No matter how you feel about performing them, inventory counts are a necessary facet of warehouse operations.

After all, a warehouse is nothing without its inventory, and proper inventory management is what’s going to keep your warehouse open, successful, and ahead of the competition. One of the biggest ways to properly manage inventory is through proper inventory counts.

But how often should you perform an inventory count? If they need to be done so badly, how do you know when you need to do one? The answer will vary depending on the specific and individual needs of your warehouse.


Many smaller warehouses and distribution centers, for example, tend to focus more on annual inventory counts or seasonal inventory counts. True to their name, these inventory counts either occur once per year or once per season (generally maxing out at three or four inventory checks per year). These more sporadic checks tend to work better for warehouses that don’t have the staff for more frequent counts, or that don’t deal in a large enough number of products to warrant more frequent counting.

There are a few disadvantages to this process, however. Infrequent inventory counts like annual or seasonal counts tend to require a bit more time and labor, as the entire inventory has to be counted every time the inventory count occurs. The warehouse needs to be totally cleaned and prepped, including the warehouse shelves you use like wire shelving and pallet racks, to make sure these counts are done as accurately as possible. It isn’t recommended to use these methods with larger inventories, as inventory errors may be harder to track and amend due to the length of time between counts.


For larger inventories, or for warehouses more affected by counting errors, you might want to consider periodic counting. Periodic counts occur more frequently than annual counts, scheduled in periods ranging from every three weeks to every two months, but still with more regularity than annual counts. These counts can help you catch errors more frequently, and may be a better option for larger warehouses. If your business deals in several different types of product, or has a large number of distinct SKUs that need to be monitored, more frequent periodic counts may be an easier solution.


The issue with both of these counting methods, however, is that they can start to have a big impact on warehouse operations. Regularly scheduled annual inventory counts can impact productivity and disrupt other warehouse operations while your workers buckle down and get counting, and it can start to slow down everything else you need to do. For bigger warehouses, or warehouses concerned with lost productivity, cycle counting may be the answer. Cycle counts require you to segment a warehouse into different sections or zones of inventory, all of which get counted on a set schedule instead of counting the entire warehouse at once. This might not be the most practical solution for smaller warehouses, but warehouses with larger inventories will be served well by this practice to help reduce the labor impact from inventory counts.

The inventory counting method you choose should be informed by your current warehouse and everything required of it, but the right inventory count can go a long way.

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