Stocktaking is the process of physically counting and verifying the quantities of items in a company’s inventory. It is an important part of inventory management, as it helps ensure that the inventory records are accurate and up to date.
Accurate inventory records and effective inventory management can lead to improved efficiency, lower costs, and better customer satisfaction, which can all contribute to improved business performance. Regular stocktakes are an important part of maintaining accurate records and effective inventory management.
There are several reasons why stocktaking is important:
- To ensure accuracy of inventory records: Stocktaking allows you to verify that the quantities of items in your inventory match the quantities recorded in your inventory records. This is important because accurate inventory records are essential for making informed business decisions, such as when to restock and how much to order.
- To identify shrinkage: Shrinkage is the loss of inventory that is not accounted for through normal sales or usage. Stocktaking can help you identify shrinkage due to theft, damage, or other causes.
- To improve efficiency: Accurate inventory records can help you make better decisions about when to restock, how much to order, and how to allocate your resources. Stocktaking is an important part of maintaining accurate records and improving efficiency.
- To satisfy regulatory requirements: Some industries, such as healthcare and food service, are required to conduct stocktakes on a regular basis to comply with regulatory requirements.
- To prepare for financial audits: Stocktakes can be used to support the accuracy of your inventory values for financial reporting purposes. This can be especially important if your business is subject to an audit.
Steps you can take to prepare for a stocktake:
- Determine the scope of the stocktake: Decide which items will be included in the stocktake, such as all items in a particular location or all items of a certain type.
- Assign tasks: Determine who will be responsible for counting each item and assign tasks accordingly.
- Gather necessary tools: Make sure you have all the tools you need to complete the stocktake, such as scanners, counting sheets, and calculators.
- Update the inventory records: Before the stocktake begins, make sure the inventory records are up to date and reflect the current quantities of items on hand.
- Notify relevant parties: Let relevant parties know about the stocktake, such as employees and suppliers, so they can assist as needed and minimize disruptions to business operations.
- Suspend or adjust business operations: Depending on the scope and size of the stocktake, you may need to suspend or adjust business operations temporarily to allow for the count to be completed.
- Conduct a pre-count check: A pre-count check can help identify and resolve any issues that may arise during the stocktake, such as missing items or incorrect labels.
- Set up a reconciliation process: Establish a process for reconciling any discrepancies that may be identified during the stocktake. This may involve correcting errors in the inventory records or identifying and addressing issues such as shrinkage or loss.
- Establish a counting schedule: Determine the order in which items will be counted and the timing of the count to minimize disruptions to business operations.
- Train count team members: Make sure that all count team members are familiar with the stocktaking process and know how to accurately count and record quantities.
- Review count procedures: Review the procedures for conducting the stocktake, including how to handle special circumstances such as damaged or defective items.
- Conduct a trial count: A trial count can help identify and resolve any issues that may arise during the stocktake, such as difficulties in locating items or problems with the counting process.
- Review reporting requirements: Determine how the stocktake results will be reported and to whom, and make sure that the necessary reports and data will be available.
- Set up a system for tracking progress: Establish a system for tracking progress during the stocktake, such as using checklists or updating a spreadsheet, to help ensure that everything is counted and reconciled.
- Review your inventory valuation method: Consider whether your current inventory valuation method is appropriate for the stocktake and make any necessary adjustments. This can affect the value of your inventory and the accuracy of your financial reports.
- Review your inventory management policies and procedures: Make sure that your inventory management policies and procedures are up to date-and aligned with the stocktake process. This can help ensure that the stocktake is conducted smoothly and efficiently.
- Evaluate your inventory management systems and technology: Consider whether your current inventory management systems and technology are sufficient for the stocktake, and make any necessary upgrades or updates.
- Review your inventory classification system: Make sure that your inventory classification system is clear and accurate, as this can affect the accuracy of the stocktake.
- Review your inventory control procedures: Make sure that your inventory control procedures, such as those related to receiving, storing, and issuing inventory, are adequate and effective. This can help prevent errors and discrepancies during the stocktake.
How to take inventory stock
Here are the general steps for conducting a stocktake:
- Prepare for the stocktake: Determine the scope of the stocktake, assign tasks, gather necessary tools, update the inventory records, notify relevant parties, and suspend or adjust business operations as needed.
- Conduct the stocktake: Physically count and record the quantities of the items included in the stocktake, using scanners or other technology as appropriate.
- Compare the stocktake to the records: Compare the quantities counted to the inventory records to identify any discrepancies.
- Investigate and correct discrepancies: If discrepancies are identified, investigate the cause and correct the error as necessary. This may involve correcting errors in the inventory records or identifying and addressing issues such as shrinkage or loss.
- Update the records: Once the stocktake is complete and discrepancies have been resolved, update the inventory records to reflect the accurate quantities.
- Review the results: Analyze the results of the stocktake to identify any trends or patterns, and use the information to make informed business decisions.
- Update your inventory management systems and processes: Use the insights gained from the stocktake to make any necessary updates to your inventory management systems and processes. This can include updating your inventory records, adjusting your ordering and restocking processes, and identifying opportunities for cost savings.
Methods of stocktaking
- Manual counting: This involves physically counting each item in the inventory by hand and recording the quantities. This method is relatively simple but can be time-consuming and prone to errors.
- Sampling: This involves counting a representative sample of items and using statistical techniques to estimate the total number of items in the inventory. This method is faster than manual counting but may not be as accurate.
- Barcode scanning: This involves using barcode scanners to quickly and accurately count and record quantities of items. This method can be more efficient than manual counting but requires the use of scanners and barcoded labels.
- RFID (radio-frequency identification) scanning: This involves using RFID scanners to count and record quantities of items that have RFID tags attached to them. This method is faster and more accurate than manual counting or barcode scanning, but it may be more expensive to implement.
