Keeping a warehouse organized can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re dealing with large amounts of inventory.
But it’s not just about stacking boxes and products efficiently—it’s about maximizing productivity, saving time and money, and increasing inventory accuracy.
In the rapidly evolving world of ecommerce, effective warehouse inventory management is a critical aspect that can spell the difference between success and failure.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn:
- Key concepts and strategies helping you understand its importance in a successful ecommerce business.
- Common challenges and how to overcome them, enabling you to run a more efficient and effective operation.
- The benefits of employing a robust warehouse management system like SkuVault, including how it streamlines processes and improves your bottom line.
What is warehouse inventory management?
Simply put, it’s the systematic process of organizing, tracking, and optimizing inventory and operations within a warehouse or storage facility.
- Tracking product locations
- Handling order fulfillment
- And forecasting inventory levels
Furthermore, it entails overseeing:
- Warehouse staff
- Material handling
- And warehouse space to ensure efficiency and productivity.
Now, you might be wondering, how in the world can you keep tabs on all these at once (especially in a small business context)?
In almost every modern business, a warehouse inventory management system is the backbone of these operations.
Warehouse management software provides business owners with real-time data on inventory levels, quality control, profitability, and more.
A warehouse management system is instrumental in reducing human error, improving order fulfillment times, and maximizing warehouse usage.
But warehouse management is not just about knowing what’s in your warehouse. It’s about using that information to streamline processes, cut costs, and increase throughput.
Warehouse management vs. inventory management
It’s common to get the terms warehouse management and inventory management mixed up, but they refer to two distinct aspects of the supply chain process.
Let’s start with warehouse management. This involves managing the warehouse layout, the storage of goods, and ensuring that warehouse operations run smoothly.
The responsibility falls mainly on the warehouse manager, who ensures that goods are properly stored, processed, and shipped.
On the other hand, inventory management involves tracking, controlling, and managing the actual items or products that are being stored and moved around in your warehouse.
The primary tool for inventory management is inventory management systems (IMS) like SkuVault, which give you a clear picture of what items we have, where they are located, and when they need to be restocked or moved.
While they are different, both are crucial aspects of a well-oiled supply chain and proper warehouse inventory control.
Common challenges of warehouse inventory management
Despite the pivotal role it plays in supply chain operations, businesses often grapple with numerous challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues.
Inventory inaccuracy is one of the most prevalent issues in warehouse inventory management. It can result from data entry errors, damage or loss, or discrepancies between actual stock and recorded stock.
These inaccuracies can lead to problems like stockouts and overstocks, both of which impact your bottom line and customer satisfaction.
Lack of visibility
Another significant challenge is a lack of visibility. Without a clear view of your inventory (especially when managing multiple channels), you may not know what products you have, where they are located, or when they need replenishment.
This lack of visibility can lead to poor decision-making and missed opportunities.
An inefficient warehouse layout is another common stumbling block. Poorly organized warehouses can hinder the movement of goods and personnel, leading to reduced productivity and increased chances of error or injury.
Optimizing your warehouse setup for flow and accessibility can significantly enhance efficiency and worker safety.
Too many manual processes
Lastly, reliance on too many manual processes can severely disrupt your warehouse operations. Manual data entry and physical counts are time-consuming and prone to errors.
Implementing automation through warehouse management systems can help to streamline processes, reduce human error, and increase efficiency.
Navigating these challenges may seem daunting, but fear not – there are solutions and best practices available to address each of these issues effectively. Let’s explore some of them next.
5 benefits of better warehouse inventory management
The benefits of warehouse management software extend far beyond just keeping your inventory in check – they can boost your bottom line, enhance customer satisfaction, and improve overall efficiency.
Let’s delve into some specific advantages.
Makes inventory tracking easy
When set up in the right way, tracking inventory becomes a breeze. By using inventory management systems like SkuVault, you can keep real-time tabs on your stock levels, where you store inventory, and the status of orders.
(See this in action with our self-guided tour of the platform!)
No more manual checks or guesstimates. This ease of tracking saves time and reduces the risk of errors and discrepancies, leading to more accurate forecasting and decision-making.
Boosts warehouse productivity
A well-managed warehouse is a productive warehouse.
Proper warehouse inventory management means less time spent searching for items, fewer misplaced or lost stock instances, and fewer instances of overstocking or stockouts.
By reducing these inefficiencies, your warehouse staff can focus on what matters most – processing orders and delivering excellent customer service.
Increases customer satisfaction
Believe it or not, effective warehouse inventory control can significantly boost customer satisfaction. We’d even argue you can draw a straight line from good warehouse processes to profitability. How so?
When inventory is accurately tracked and managed, you can ensure that the right products are available when customers need them.
Furthermore, with efficient picking, packing, and shipping processes, customers receive their orders promptly and accurately. This reliability and speed of service can greatly enhance your customers’ experience and loyalty.
Faster picking and packing process
An organized warehouse leads to faster picking and packing. When items are appropriately labeled and stored in logical, easy-to-access locations, warehouse managers and workers can quickly locate and pick items for orders.
