7 tips for warehouse safety

Warehouses can be hazardous. First, the items they hold are stacked high and close together to make the best use of space. Second, a lot of pickers and machinery are going back and forth between the aisles and up and down the storage bins all the time. If the items haven’t been stored properly, if a worker is careless, or if a machine malfunctions, an accident can happen. 

To prevent this, there should be strong safety measures and procedures that everyone should follow, and they should be enforced. We’ve honed them down and categorized them into seven main areas.

 

7 measures to take to ensure safety in warehouses 

#1 Keep all spaces clean and tidy.

Dirt, grease, or messes of any kind can be a hazard. Workers could slip on them, and machines could stumble. At the very least, if these obstacles don’t cause a bad accident, they could severely affect workflow in the warehouse. 

It’s important, then, for floors and work areas to be kept as clean as possible, which means not just sweeping, but washing them frequently. Any spills should be swept or wiped up immediately; and if any of that spillage could be from harsh chemicals that are being stored, having a special spill kit that can deal with it on hand is imperative.  

Hygiene is also a factor to take into account, especially when Covid is still around. Have hand sanitizer prominently placed in several areas, keep all equipment clean, and request that your employees stay home if they feel ill.

#2 Provide regular safety training. 

While safety training for new employees happens frequently, it’s just as important for existing staff to review safety precautions regularly. Safety training should cover everything from ensuring work spaces and equipment are kept safe to instructions on actions to take when anything goes wrong or an unforeseen emergency happens. Providing training every three or four months is ideal. It’s also a good idea to distribute a safety manual to your workforce.  

In addition to making everyone aware of safety in the warehouse, all employees should know what to do in an emergency like a fire or an earthquake. Training and drills should take place on a regular basis. It’s also important to have exit routes clearly marked and accessible at all times and to have enough of them in the building for the size of the space.  

#3 Put up clear signage. 

Signs that warn about potential hazards are essential. These signs should let employees know where dangerous or inflammable materials are stored, if heavy equipment is nearby, or even which items in storage are heavy. When it comes to the building itself, letting everyone know about design elements that could trip them up, like steps at the end of an aisle, is a good idea. 

Since warehouses are more often than not huge spaces in which one section looks the same as another, finding your way can be a challenge in an emergency. To overcome this, there should be large signs with bold lettering that point to emergency exits. 

#4 Have the right safety equipment. 

Proper safety gear, like lifting belts, should be provided to ensure your employees’ well-being. Depending on the type of material your workforce has to handle or the conditions they’re working in, other forms of safety equipment, such as respirators or hearing protection, might be needed. Utility knives with protective sheathing and walkie talkies also come under this category, the latter being especially needed in ultra large warehouses.    

On a wider level, fire and smoke alarms should be adequately placed, along with fire extinguishers. If your company handles hazardous materials, your fire extinguishers should be the right ones for whatever the materials are. And, of course, first aid kits should be available in easy-to-locate areas. 

All safety equipment should be checked regularly. 

#5 Give out protective clothing.

Here we include safety goggles, safety vests, safety gloves, hard hats and even steel-toe boots. Protective clothing should be a good fit for the individual worker. Loose clothing could get caught in machinery, and a badly fitting hard hard is no use to anyone. 

#6  Ensure heavy equipment is used correctly.

Forklifts and pallet jacks could cause serious injury if not handled correctly or if someone gets in their way. Make sure heavy equipment is only operated by properly trained personnel, and that the equipment has its own pathways in the warehouse. Equipment should be restricted by a speed limit that is enforced.  

#7 Store items properly.

Warehouses store items on high shelving where they are packed tightly together. To prevent anything from falling and causing injuries, everything should be placed with care, one thing stacked straight on top of another, and heavier pieces should be stored on lower shelves. 

 

Make the most of your warehouse with Cin7

When you put recommended safety measures in place, you’re less likely to have downtime caused by injuries. Plus, your workforce will feel much safer.

To optimize warehouse operations even more, there are warehouse management systems (WMS) like Cin7.  This software helps organize your warehouse, which helps you maintain a safe working environment. 

To find out more about Cin7’s WMS and how it can make your life as a warehouse manager easier, book a free consultation with one of our experts

What is 3PL fulfillment?

Fulfilling customer orders is a significant part of any business. This order-fulfillment process starts when the customer places an order and ends when it’s delivered to the doorstep.

