Anyone who has ever worked in or just been inside of a warehouse should be able to understand why the prospect of physical entry counts strike fear in the heart of almost every warehouse worker. Manually counting and cataloging what seems like countless items is a process prone to errors, which can cause an already lengthy process to become even more time-consuming as such errors necessitate redoing the entire count. It’s enough to overwhelm even the most fastidious of people. Thankfully, with the right strategy and technology like rugged industrial tablets and industrial panel PCs, you can make physical inventory counts as painless as possible.

Benefits Of Physical Inventory Counts

When we say physical inventory counts strike fear into warehouse workers, we aren’t joking. In a survey of warehouse operators conducted by NetSuite, 70% of respondents said conducting physical inventory counts was a painful process, and 15% said they don’t bother conducting them at all. 

Despite the headaches they cause, it would be a mistake to forgo physical inventory counts altogether. Without them, it can be challenging to account for your business’s assets and finances accurately. In fact, tax and accounting regulations in many jurisdictions practically mandate periodic physical inventory counts even if companies have digital inventory management systems.

Beyond regulatory compliance, however, physical inventory counts help businesses increase profitability and efficiency in the following ways: 

Loss/Shrinkage Prevention

Shrinkage – which occurs when there is less inventory on hand than is listed in inventory records – can be caused by several things, from physical damage to theft to the items just being lost. You can identify these discrepancies more accurately with a physical inventory count and possibly identify their causes of shrinkage going forward. 

Customer Satisfaction

Accurate inventory records are essential for managing and meeting your customer’s expectations. It can be challenging to fulfill orders without them, and customers may seek out competitors who have their stock in order and ready to go.

Planning for the future

The data from your physical inventory counts can help you with everything from demand and quarterly profit forecasting to picking suppliers.

Reducing the Pain of the Physical count

As mentioned above, companies have traditionally conducted physical inventory counts manually. As such, they usually are both time-consuming and subject to human error. Locating, counting, and logging each item individually is labor-intensive and eats up large chunks of time, which is only exacerbated if items are stored in multiple locations around the warehouse. In addition, when errors inevitably occur, it takes even more time and labor to sort through and resolve the discrepancies. 

Using RFID to Ensure Digital Accuracy Between Manual Counts

One of the best ways to eliminate discrepancies between your regular inventory log and physical inventory count is to ensure your regular inventory log is as up-to-date and accurate as possible. But, unfortunately, getting workers to accurately log the inventory flow as they are rushing around to fulfill orders, receive shipments, process returns, etc., is often an exercise in futility. 

Though most warehouses have thankfully moved on from pen and paper inventory management, many still rely on outdated technology like barcodes or QR codes. While certainly easier than tracking each item in your warehouse with a pencil and a clipboard, barcodes still require warehouse workers to scan each item individually, which can still be quite tedious. Workers can easily miss things, which over time can lead to massive discrepancies. 

RFID uses radio waves instead of visible light to read tags encoded with information about the item the tags are affixed to. Unlike Barcodes, RFID does not need to be read one at a time. For example, a warehouse employee with a rugged industrial tablet equipped with a built-in RFID scanner can scan multiple RFID tags at once, meaning it’s less likely workers will miss scanning an item. It also helps eliminate a repetitive task – scanning barcodes one at a time – reducing the potential for worker burnout.

By reducing the chance that workers will miss items and the possibility of burnout, you increase the likelihood of errors in your log, and therefore discrepancies in a physical inventory count.

Ensure Everything is in Its Place with a Digital Twin

Very few warehouses can store a single product in a single location; it’s just the nature of the beast. As a result, it’s not uncommon to pull items from 2 or 3 areas to fulfill a single order.  Unfortunately, this makes maintaining an accurate inventory log more complex and conducting a physical inventory count more time-consuming. 

Say you have 15 items of product A spread between 4 locations in your warehouse. I receive an order for 7 of Product A, and your inventory log says you are down 4. Your workers would have no idea which of the 4 locations to begin their search. If there’s 6 in location 4, you’d want to start there, but it’s most likely that your worker would start at location 1, where there’s nothing. This tediousness leads to even more burnout, meaning they are less likely to log everything every time they fulfill an order properly. In turn, that leads to more likelihood of discrepancies in the physical inventory count.

A digital twin is simply a computer model of a real-world space or object. Thanks to advancements in 3-d modeling technology, it is now easier than ever to create a digital twin of your warehouse space. Combined with data from your RFID inventory scans, you can create what is effectively a 4-d computer model of precisely what inventory is located where in your at any given time. When fulfilling an order, workers could use their tablet the display of an Industrial panel PC to check the digital twin of the warehouse.

It also makes physical inventory counts simpler. A digital twin allows you to pinpoint precisely where count discrepancies occur and minimize the number of areas where recounts are completed.

Final Thoughts

Though physical inventory counts can be a headache, they don’t have to be so painful with the right technology and plan. If you’re interested in finding out how industrial panel PCs and rugged industrial tablets can help make physical inventory counts easier, contact the experts at Cybernet today!