Similarly, an efficient packing process means that once items are picked, they can be packed and shipped out quickly, reducing delivery times and improving overall operational efficiency.
More efficient warehouse operation
All these benefits culminate in a more efficient warehouse operation overall. With:
- Easy inventory tracking
- Increased productivity
- Happier customers
- And faster processing times
Your warehouse becomes a well-oiled machine that operates seamlessly and efficiently.
Better warehouse inventory management not only improves the day-to-day functioning of your warehouse but also contributes to the broader success of your business.
Ready to reap these benefits? Let’s look at some top tips for enhancing your warehouse inventory management.
Top 10 warehouse inventory management tips to keep organized
1. Good warehouse inventory management begins with regular upkeep
Effective warehouse inventory management kicks off with consistent maintenance and inspection. A pivotal first step to managing warehouse inventory is ensuring your warehouse meets your current standards.
How does this look in practice? It’s about being proactive and regularly auditing your warehouse operations and organization. Ask yourself:
- Is your inventory positioned so that warehouse staff can easily and safely access it?
- Are your “hot” SKUs conveniently located between waist and shoulder height for quick picking?
- Have you designated an area in your warehouse specifically for damaged items?
- Are these damaged items attended to daily?
Let’s be real; even the most organized warehouse can quickly devolve into chaos without regular upkeep.
Disorganization is the nemesis of efficiency—it slows down your pickers and creates unnecessary roadblocks in your operations.
The solution? Keep ahead of the game. You need to reorganize before the clutter slows down your operations.
Implementing warehouse inventory systems can be a game-changer in maintaining organization and keeping track of tasks.
Ensure your warehouse manager has a daily checklist and hold them accountable for maintaining the warehouse standards. This ongoing maintenance and accountability are crucial for managing inventory effectively.
2. Know your high sellers
Next, place your high-volume items closer to the shipping area. Make sure they are easily accessible – you’ll eliminate a lot of unnecessary labor time.
However, this should only apply to your proven top sellers to avoid unnecessary physical inventory re-allocation.
If you want to pinpoint your high sellers, use a tool like Linnworks reporting. This feature allows you to pull aggregated data using advanced settings.
Then, you can filter by brand, class, and supplier to help you notice patterns and make more informed decisions about purchasing and warehouse placement.
3. Use warehouse inventory management software
Investing in robust warehouse inventory management software can transform your business operations from top to bottom, making them as efficient and streamlined as possible.
Deploying a high-quality warehouse inventory management system like SkuVault Core unlocks a whole new world of possibilities.
The software allows you to seamlessly track and manage your warehouse inventory with advanced features, reducing human error and saving precious time.
Think about it—instead of manually counting and recounting your stock or worrying about misplaced items, wouldn’t it be far more efficient to have a system that does it all for you?
A system that can locate any product in your warehouse in real-time, provide accurate stock levels, and keep everything organized?
Plus, it’s not all about data and digits. Good inventory management software also impacts your team’s morale.
No more sifting through disorganized stock or being frustrated by manual data entry errors. Your team can focus on what they do best, improving productivity and job satisfaction.
SkuVault Core also integrates effortlessly with your marketplaces. This means that the quantities listed on all your selling platforms are entirely accurate, avoiding overselling or stockouts.
And we all know how important that is in the eeommerce world!
That sounds like a game-changer, right? With the right software by your side, you’ll wonder how you ever managed your warehouse inventory without it!
Learn more about SkuVault Core’s features, or take a look around yourself with our self-guided product tour.
4. Utilize cycle counts
Here’s an insider tip—don’t hold your breath waiting for that annual physical inventory count to take stock of where your inventory stands. Instead, employ the cycle counting strategy to maintain an ongoing inventory audit.
Now, you might be asking, “What is cycle counting?” Cycle counting is a savvy approach to perpetual inventory management. Instead of tackling the entire inventory in one go, you focus on smaller subsets of inventory, counting them in waves over a period of time.
The real beauty of cycle counts is in their frequency and scope. Regularly going through all your locations every quarter creates a more accurate, up-to-date picture of your warehouse inventory. It’s like getting a quarterly health check-up for your warehouse!
5. Minimize unauthorized traffic
Do you ever notice someone walking around your warehouse and think, who is this guy? A new hire? A lost pizza delivery kid looking for your shipping office? Someone from customer service picking something they shouldn’t?
Eliminate the risk of unauthorized people walking around where your inventory is stashed.
Give your warehouse employees some kind of an identifier (like special t-shirts) that can distinguish those working in the warehouse and those that shouldn’t.
6. Label everything
Do you have any product in your warehouse without labels? Put labels on them to make it easier for pickers to choose the right inventory.
Supply chain management is all about reducing errors. You can avoid future trouble by taking some simple preventative measures.
For example, you can either devise your own labeling system and purchase thermal printing labels to print them on, or you can use a labeling software.