Many companies facilitate fulfillment by using a third-party logistics (3PL) company. 3PL providers can manage the entire supply-chain process from warehousing to fulfillment. In addition to these services, 3PL can also take care of inventory forecasting. Outsourcing through a 3PL is a good solution when a business grows and is no longer able to handle its order-fulfillment processes in-house.

For any 3PL fulfillment company, there are five basic stages of the fulfillment process. The company retrieves items for the order from the warehouse, then picks, packs, ships and delivers them. Let’s better understand the steps involved to get the right product to the right customer at the right time.

 

5 stages of 3PL fulfillment

1. Receiving

Even before an order is placed, inventory has to be stocked in a warehouse. If it isn’t there, or if there isn’t enough of it, orders can’t be fulfilled. When the 3PL receives inventory for its warehouse, it will typically fill out a Warehouse Receiving Order (WRO), a document that lists the names of the items and their quantity.

After this, each item undergoes a quality check and has its barcode scanned. By doing this, the 3PL company can check the accuracy of the WRO and make sure that items are stored in the right bins. This is an essential part of their warehousing.

The process is facilitated by state-of-the-art software, such as Cin7’s warehouse-management software, which takes care of managing the inventory the 3PL holds and its warehouse operations.

2. Picking

When a customer’s order is ready to be filled, the Warehouse Management System (WMS) produces a list of the items, called a picklist, and assigns a warehouse associate to pick each of the items from their respective storage bins. To ensure the associate picks the items in the most efficient way—one that takes the most direct route around the warehouse and entails the least amount of walking—a picking pattern is produced. The software easily generates both the picklists and picking patterns.

When picking has been completed, the items of an order are scanned and set aside for packing.

3. Packing

At the packaging station, a team places the items for an order in a box and pads them with appropriate packing materials such as bubble wrap. Ideally, the 3PL fulfillment provider will choose packing material that is secure, yet lightweight enough to keep shipping expenses low. A seller can also usually ask for special packaging to be used. Once packed, the whole box is sealed tight with tape and a shipping label is attached. This contains all the information necessary to get the goods to the customer. At this stage, the packing department will also make sure that the weight and dimensions they have for the package are correct.

4. Shipping

Before being shipped, packages ready for dispatch are separated into their destination areas. This way, all packages intended for a particular geographical area are put together on the same transportation.

At this stage, the 3PL company can either take care of shipping and delivery for you, or you can arrange for a courier company like UPS or FedEx yourself. If your company is small and you don’t have many packages to deliver, it’s usually a good idea to have your 3PL take care of shipping because they will have negotiated good rates with the carriers. They will also know which shipping method to use to get your goods to your customers in the fastest time possible.

5. Returns

Returns and refunds are a fact of life, especially in online retailing where the customer doesn’t actually see the product they’ve bought until it arrives. For whatever reason a product is returned, there has to be a way for it to be done hassle-free. This ensures customer satisfaction. A good way of streamlining returns is to have your 3PL include a return label with the item they’re shipping.

Your 3PL fulfillment provider should make sure that each item they handle is in perfect order before sending it out. When an item is returned, its condition should be checked again and documented. Based on company policy, an item in good condition will either be placed back in the warehouse or be disposed of.

 

How to have a good 3PL experience

The best way for you to have a good experience from your 3PL is by being able to have oversight. If you have Cin7, you’re able to check on your inventory that’s in their warehouse in real time, know what orders are coming in from which sales channel, and batch track. Batch tracking lets you know things like which group of items a defective one came from and when expiration dates have been reached. Cin7 software will also give you advanced reporting on all aspects of the fulfillment process. Why not book a demo with our experts today?

5 elements of an optimized inventory management system

Retail businesses have an average of 20% inventory to sales ratio. This I/S ratio compares the value of your inventory with the amount you make from selling your goods. The I/S ratio is arrived at by dividing the revenue made from overall sales by the value of the stock that’s kept. So, with a 20% I/S ratio, if you make $100 from selling your items, your stock would be valued at $20. More simply, the I/S ratio here would be five (revenue made from sales divided by value of stock). Maintaining the I/S ratio that’s best for your business is key to maximizing profit. If there’s too much stock, profits are compromised; if there’s too little stock, orders might not be filled. Optimization is the key. What are the best ways to optimize inventory? And, what are the five elements of an optimized inventory management system? Let’s find out.

