Inventory management is an action undertaken in almost all businesses to some degree but to a far greater extent in warehouses and distribution centres. These systems are able to count products and also provide incredibly useful data on the performance of specific products and alerts for when stock levels are running low. A solid inventory system is crucial for the smooth running of any business but especially one as large as a distribution centre.

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Inventory management ensures that the right product is in the right place when it is needed, which is particularly important giving the huge growth of e-commerce in the last few years. It also requires the right storage equipment. For more information on Shelving Ireland, visit a site like Rackzone.There are many different strategies, software packages and technologies available for the modern warehouse.

Inventory counting – These are counts conducted on a regular basis and often form part of an annual audit, for example. For a warehouse, this process can be time-consuming and take a lot of staff to complete.

Cycle counting – This method only counts part of the inventory regularly. It is normally done in sections and on different days of the week or month. In a large setting like a warehouse, this will normally include the high frequency or most valuable items. However, this method does throw up inaccuracies and can quickly become confusing if the same product is stored in multiple locations, for example.

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With manual inventory management, there is a wider scope for human error. Should inaccuracies be brought to light, it then requires the inventory to be taken a second time, causing more down time. The other issue that arises is the problem of turning paper-based counting into easy to understand and helpful data.

RFID – This stands for radio frequency identification tags and they are available in passive and active varieties. An active system gives updates in real time on product numbers and locations, whereas passive systems come in a read-only mode.

Barcode – Just like the black stripes we see on labels in shops, barcodes can be used in warehouse settings too. The labels are already attached to the product and workers can scan the package or pallet as they go, updating the system in real time. Barcode scanners provide accurate data which can assist management with making buying decisions for the future.

Robotics – Of course, we’ve seen the sci-fi movies where a robot future awaits, and it might not be too distant in the future either! The future for warehouse inventory management might well be machine learning that can enable labels to be read with no need for RFID or barcodes and with instant feed back into the database for split second inventory updates. This really would speed up the process and be an effective way to eliminate human error.