- Inventory management software: This involves using software to track and manage inventory levels and movements. This method can provide real-time visibility into inventory levels and can be more accurate than manual counting, but it requires the use of computers and software.
- Cycle counting: This involves counting a portion of the inventory on a regular basis, rather than counting the entire inventory all at once. This method allows for ongoing accuracy of inventory records and can be less disruptive to business operations than conducting a full stocktake.
- Physical inventory audits: This involves hiring an outside auditor to conduct a comprehensive review of the inventory. This method can provide an objective assessment of the inventory and can identify areas for improvement in the inventory management process.
- Perpetual inventory system: This involves continuously tracking inventory levels and movements in real-time, rather than conducting periodic counts. This method can provide up-to-date visibility into inventory levels, but it requires a robust system for tracking and updating inventory records.
- Stockless inventory system: This involves using third-party logistics providers to store and manage inventory, eliminating the need for the company to maintain its own physical inventory. This method can be more efficient and cost-effective but may not be suitable for all businesses.
- Drop shipping: This involves partnering with suppliers to ship products directly to customers, eliminating the need for the company to maintain its own inventory. This method can be cost-effective but may not offer the same level of control over inventory as other methods.
Common mistakes to avoid during a stocktake
Here are some common mistakes to avoid during a stocktake:
- Not preparing adequately: Failing to properly prepare for the stocktake, such as not assigning tasks or gathering necessary tools, can lead to errors and delays.
- Not following established procedures: Failing to follow established procedures and protocols can lead to inconsistencies and errors in the count.
- Not verifying the accuracy of the inventory records: Failing to verify that the inventory records are accurate before the stocktake can lead to discrepancies that are difficult to resolve.
- Not properly training count team members: Failing to properly train count team members on how to accurately count and record quantities can lead to errors and inconsistencies.
- Not double-checking the count: Failing to double-check the count can result in errors that are not identified until it is too late to correct them.
- Not reconciling discrepancies: Failing to investigate and correct discrepancies can lead to inaccurate inventory records and problems with inventory management.
- Not updating the inventory records: Failing to update the inventory records after the stocktake can result in outdated records that do not accurately reflect the current quantities of items on hand.
- Not reviewing the results: Failing to analyze the results of the stocktake can result in missed opportunities for improvement and cost savings.
The role of leadership in successful stocktaking
Leadership plays a crucial role in the success of a stocktake. It is important for leaders to set clear goals and expectations for the count, as well as assign appropriate resources such as personnel and technology. Establishing clear procedures and protocols for conducting the stocktake can also help ensure consistency and accuracy.
Communication is key, as leaders should keep relevant parties informed about the stocktake and provide support and guidance to count team members. Once the stocktake is complete, leaders should review and analyze the results to identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions. Based on these insights, they should take action to make any necessary changes to inventory management systems and processes, and communicate these changes to relevant parties.
Case studies: examples of successful stocktaking in action
Case study 1: A retail company conducted a full physical count of its inventory twice a year. To prepare for the count, the company trained its employees on the stocktaking process, updated the inventory records, and suspended all receiving and shipping activities for the duration of the count. The company also used barcode scanners to speed up the counting process. After the count, the company analyzed the results to identify trends and areas for improvement, such as slow-moving items that could be discounted or discontinued. The company used the insights gained from the stocktake to make adjustments to its ordering and restocking processes, resulting in reduced carrying costs and improved efficiency.
Case study 2: A manufacturing company implemented a perpetual inventory system to continuously track inventory levels and movements in real-time. The company used RFID scanners to accurately count and record quantities, and the data was automatically fed into the inventory management system. The company also implemented a cycle counting process to ensure ongoing accuracy of the inventory records. By using this system, the company was able to reduce the time and cost of stocktakes and improve efficiency in its inventory management process.
The future of stocktaking: trends and predictions
Here are a few trends and predictions for the future of stocktaking:
- Increased use of technology: As technology continues to advance, it is likely that companies will increasingly use automation and technology to streamline and improve the accuracy of the stocktake process. This may include the use of barcode scanners, RFID scanners, and inventory management software.
- Greater integration with supply chain management: Stocktaking may become more closely integrated with supply chain management, allowing companies to more accurately forecast demand and adjust their ordering and restocking processes in real-time.
- Increased use of data analytics: Companies may use data analytics to more effectively analyze the results of stocktakes and identify trends and patterns that can inform decision-making.
- Increased use of perpetual inventory systems: Perpetual inventory systems, which continuously track inventory levels and movements in real-time, may become more widely adopted as a way to reduce the time and cost of traditional stocktakes.
- Greater use of outsourcing: Some companies may choose to outsource their inventory management to third-party logistics providers, eliminating the need for in-house stocktakes.
- Increased focus on sustainability: Companies may place greater emphasis on sustainable inventory management practices, including reducing waste and minimizing excess inventory. This may involve more frequent stocktakes to ensure that inventory levels are accurately reflected.
- Greater use of artificial intelligence: Companies may use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate and improve the stocktake process. For example, AI-powered systems may be able to accurately count and record quantities without the need for manual counting or scanning.
- Increased use of cloud-based systems: Companies may adopt cloud-based inventory management systems, which allow for real-time visibility into inventory levels and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This can help reduce the need for physical stocktakes.
- Increased use of mobile technology: Mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets, may be increasingly used to facilitate stocktakes, allowing count team members to easily record and access inventory data.
- Increased focus on inventory accuracy: Companies may place greater emphasis on maintaining accurate inventory records, as this can have a significant impact on business operations and financial performance. This may involve implementing more frequent or sophisticated stocktakes to ensure accuracy.