If you are a businessperson, deciding the amount of inventory you should keep on hand is crucial. If your stock runs out, or if you have too much of it, the consequences could be serious. There could be financial losses and your reputation could be damaged. The only way to avoid this is by having optimum inventory on hand, or the right amount you need. This article will help you to understand what inventory optimization is and explain the five elements of an optimized inventory management system.

 

What is inventory optimization?

Inventory optimization means maintaining an optimum amount of stock, stock being defined as all the stock-keeping units (SKUs) that are being held by a business. When a company has an optimum level of stock, its working capital is being used to its best advantage.

Overstocking inventory can result in

  • Working capital being tied up in unneeded stock.
  • Stock going out of fashion and becoming unsellable.
  • Workers spending time and energy unnecessarily.
  • An elevated risk of loss of goods to theft or accidents.
  • Valuable storage space being used unnecessarily.

On the other hand, understocking and stockouts can result in

  • Turnover being halted.
  • Company reputation being damaged.
  • Production lines being broken.
  • Workers’ time being lost.

Inventory optimization can eliminate these losses. Put another way, when optimal levels of inventory are maintained, resources, like physical space, labor, and capital, can be used in their most efficient ways.

 

5 elements of an optimized inventory management system

As we saw earlier, it is crucial to optimize the amount of inventory you keep at all times. But in order to do this right, what should you be focusing on? Let’s look at the key areas in detail.

Graded policies for inventory management

First, your stock policies should be clearly defined, and you should let the relevant people know about them well in advance. It isn’t helpful if the purchasing department is kept in the dark about these policies.

The inventory turnover ratio indicates the liquidity of the inventory, or the number of times the average inventory is sold during the year. It shows the efficiency and effectiveness of the company in investing its funds.

Inventory turnover time is the number of times a company replenishes its stock in a given period, generally a year. In other words, if you sell stainless steel spoons, the inventory turnover of finished product — spoons — is the number of times you sell out of spoons and replace them. The following formula shows how to calculate the inventory turnover ratio:

Inventory turnover ratio = Cost of goods sold
Average value of inventory

 

where,

Average inventory = Opening inventory + closing inventory
2

Cost of goods sold = Opening inventory + purchase – closing inventory

Now you know how many times a year you have to refill your inventory. The following categories of inventory are dependent on this ratio.

  • Fast moving – Fast-moving inventory is that which is used or sold in a short or easily known period of time. This period is different for every industry. The inventory turnover ratio will be higher for goods in this category.
  • Slow moving – Slow-moving goods are those that stay in your warehouse for a more extended period of time. The inventory turnover ratio for these types of goods will be lower.
  • Non-moving – Non-moving or obsolete goods are those stored in your warehouse for a long time because there is no market for them. This inventory is also known as dead stock.

These three categories should be a major consideration when making purchases. Separate your stock into each one, and invest more in goods that are fast moving than those that are slow-moving.

Realistic demand forecasting

Forecasting demand is, perhaps, the first step when it comes to good inventory management. Forecasting demand accurately is not an easy task, however. There are many aspects that have to be considered: historical sales data, customer biases, future demand, and growth. Additionally, it is crucial to take technological advances and trends into account.

How can you predict demand for your products accurately? Well, quality software can help. Cin7’s system generates reliable demand forecasting reports. Cin 7’s forecasting demand report can make your job a lot easier.

Determining product life cycle

The term product life cycle is defined as the period between the product’s initial production to the time it is no longer sold. If you launch a new product, sooner or later it will stop trending and your customers will move on to something else. There are five stages to a product’s life cycle that impact your inventory management:

  • Introduction – There is less awareness at this stage, so the demand is less, and there is no need to stock a lot of products.
  • Growth – Awareness of the product is on the rise, and the company should be prepared to fill more orders.
  • Maturity – This is when demand reaches a plateau. Demand will still be high, so the company won’t have to make changes to the level of stock it maintains.
  • Decline – Here, the company realizes that demand is dropping. Customers have had enough of the product and are buying less of it. When this point is reached, the company needs to reduce production and focus on replacing it with something new. This is also the time to push more of the product by offering discounts and rewards.
  • Obsolete – Now the product is totally out of demand. Any remaining inventory you have becomes dead stock.

