From implementing warehouse management software to reducing manual labor with automated solutions, warehouse inventory management strategies can help you improve productivity, cut costs and increase customer satisfaction.
In this blog post, we will share the warehouse inventory management best practices in 2023 including automation, floor plan organization, and other tried and tested methods to streamline your operations. Plus, introduce you to our Modula automated warehouse inventory solutions.
What Is Warehouse Inventory Management?
Warehouse inventory management is the process of receiving, tracking, auditing and managing goods in your warehouse.
Efficient warehouse inventory management allows you to meet consumer demand while minimizing storage costs and reducing the risk of stockouts or overstocks.
Inventory Management vs. Warehouse Management
While inventory management specifically focuses on inventory control, warehouse management focuses on running an efficient warehouse as a whole.
Warehouse Inventory Management Processes
Warehouse inventory management involves six core processes, including:
- Receiving: First, inventory is checked in and logged to ensure items are in good condition and in the correct quantity.
- Put-away and storage: In this step, the inventory is put away and properly stored in their designated warehouse location. For example, fast-moving items are stored near the shipping area for easier access.
- Picking: Then, the correct product and quantity are picked. Picking aids, such as voice picking technology, put to light systems or laser pointers, are utilized to ensure accurate picks.
- Packing: In the packing step, the picked items are prepared for shipment. Orders are safely packed in bubble wrap or other protective material to reduce the risk of damage. Then, the package is sealed and marked with a shipping label that displays key information, such as the tracking code and the customer’s name and address.
- Shipping: Finally, orders are documented and shipped out to the right customer at the right time.
- Returns: Returned items are inspected for damage and resellability. If resellable, the item is added back to inventory and a refund or exchange is issued to the customer.
Warehouse Inventory Management Techniques
From identifying popular inventory to shipping products directly from your third-party supplier, here are eight techniques to optimize your warehouse inventory management.
1. ABC Analysis
ABC analysis is an inventory management technique that allows you to identify the value of your inventory based on its popularity.
This technique can help you identify fast-moving (popular) items, so you can consistently meet consumer demands.
ABC analysis works by grouping products into A, B and C categories.
Your most valuable products are labeled Category A, your next most valuable products are labeled Category B, and Category C products are the least valuable.
2. Perpetual Inventory Management
Perpetual inventory management is a technique in which you count your inventory as soon as it arrives using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and point-of-sale (POS) systems, to maintain around-the-clock visibility over your inventory levels.
3. Economic Order Quantity
Economic order quantity (EOQ) is an inventory management technique that allows you to determine the optimal quantity of goods to order so you can meet customer demands and cut inventory costs.
Inventory costs include:
- Shortage costs: Costs when your inventory runs out of stock
- Order costs: Costs when you place an order to restock inventory
- Holding costs: Costs when you maintain inventory
This technique works by calculating the costs of holding inventory and the costs of ordering inventory.
Here is the basic formula for EOQ: EOQ = √((2DS)/H)
In this formula,
- D = annual demand for the product (in units)
- S = cost to place an order (per order)
- H = cost to hold one unit of inventory for a year (also known as the carrying cost)
- EOQ = the optimal order quantity (in units)
By using the EOQ formula, you can find the optimal order quantity that minimizes total inventory costs.
4. Safety Stock Inventory
Safety stock inventory is an inventory management technique that allows you to meet customer demand despite supply chain disruptions and unexpected fluctuations in demand.
Safety stock is additional goods that you store in your warehouse in case supply shortages or transportation delays occur. Think of it as your cushion to prevent an out-of-stock situation.
You can utilize this technique when your supplier can’t deliver more of your inventory or when there’s a shift in customer demand.
To implement the safety stock inventory technique:
- Determine the level of safety stock you need — typically about 50% more of your average inventory quantity
- Monitor inventory levels using a warehouse management system
- Reorder goods when your inventory levels fall below the safety stock level
5. Batch Tracking
Batch tracking is an inventory management technique that allows you to monitor inventory expiration dates or track defective items back to their original batch to help you ensure quality control and seamless product recalls.
This technique works by assigning a unique batch or lot number to a specific inventory group, to track production and expiration dates, along with storage and handling conditions.
Dropshipping is an inventory management technique that allows you to ship products directly from your third-party supplier or manufacturer, rather than storing inventory in your own facility.
To implement dropshopping, you purchase your items from a third-party supplier. Then, the items are shipped to your customers.
The biggest benefit of this technique is that you don’t need to store inventory in your own facility — allowing you to avoid storage costs.
7. FIFO and LIFO
FIFO, or first in, first out, is an inventory management technique in which you sell your older inventory first, making way for newer items to keep your inventory fresh.
On the other hand, LIFO or last in, first out, is a technique in which you sell your latest inventory first, allowing you to save on taxes by increasing the cost of goods sold (COGS).
8. Just-in-time Inventory Management
Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management is a technique that allows you to prevent dead stock, or unsold inventory, by only ordering and receiving items when needed.
Ultimately, your supplier only delivers inventory to your warehouse once a customer places their order. As a result, you don’t have to store inventory that might end up as dead stock.
Warehouse Inventory Management Best Practices
From organizing your floor plan to making a switch to automated warehouse management systems, here are seven best practices for warehouse inventory management in 2023.
1. Minimize Manual Input
Manual tasks are often time-consuming and prone to human error.
Instead of manually counting your inventory, you can utilize automated solutions like warehouse drones, sensors, wearable devices and RFID tags to help you track and manage your warehouse inventory.
2. Implement Cycle Counting
Using cycle counting, you can calculate your inventory items in sections, allowing you to evaluate inconsistencies. The cycle length will depend on your inventory’s product group or type and warehouse zone or section.
For example, higher-valued items should be counted more frequently.
