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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Taming the Beast: Organizing Your Inventory

Even if you don't have an inventory as large as this, organization can still save you time and money.
A lot of companies keep a lot of stock on hand. A lot of companies also don't know what they have. Naturally, it is pretty easy to match up non stocked parts as they arrive with the job they are intended for. How do you keep track of what you have in stock so that you can get it when you need it? This is an important question, because if you can't find the part, you might end up ordering a part that you already have. This costs you in a number of ways. There is time lost due to the ordering and receiving process. There is the expense of making a second, perhaps unnecessary trip to install the part you ordered (and actually already had). Of course, their is also the obvious unnecessary cash outlay from buying a part more than once. Those are just the more tangible factors. There is also the risk that your client will form an unfavorable opinion of you because you were unable to complete the job on the first visit. All the while you could potentially be missing out on opportunities to do other work because you are "too busy" to fit another call in your schedule.

What do you do to keep track of your inventory? Some shops use a simple system of shelving items alphabetically or by machine type. That is a good starting point, but what do you do when you can't see your shelves? This is where a computerized inventory comes in. There are lots of solutions available on the marketplace, but even an Excel spreadsheet can do the trick. I would recommend several things you want to able to keep track of. You want to know what parts you have, where they are at, how often you are using the item (so that you can make informed stocking decisions), invoices and purchase dates are also not a bad idea as is pricing info. Like most things involving computers, the set up will not come easy. Once it is set up, though, maintaining it should be fairly easy. If you are in the repair industry, you probably should be thinking about the long game. The time you invest now can show you time savings down the road when your system is up and rolling.

I'd like to share a little about how we do things here to manage our inventory. We have software that keeps track of those things I mentioned as well as sometimes other information about the part. Included in the software is a field for parts location. With how our warehouse layout is designed, even a large inventory like the one we stock can be tamed. We start with each aisle having a "100" number. So that means we have an 100 aisle, a 200 aisle, a 300 aisle, and so on. In each aisle we have a row of shelving units. Each shelving unit has its own number that follows after the "100" number in the location system. That means in the 100 aisle we might have a shelf 101, 102, 103, etc. By having two digits to work with we could theoretically have 99 shelving units in that aisle. That would be a long a aisle though, I think our longest aisle only goes to 50's.  Then to further zero in on the part, each shelving unit is given a letter: A on the top shelf, B on the second shelf down, and so on.  So if you have a part that is on the 3rd aisle, the 12th shelving unit and the fourth shelf down from the top what do you think that locations would be? If you guessed 312D, you are correct and I have managed to explain the system clearly.

W.L. May Company uses card board parts bins on each shelf to keep things further organized. Each bin is labeled on the front with the part number of the piece it holds.We stock several sizes of parts bins that you could use in your store or on your truck. Consult with your parts expert here for details.

We hope that explanation of how we organize our warehouse can provide you with some inspiration to get your inventory in order, if it isn't already. If you have already been keeping track of your inventory by computer, talk to your Parts Expert about our S.T.E.P. program. This program is already being used by some companies to fine tune their inventories and save them money. We would like to offer those same benefits to you. What techniques does your company use to keep track of your stock? Are you using any special software? Let us know about it in the comments section. Have a great day out there and happy servicing!

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