Storage optimization to safeguard product quality and access.
  • Demand forecasting through sales insights.
  • Waste management, whether it’s space, time, or resources.

However, inventory management zeroes in on product quantities, locations, and statuses. On the other hand, warehouse management dives into the operational aspects of the warehouse, such as:

  • Layout optimization.
  • Strategic labor management.
  • Equipment use and safety.

Do what you do best, let Method handle the rest.

Why warehouse inventory management matters

Warehouse inventory management is critical for several reasons:

  1. Customer satisfaction: Ensures products are available for quick dispatch to satisfy customer demand.
  1. Cost efficiency: Prevent the financial strain of excess inventory, misplacement costs, or losses from expired or compromised goods.
  1. Optimized space utilization: Well-managed inventory ensures that every square foot of the warehouse is effectively used, eliminating the need for unnecessary expansions or external storage solutions.
  1. Accurate data: Real-time inventory data helps you make informed decisions about product lines, purchasing, and sales promotions.
  1. Risk mitigation: Reduce potential hazards like theft, loss, or product obsolescence.

Understanding and effectively managing warehouse inventory is a crucial cog in the supply chain. It ensures you remain profitable, competitive, and responsive to your customers’ needs.

Best practices for warehousing and inventory management

Use the following strategies to optimize your operations and stand out in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

1. Do regular physical inventory checks

Periodic manual counts ensure that your system’s inventory matches the stock. This helps you:

  • Identify discrepancies.
  • Prevent stockouts.
  • Fix potential issues.

Physical checks are the best way to diagnose issues like theft or mislabeling.

2. Monitor product placement

Strategic product placement in the warehouse, based on demand and accessibility, speeds up the picking process. High-demand items should be easily accessible to reduce the time and effort needed to fulfill orders.

One way to speed up material gathering for the assembly line is to store components that are frequently used together adjacently.

3. Reevaluate stock levels

Regularly review your inventory levels to avoid overstocking or stockouts. Doing this optimizes storage space and ensures your capital isn’t tied up in excess stock. 

Take the example of a wholesaler of seasonal items, like winter apparel. The best time for them to review stock levels is in the summer to:

  • Avoid over-purchasing based on the previous year’s demand and forecasted growth.
  • Prevent missing potential sales opportunities.

4. Assess picking methods

Choosing the right picking method, whether wave, zone, or batch picking, is pivotal.

Your chosen method should align with your order profiles and warehouse layout for efficient order fulfillment.

For instance, a large distribution center might use zone picking for large orders, where each picker is assigned a specific area and only picks items in that zone.

5. Use cross-docking

Cross-docking in the distribution industry involves directly transferring products from inbound to outbound trucks with minimal storage in between. This practice:

  • Reduces storage needs.
  • Minimizes handling.
  • Speeds up delivery times.

Let’s assume you have an urgent production run in your manufacturing business. Once you receive the components for manufacturing, these are immediately sent to the assembly line. This is another way that cross-docking minimizes storage and handling times.

6. Work with a 3PL

Collaborating with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider strengthens your logistics as you access their specialized knowledge and infrastructure.

A wholesaler wanting to expand to new regional markets might partner with a 3PL familiar with that region’s distribution channels to avoid the challenges and costs of setting up a new distribution network.

3PL partnerships simplify warehouse and inventory management processes to let you focus on activities like sales and marketing.

7. Implement inventory management software

Inventory software has features that range from real-time tracking to predictive analytics. It automates, monitors, and optimizes your inventory tasks. The right solution offers:

  • Real-time visibility.
  • Forecasting tools.
  • Actionable insights.

Below is an example of inventory software’s impact on your business.

Let’s say you’re a product distributor using inventory software. You can use this tool to predict which products will likely be in demand based on historical data, market trends, and regional events. 

This insight helps you prepare, stock appropriately, and promptly meet your client’s needs.

For the jobs humans can do but don’t want to.

How to automate warehouse inventory management with Method

Overseeing every operational detail in manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution is impossible. Thankfully, software like Method gets you out of the weeds and into the driver’s seat. 

Below is a quick peek into how Method helps you gain control and grow with confidence. 

Beyond warehousing and inventory management, Method’s lead-to-cash automation:

  1. Eliminates double data entry between your accounting system and other tools with its real-time, two-way sync with QuickBooks and Xero.
  2. Takes routine tasks off your plate so you can focus on value-added activities.

See how Method gives you control and time back.

Image credit: DCStudio

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