The life cycle of a product can be short (a few months) or long (spread over years). These life cycles have to be taken into account when forecasting demand for your product. Doing this accurately will prevent overstocking or understocking,

Timely restocking

Your purchase department should have clear restocking instructions. Every item in the inventory should have a specific reorder point (ROP), a predetermined level of goods at which they have to be restocked. When determining this reorder point, you should consider:

  • Safety level for stock: This is the minimum amount you will need on hand to tide you over until your new order arrives. You don’t want to run out of stock.
  • Logistics: You have to consider the time it takes to get your goods to your factory or warehouse.
  • External factors: These include weather, political upheavals, and labor issues. Any one of them can affect your delivery time.
  • Supplier lead time: This is the time it takes your supplier to dispatch your products. Suppliers have different lead times.

Management needs to be aware of ROP to ensure stock is replaced in a timely manner. Inventory management software like Cin7 can send alerts that let you know when you reach this ROP.

Investing in reliable inventory management software

If you find inventory management challenging and are intimidated by the sheer number of calculations that have to be made, here’s an easy solution: Cin7. This versatile and easy-to-use software can help you manage your inventory easily. Among the features it has to make your life easier are

  • Determining reorder levels,
  • Alerting you when you reach ROP,
  • Sorting third-party logistics (3PL),
  • Helping you with B2B ecommerce,
  • Generating reports on COGS, forecasting, cashflows, and inventory on hand, and
  • Integrating with other software and mobile OS.

The following video shows how Cin7 inventory management software can help you take your business to the next level:

One of the significant advantages of Cin7 is its inventory management app. This app lets you connect to your inventory management program from anywhere.

 

Final take on inventory optimization

While inventory optimization is a crucial element of a successful business, it is also painstakingly tricky and complex. Overstocking can lead to losses, while understocking can damage your reputation. How can you overcome these dilemmas? Cin7 inventory management software turns the whole ordeal into a piece of cake.

Why wait? Contact our experts for a demo, and unlock the true potential of your inventory.

How to execute a year-end inventory count

Whether you’re running an auto body shop, a law firm, or a retail store, doing a year-end inventory count helps your business close the books on the past 12 months and organize yourself for the year ahead. In fact, the year-end inventory count is necessary for successful inventory management throughout the year. It allows you to clean up records and gives your business verified data to analyze.

Since retailers have a lot of inventory to manage, counting inventory correctly is crucial and allows you to make informed buying decisions later. Learn how to execute a year-end inventory count and how your annual count can help forecast demand for the year ahead in this article.

 

What is a year-end inventory count?

A year-end inventory count is a physical count of all the inventory on hand at the end of the year. The count is performed to verify that the physical inventory matches the numbers in your inventory management system.

A year-end inventory count is different from an inventory cycle count, which audits a smaller portion of inventory. While a cycle count allows you to monitor your inventory by sampling your inventory throughout the year, a year-end inventory is a physical count of everything you have on hand at one given point in time.

 

How do you conduct a year-end inventory count?

These are the steps that you need to follow for inventory counting:

  • First and foremost, you need to plan the day for conducting inventory count. It’s crucial to pause your warehousing operations while you do perform the counting so that you get an accurate snapshot of your inventory. You should plan a day that causes minimal impact on pausing the operations.
  • Once you finalize the date, you should form the team who will perform the stock counting. It is important to train them about your counting process and acquaint them with the warehouse’s premises. Dry runs can be organized a few days before the actual counting day.
  • You should also prepare your warehouse for the stock counting process. It should be thoroughly cleaned, and steps should be taken to ensure that there’s no scattered inventory. If there are boxes lying around the warehouse, it will slow down the workers who are counting.
  • The warehouse should be organized, and the areas (count zones) should be divided amongst the counting team so that everyone knows their responsibilities.
  • It’s crucial to equip your team with the right tools for counting. For manual counting, you can use counting tags. If you are using tags, then it’s best to let your team work in pairs so that one person can count the inventory while the other can note the values in the counting tag and stick it near the inventory. It’s best to get the counting tags signed by the respective team as it gives you clarity about the person associated with counting for a specific section.
  • To cross-check the accuracy of the counting, you can personally examine the areas to cross-verify the values mentioned in the counting tags. Otherwise, you can allocate members from other teams to cross-check the tag values. Cross-checking is crucial to get an accurate representation of your inventory. In case your inventory is also stored at other locations, you should coordinate to get the accurate values from those locations as well.
  • Performing inventory counts using manual sheets and counting tags can be time-consuming and prone to human errors. Using an inventory management software like Cin7 can be of great help. Instead of using tags and sheets, you can use barcode scanners to scan the inventories on the shelves. The software reconciles the inventory values with the ones already present in the system. This way, you can easily gauge the discrepancies in the inventory that’s physically present with you.

