Inventory traceability and tracking is all about matching electronic records to physical reality. Today, that typically means scanning barcodes to track inventory movement. Scanning is much more timely than manual reporting and is proven to reduce errors.
Most companies manually record the basics: purchase receipts, issues from stock to production, and shipments to customers. This may feel sufficient, but manual or paper-based recording often creates timing problems and inventory accuracy concerns. Delays and errors increase uncertainty—and the likelihood of stock-outs or the need for purchasing excess inventory to account for any inaccuracies.
Below are seven automated tracking and reporting techniques that can help improve inventory accuracy:
Label everything that comes in the door. Have your suppliers provide labels so parts are already identified when they arrive.
Scan everything that moves. It’s good to know what you have on-hand. It’s even better to know precisely where it is.
Scan to track movement to and from locations. It is absolutely critical to have a disciplined location identification scheme with each location tagged for scanning.
4. Work in Process (WIP)
Scan every WIP move, such as when loading all material to each line or work center. Tracking movement between work areas can help reduce the excess inventory needed to cover material uncertainties stemming from no visibility into WIP.
Add quality inspection to every container. Scan receipts into an inspection area or work center. Scan release stock, return to supplier, reject, or rework to ensure timely updates and correct identification and tracking. For process manufacturers, inventory traceability is key to quality management for recalls and isolating the scope of a recall.
6. Outside services
Scan “out to” and “in from” outside organizations. If outside processing contributes significantly to your lead times, be sure to track when jobs go out and come back from service providers.
Label each shipping container, and scan every item that goes into a container to provide an accurate accounting of its contents. While this is standard practice for some manufacturers, those implementing container labeling and scanning experience greater tracking accuracy.
Want to get an even deeper look at effective inventory control? Download the white paper: Taking Control: Improved Inventory Visibility Leads to Lean Success.