While there are different ways to perform a cycle count, here’s an example of a cycle counting process using ABC classification:
- Categorize inventory items: Use the ABC analysis to categorize inventory items into groups based on their value or importance to your business. For example, category A can include high-value items that represent 80% of the inventory value, category B can include moderate-valued items that represent 15% of the inventory value, and category C might include least-valued items that represent 5% of the inventory value.
- Determine cycle counting frequency: Determine how frequent you want to cycle count each category of inventory. For example, you can count category A items once a month, while you can count category C items every six months.
- Conduct cycle counting: Conduct cycle counting activities according to the schedule. Count a small portion of inventory each time and compare the results to your inventory records to identify any discrepancies.
- Adjust inventory records: Adjust your inventory records based on the results of your cycle counting. Any discrepancies should be investigated and resolved, and inventory records should be updated.
3. Ensure Popular Products Are Easy To Reach
You can identify your best-selling products by tracking your orders or by performing an ABC analysis.
After distinguishing which items are most popular — your category A products — move your fast-moving stock closer to the shipping and packing areas in your warehouse for easy access.
Of course, there’s an even easier, no-fuss way of ensuring your products are easy to reach.
Modula’s Vertical Lift Modules (VLM) and Horizontal Carousels (HC) are automated solutions that allow a large inventory of goods to be quickly accessible while being stored in a safe and secure environment.
With a simple touch of the user-friendly Copilot or a barcode scan, products are automatically delivered to your operators.
4. Organize Your Floor Plan
Organizing your floor plan allows you to maximize your current warehouse space.
To make the most of your existing floor plan, take advantage of your available ceiling height and width with Modula’s VLMs and HC. You don’t need the largest warehouse to operate — you just need the smartest layout.
5. Hire a Warehouse Manager
A warehouse manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of your warehouse, such as managing inventory, ensuring efficient use of warehouse space and managing warehouse employees.
Hire a warehouse manager to ensure that inventory levels in your warehouse meet consumer demand and goods are received and shipped according to schedule.
6. Utilize Demand Forecasting
Demand forecasting is the process of using historical data to predict upcoming demand and ensure your inventory doesn’t run out.
It involves analyzing trends, patterns and factors that influence consumer demand to make informed predictions.
For example, seasonality can cause SKU velocity (how often each SKU is picked during a specific period) to fluctuate.
So, you can expect an uptick in demand for beach hats in the summer or hotdogs when the 4th of July rolls around the corner.
7. Use a Warehouse Management System
Warehouse management system can provide support, monitor your warehouse and collect real-time data from your automated storage and retrieval systems, regardless of the location.
With Modula’s Warehouse Management System, you can accurately manage and track individual items, from stock levels to product movement and beyond — more on that below!
How to Automate Warehouse Inventory Management with Modula Solutions
Modula is a leading manufacturer of innovative automated storage solutions and inventory management systems.
Whether you’re in the automotive, retail or transportation, or another industry entirely, we provide automated storage and inventory management solutions that can help you increase productivity, improve picking accuracy and cut costs.
1. Modula Warehouse Management System
Our Modula software integrations are proven and tested. Our commitment to our customers has paved the way for us to develop and deliver standard-setting integration options that bind today’s warehouse operations with your ERP or DMS of choice.
At Modula, we offer two Warehouse Management System solutions:
- Module WMS Base: Perfect for small or scalable warehouse footprints
- Modula WMS Premium: End-to-end inventory and warehouse management solutions
Regardless of the package you choose, our warehouse management system allows you to:
- Gain complete inventory visibility and control
- Achieve exceptional picking and replenishment accuracy and efficiency
- Reduce cumbersome, time-consuming paper and manual processes
2. Modula Cloud
Modula Cloud is an all-in-one solution for your remote management, support, and analytics needs, whenever and wherever you need it.
Built-in and always running, the Modula Cloud platform captures all data in an easy-to-navigate online portal where you can securely monitor and manage your operations, from any device, anywhere.
Modula Cloud allows you to:
- Monitor your advanced Modula storage systems
- Gather statistical data from all your automated storage and retrieval systems, regardless of where they are located
- Implement predictive warehouse maintenance
3. Modula Vertical Lift Modules
Need to optimize your storage space?
Modula’s VLMs are state-of-the-art, fully automated vertical storage systems, designed to minimize warehouse footprint by taking advantage of your warehouse’s existing ceiling height.
Modula VLMS allow you to:
- Save up to 90% of floor space compared to traditional warehouse storage solutions
- Automatically receive items with the Copilot console or a scan of a barcode
- Process complex orders in the shortest possible time without sacrificing quality
- Reduce travel time by up to 90% compared to static shelving
- Keep your workers’ safety and ergonomics in mind
- Restrict access to unauthorized employees thanks to access codes and passwords
- Monitor picking operations and log-ins even down to its specific tray
4. Modula Horizontal Carousel
If you don’t have towering high ceilings in your warehouse, we’ve got you covered with the Modula HC.
Modula HC allows you to:
- Reach picking rates of up to 550 lines per hour for each employee
- Achieve up to 99% picking accuracy
- Store more items thanks to compact and high-density storage areas
- Experience a safer working environment by reducing physical strain and eliminating wasteful travel around the warehouse
- Protect your operators from moving parts, thanks to fast, automatic safety doors
Wrapping Up on Warehouse Inventory Management
Implementing warehouse inventory management strategies can help you run a more efficient warehouse by following best practices, such as organizing your floor plan, implementing cycle counting and minimizing manual input.
Warehouse software solutions are one way to help reduce human error, increase profitability and improve customer satisfaction.
Modula’s wide range of advanced warehouse management solutions help ensure that you get real-time data whenever and wherever you need it, while meeting growing customer demands in a cost-effective and productive operation.