The terms warehouse inventory management and warehouse management are often used interchangeably. However, while there is overlap, warehouse and inventory management have distinctly different properties. Understanding the two’s intricacies can significantly boost your business’ efficiency.
Honestly, not only are the terms used interchangeably but there are also several competing definitions—some of which are needlessly complicated. Below we lay out a straightforward account of inventory management for warehouse efficiency and provide a few inventory tips.
The difference between warehouse and inventory management
Warehouse management is a broad term for organizing, monitoring and controlling the day-to-day operations of a warehouse. The job is typically performed by a “warehouse manager” and includes everything from shipping and receiving to employee scheduling and administration. Any action occurring in and around a warehouse is the purview of warehouse management.
“Inventory” is every item that goes into making a finished product, including the product itself. For example, a plastic action figure is inventory, and so are the plastic and metal used to make the toy. The cardboard packaging used to display the toy is inventory, and so is the ink used to decorate the package. The machines used to manufacture the toy are not inventory, but the parts used for upkeep and repairs are inventory. Raw materials, works in progress, finished goods and maintenance supplies are all considered inventory.
If you look up “inventory” in the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, you’ll see that “stock” is used as a synonym. However, as far as the supply and logistics industry is concerned, the two words do not share the same meaning. Instead, “stock” refers exclusively to the finished products a store sells to consumers. So, from a logistics perspective, there is no such thing as warehouse stock because warehouses never interface with the end consumer. Warehouses deal exclusively with inventory.
Warehouse inventory management involves the receiving, storing, shipping and tracking of everything that passes through the building. It includes ensuring that inventory remains at optimal quantities based on historical data and replenishing as needed. The ultimate goal is knowing exactly when products arrive at your location, logging and moving them to a predetermined storage location and immediately locating, retrieving and shipping them when needed.
Managing warehouse inventory is just one specialized aspect of the broad category of warehouse management. Many aspects of warehouse management impact the warehouse inventory system. For example, imagine a warehouse with a poorly designed layout, where the racks are too close together and inconsistently labeled. These inefficiencies will cause bottlenecks that result in forklifts stacking up and receiving and shipping delays. Clearly, optimizing warehouse storage space is essential to inventory management warehouse operations. However, it is an indirect part of inventory management that falls under the broader umbrella of warehouse management.
Warehouse inventory tips
The efficiency of your warehouse inventory management directly impacts your business’ bottom line. Fortunately, implementing a few simple warehouse inventory management best practices can increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Use a warehouse inventory monitoring system
A warehouse inventory monitoring system automates and simplifies many warehouse inventory tasks. The software monitors the procurement, tracking and shipping of all inventory, so you know exactly what products are where and at what time. With a simple scan, the system updates your inventory records in real-time.
A warehouse inventory monitoring system will also record trends, like how many packages were shipped last month compared to this month, to help locate operational bottlenecks. Most systems can also analyze historical data to help forecast when specific products need to be ordered and predict peak and stagnate sales cycles so you can stay ahead of customer demand.
Hire a warehouse manager
A warehouse is a complex system. Any delay or chokepoint can affect operations throughout the facility. There needs to be one person to oversee every aspect and ensure your business runs at peak efficiency. In addition to monitoring the employees, a warehouse manager oversees the warehouse inventory system to watch for irregularities and inefficiencies. Should issues arise, the warehouse manager will ensure they are promptly corrected.
Review the warehouse layout
Is your warehouse layout as efficient as possible? It’s time to find out.
When considering a redesign, remember to review both storage space and traffic flow. Your warehouse layout should efficiently use your building’s physical space and storage racks to maximize the potential of your warehouse team.
You also need to consider your specific inventory and how it needs to move through the warehouse. Your inventory dictates how much storage space you need and the necessary traffic flow, such as aisles size and the types of forklifts and other material handling equipment you need.
Efficient management of warehouse inventory goes hand in hand with effective warehouse management. Hiring a trustworthy warehouse manager, maximizing your warehouse layout and utilizing warehouse inventory system software will significantly improve your warehouse operations. If you have more questions about operating an efficient warehouse—especially forklift batteries and all accessories—call Texas Motive Solutions at (888) 316-2459. Our forklift repair service team is happy to answer all of your questions. Please fill out a form to learn about our services and discover everything we can do for you.