Every person who has ever done laundry knows the saga of the lost socks. Socks go into the laundry. Some of them do not come out. The same concept seems to happen in some warehouses. Stock comes into the warehouse. Some of it is never seen again.
Where do lost items end up in the warehouse? And how can you find them? Hint: The answer involves improving your warehouse efficiency.
The Case of the Missing Items
Missing items seem to hide in the oddest places.
- Hiding behind other products: No, it's not a case of hide-and-seek. It is a case where a stock item was mistaken for backstock of another item. It is placed in the wrong slot, behind the current stock of the item that should be in that slot. The result is a lost item and an incorrect inventory.
- Hiding in plain sight: Sometimes the product is not even hiding behind another. It was placed in a seldom-used slot where it wasn't supposed to be. No one notices that inventory item X is in the slot reserved for seldom-used item Z. Everyone thinks there are plenty of item Z and none of item X.
- Hiding in a forgotten corner of the warehouse: What happens to items that no one knows what to do with? They somehow get shuttled into a dark corner and forgotten. A person might remember them a few weeks later, but they are buried behind other forgotten items.
The hiding places are numerous in a large warehouse.
How to Solve the Case
How can you find the lost items lurking in the recesses of your warehouse? Here are a few things to consider.
Taking inventory once a year will find things, well, once a year. Those hidden items may turn up during annual inventory. Waiting a year for the lost items to appear is not good inventory management. The better option is doing cycle counts where every item in the warehouse is counted multiple times a year. It helps root out the lost items fairly quickly.
Updating your warehouse management software may seem like a waste of money... until 10% of your inventory is on the lost item list. An updated WMS, with a bit of help from barcode readers or RF tags, can track every item that enters your warehouse. It can also help your team put items away in the correct slot and pick the right items for every order. It just improves overall warehouse efficiency.
Reorganizing your warehouse may seem like too much hassle... until you turn up lost items in the dark corners. Every square inch of your warehouse space should have a purpose. No shelf should be used for storage without proper labeling and tracking of items placed there. No items should be left at the receiving dock longer than absolutely necessary.
Don't let missing items take control of your warehouse efficiency. You need to take steps to find all the missing items and keep new ones from wandering away. A new warehouse management system is the right way to get started. How much of your inventory is on the missing list?