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Whatever your industry, whatever products you deal in, inventory accuracy is critical for any warehouse or distribution center.

Accurate inventories can help you keep on top of potential shortages and item loss before it has a chance to affect your bottom line, but for maximum effectiveness these counts need to be done as proactively as possible. There’s a lot of different ways to handle counts and schedule inventory checks, but as warehouses get more sophisticated, more warehouses are turning to cycle counts.


Cycle counts are a continual inventory count performed at regular intervals on a select portion of your inventory. While the scheduling for cycle counts will vary depending on several different factors, they’re typically performed at regular daily, weekly, or monthly intervals.

While that might sound like a lot at first, cycle counts are actually more beneficial for your warehouse and inventory as a whole. By regularly performing cycle counts, you can maintain productivity with less disruption to your day-to-day warehouse activities.


Cycle counts, by design, are meant to happen alongside typical warehouse activities as they only focus on a certain portion of the inventory or a certain area of the warehouse at any given time. Think back to the last time you needed to perform a full inventory count—how much time did you lose by shutting down the entire warehouse and counting inventory? By using cycle counts at regular intervals, you can prevent this loss of productivity by keeping the warehouse open for functional work while maintaining regular inventory counts.


But even if you save time, there’s still the big question—can cycle counts actually help keep my inventory more accurate, or am I just counting inventory more often? By checking your inventory more frequently, you can improve accuracy and catch errors before they can become a much bigger issue. Most inventory errors or miscounts stem from inventory shortages not being caught on time—something goes missing from a storage bin, a product was shorted during shipment but not noticed until the package was checked in, and so on. Cycle counting can give you a much faster and more accurate idea of these inventory issues and give you a chance to correct them more quickly, or at least adjust your current inventory levels to reflect these changes.


Cycle counting can also help your warehouse provide better customer service. Few things are more frustrating for a customer than placing an order only to find out the item is out of stock, or attempting to exchange an item for another item that the warehouse can’t find. With cycle counts, you can get much faster updates on what you have in stock so you can better handle any incoming customer requests or needs. While there will always be unhappy customers, this can go a long way towards helping get in front of any potential issues.

If you want to start implementing cycle counting, the trick is to start slowly. Pick a designated area, such as your most popular pallet racks or your most frequently-used warehouse shelving, get them on a set schedule of inventory checks, and see if it works for you. You might just find yourself having an easier time with keeping track of your stock.

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