 

Why do year-end inventory count?

The year-end inventory count is essential because it ensures the stock you have on your shelves matches your records. By getting an exact look at your inventory, you can comply with tax requirements, manage corporate audits, and offer accurate data to your accounting team.

Once you complete your inventory count, you’ll have the data you need to complete an annual financial analysis. You also get the data you need to detect inventory shrinkage and forecast how much inventory you’ll need in the year ahead. On top of that, you get the chance to get inventory organized for the new year.

Knowing your year-end inventory allows you to

  • Get a better understanding of what products you have.
  • Hold accurate inventory records for accounting purposes.
  • Gain insight into products that don’t sell well that you shouldn’t order in the future.
  • Understand which products require a new selling strategy.
  • Know the demand and profitability for expansion consideration.
  • Consider adjusting periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) levels for top-selling products.
  • Determine the cost of goods sold and total net income.
  • Make business decisions based on data instead of intuition.
  • Analyze pricing strategy and identify room for improvement.

 

Does your business have inventory shrinkage?

Inventory shrinkage occurs when there’s less physical inventory than what’s listed in your inventory records. Shrinkage occurs due to human error, damaged stock, vendor shortages, lost inventory, or stolen inventory. It can drastically affect profits and is a problem that always needs to be investigated further. Businesses usually uncover inventory shrinkage as they do their year-end inventory counts.

How to handle inventory shrinkage

If you uncover inventory shrinkage during your year-end inventory count, your team should look for more information about what happened. If you are using inventory management software, you can examine past inventory records to determine if there are any trends that need investigation. Significant, widespread shrinkage can indicate theft or fraud, while one-off mistakes tend to reveal clerical errors. Damaged goods are self-explanatory.

Once you uncover and investigate the cause of inventory shrinkage, you can put guardrails on processes to prevent further loss. Some common preventive measures include:

  • Tightening security where inventory is stored.
  • Installing cameras or locking up high-value items.
  • Training employees about proper inventory counting.
  • Allowing only trained employees to accept and inspect new inventory.
  • Reviewing daily transactions on inventory apps.
  • Verifying purchase orders, invoices, and delivery slips when new inventory arrives.
  • Checking inventory shrinkage via cycle counts.

Discovering inventory shrinkage isn’t fun — but it’s a wake-up call for many businesses.

 

What if you have too much inventory?

Once you complete your year-end inventory, you might realize that you have more physical inventory than expected. If you have a lot more inventory than you need or want, you may have to figure out how to deal with the surplus. The first step is to determine if the excess inventory is still good to sell. Then you can adjust plans, orders, and budgets accordingly.

Once you figure out what your business needs for the year ahead, it’s time to get creative. What kind of promotions or sales can you have? What items should be sold at a discount? There may also be items in your inventory that can be repurposed or donated. If you donate excess inventory, talk to your accountant about writing them off for tax purposes.

Finally, you should talk with a liquidator about buying excess inventory. It may not be very profitable, but you can cut losses, clear up space, and move on.

 

Using year-end inventory to predict next year’s demand

One of the best reasons for conducting year-end inventory counts is to understand how your business used (or didn’t use) items over the past 12 months. A detailed snapshot of available inventory helps your business forecast demand for the year ahead.

By reviewing what hasn’t sold, you can plan sales, promotions, and marketing campaigns. These strategies can help you move old inventory and lets you focus on restocking only what your customers want.

 

Cin7’s inventory management software simplifies inventory counts

Cin7 inventory management software allows your business to track inventory using modern technology and powerful automation features. Cin7 is the best choice for inventory management software because it helps save you time, money, and stress. When you switch to Cin7, you’ll be able to:

  • Access your data at any time and place.
  • Set it up quickly, easily, and to your liking.
  • Use ready-to-scan barcodes with your phone’s camera.
  • Customize and allow access to teams, vendors, and suppliers.
  • Generate custom barcodes for unlabeled stock.
  • Create data-rich, shareable reports to help you understand inventory.
  • Get alerts when you’re running low on a product, if it’s expiring, or approaching warranty.
  • Create product histories to answer who, what, and when details.

Ready to see how our inventory software makes your year-end inventory count easier? Book your Demo now.