SkuVault allows you to print out your product and location labels. With SkuVault, You can also determine what gets put on your labels to customize them to fit your exact needs.
7. Implement quality control
Avoid fixing your mistakes after the fact by double-checking your orders. This is called quality control and it adds another layer of responsibility (and almost always results in higher customer satisfaction).
The process usually involves checking a picked item against an order to ensure it’s the correct SKU and quantity.
Meanwhile, QC can also check the item for damage to ensure it is being shipped in its advertised condition and that the customer receiving it will be happy.
8. Practice priority picking
A nice trick we’ve learned over the years is to create colored orders or pick lists.
These will help your material handlers identify the products that go to your most valuable customers because they can observe the color priority.
9. Finish right, start tight
Give your warehouse crew the chance to finish order processing and clean up before they clock out.
You’ll need to schedule a time to stop processing orders, maybe 30 minutes before the end of the day, and allocate the remaining time specifically for cleaning.
By the end of the day, your warehouse will be organized, and your inventory will be right where it belongs instead of just lying around waiting for the next day to start in disarray.
Compare how fast your employees will clean up at the end of their day versus how slow it will get done in the morning.
10. Work on warehouse organization
You know how in any place that houses a large inventory of product for rent or sale (like big box stores or supermarkets), everything is neatly categorized and the sections are clearly labeled to assist customers in finding what they’re looking for?
That’s super convenient for warehouse workers, too!
Make signs and labels to direct your personnel through your warehouse and help them find the inventory quickly, easily, and ideally without continually bothering supervisors by asking for directions.
How Linnworks helps ecommerce businesses with warehouse inventory management
Let’s dive deeper into Linnworks’ core features.
Warehouse management system
Linnworks’ warehouse inventory system offers a dynamic, comprehensive solution to manage your warehouse activities efficiently.
It integrates seamlessly with your existing workflows, helping you automate processes and maximize available space for storing inventory.
It takes care of the nitty-gritty details of warehouse management—from stock reordering, location tracking to efficient routing—freeing up time for you to focus on growing your business.
Inventory management system
Effective inventory management is the backbone of any ecommerce business, and Linnworks gets it right.
With this intuitive inventory management software, you’ll never have to worry about overselling or stockouts again.
It ensures accurate inventory counts in real-time across all your selling channels, allowing you to make informed purchasing decisions.
Furthermore, its reporting features provide deep insights into your inventory, helping you identify trends and make data-driven decisions.
Onboarding and training
The Linnworks experience begins with a comprehensive onboarding and training program designed to make your transition as smooth as possible.
This ensures you can hit the ground running and fully leverage the platform’s capabilities. Linnworks’ dedicated team offers hands-on training, detailed guides, and round-the-clock support to assist you every step of the way.
With Linnworks, you’re never alone in your journey towards more efficient warehouse inventory management.
Linnworks is more than just a software platform; it’s a complete solution transforming how ecommerce businesses manage their warehouse inventory. It empowers you to take control of your operations, increase efficiency, and ultimately, drive your business growth.
Ready to see how Linnworks can revolutionize your warehouse management? We’ve created a self-guided product tour that lets you dive into our platform and explore all its features at your own pace. No sales pitch, no pressure, and it only takes three minutes of your time.
Warehouse inventory management FAQs
What is warehouse inventory management?
Warehouse inventory management is the process of supervising and coordinating inventory, warehouse floor space, and logistics operations in a warehouse setting.
This includes tasks like tracking inventory levels, handling orders, managing warehouse storage, and ensuring the efficient movement of goods within the warehouse.
How does a warehouse inventory management system work?
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution that assists in the day-to-day operations of a warehouse.
It guides inventory receiving and storage, optimizes the picking and shipping of orders, and advises on inventory replenishment.
A WMS helps manage resources and warehouse space to improve efficiency and productivity by employing real-time data.
What is the role of an inventory management system?
An inventory management system is used to track goods across the supply chain. It monitors inventory levels, sales, orders, and deliveries to ensure accurate inventory quantities.
By using such a system, businesses can reduce the risk of product overstock and outages, ultimately saving costs and increasing customer satisfaction.
How does Linnworks improve warehouse management?
Linnworks offers an integrated warehouse inventory management software solution.
It combines the benefits of warehouse and inventory management systems, enhancing efficiency and productivity.
Its core features include real-time inventory tracking, efficient warehouse space utilization, automated processes, and comprehensive onboarding and training.
Why is it important to optimize warehouse layout?
Optimizing the layout of your warehouse is crucial to improve picking efficiency, reduce handling costs, and maximize the use of available space.
A well-organized warehouse can facilitate smoother and faster movement of goods, increase worker productivity, and reduce the risk of accidents.
What are cycle counts in warehouse inventory management?
Cycle counting is an inventory management procedure where a small subset of inventory in a specific location is counted on a specified day.
It’s an alternative to complete, wall-to-wall physical inventory counts and can be done more frequently. Regular cycle counts can improve inventory accuracy and help identify and resolve discrepancies early.