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Warehouses that handle high volumes of inventory require an array of unique procedures. Along these same lines, a warehouse that hasn’t streamlined these processes through automation will often struggle with cycle counting because its operations have become too complex. Manual inventory checks are resource-intensive and inefficient because they can divert your operators away from their normal responsibilities for an indeterminable time.

Manual cycle counting procedural errors often disrupt warehouses in ways most floor managers would rarely suspect. Counting your inventory physically contributes to more inventory documentation errors that can lead to critical stock shortages. Likewise, when your warehouse inventory tracking and tracing capabilities aren’t well automated, expect higher rates of workplace theft and an increase in unplanned system downtime.

Warehouses depend on accurate cycle counting to avoid stockouts that can interrupt their operations to the point where they have few other options other than to shut their facility down. Inaccurate inventory counts can halt your lines indefinitely or lead to excess stock that demands more warehouse space.

How businesses take account of their inventory differs from organization to organization. There are a few best cycle counting practices, however, that almost every successful warehouse deploys. We’ll discuss a few of these suggested methods before demonstrating how you can increase cycle counting accuracy and efficiency by automating the process with Agility Essentials WMS from WiSys.

Cycle counting vs physical inventory: What’s the difference?

Cycle counting and physical inventory are often used interchangeably, but each term represents its own distinct concept. Physical inventory describes the process of shuttering your warehouse distribution center completely and halting your operations until you’ve accurately documented all your current inventory.

The physical inventory process is expensive. Any disruption to your continuous operations is costly. You need to commit significant labor overhead that frequently entails paying out overtime hours to complete a physical inventory count. If your operations are counting at rates slower than expected or they’re failing process audits, this will invariably slow you down. You may have to draw from other departments like engineering and technology just to meet your deadline, while those key employees are diverted from their core duties.

Because physical inventory counts are as logistically strenuous as they are expensive, companies that depend on them for accurate stock-keeping tend to push these events out as far as possible to save money and time. The trouble with delayed and infrequent inventory counts is that they only invite more inaccuracy and make the documentation process a bigger chore than it should be.

Cycle counts, on the other hand, account for only one sample of a select group of items within the whole of your inventory. In cycle counting, the accuracy from that sample section of the count is the presumed accuracy of the rest of your stored goods. Warehouses engage in cycle counting more frequently than physical inventory counts. These facilities subsequently reduce a lot of the logistical problems of tracking their stock, namely those of their industry counterparts who rely solely on completing a physical inventory check once a year.

Both physical inventory and cycle counting are subject to human statistical processing errors. The best approach for mitigating this issue is to build an automated cycle counting solution into your inventory management process. Now, let’s discuss a few best practices for cycle counting before how to automate this aspect of your inventory management processes.

Best practices for warehouse cycle counting

You can audit your warehouse goods in any number of ways, but regardless of how you do it, accuracy and efficiency should be your primary objectives. The details of your inventory, specifically how much of it you distribute or use, should always determine your cycle counting intervals. Some warehouses deploy cycle counting procedures daily, while others find they require more infrequent intervals.

Only you can determine the best approach for cycle counting. However, in general terms, most warehouses will close all inventory transactions before starting a cycle counting session. The next step is to organize your items in counting groups before using a specified and pre-established counting process. Ensure that you document each product of each SKU listed and determine which items take priority for counting.

Most warehouses focus on counting their valuable items and high-frequency goods first. It’s easier to count stock that doesn’t leave your warehouse much on a quarterly or annual basis. Finally, the most accurate warehouses maintain specifically trained personnel in cycle counting and implement comprehensive auditing processes at every stage to ensure the most accurate documentation.

Cycle counting and automation

If your warehouse struggles with cycle counting accuracy, automating this process can drastically improve your results. When you remove this manual procedure with a WMS system, you lower your labor costs while increasing operational efficiency and ensuring adequate stock levels.

Agility WMS software lets you implement cycle counting automatically and track your stock levels in real time. You’ll be less reliant on manual control systems, clipboards, or clunky Excel spreadsheets that contain data entry errors or formulae that rarely seem to work. Agility WMS gives you access to accurate, fast reporting that help improves and streamline decision making while RFID technology and barcode scanning let you update your inventory records instantly.

When you automate your cycle counting process, you conserve time and reduce the steep costs of managing a dedicated manual counting team once a quarter to only hope you get accurate results. Agility Essentials WMS from WiSys helps warehouses like yours track their automated cycle counting processes and streamline their data tracking by providing access to valuable real-time information.

Agility WMS and automating your inventory cycle counts

Cycle counting is an essential component of any warehousing business. Automating this process through our Agility WMS can produce a significant ROI for companies still tied to manual processing procedures. WiSys helps companies in the industrial warehousing and manufacturing sectors enhance their cycle counting with our automated industrial software solutions.

Our Agility WMS Essentials warehouse management solution helps organizations cut time off their cycle counting processes while improving the overall accuracy of the count. For more on how automation can help you cut the high costs associated with physical inventory and manual cycle counting, reach out to one of our expert product consultants now by dialing (770) 955-3550.