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It’s not often that stock goes missing, if you have a good cloud inventory management system in place that is, but when it does, it can leave you baffled. The problem with missing stock is that you don’t know whether you should give it up for lost or wait for it to be found. In some cases, you may consider it lost and prudently place a new purchase order to replace the missing inventory, but what happens when the value of the missing items is significant?

Replacing them only to find that they were all the time in your warehouse under a faulty barcode or RFID tag can be a costly business, and you may end up with overstock. Not replacing them, on the other hand, may mean not being able to temporarily fulfill certain orders, which in turn causes customer dissatisfaction and can cost you business even more than overstock.

Here’s how you can deal with missing stock to avoid both extremes.

1. Use a cloud inventory control system that integrates with a barcode or RFID scanning system. This is the best way to track stock during all stages of the supply and purchase cycle. What’s more, it minimizes human data entry errors that lead to missing stock due to wrong information.

2. Assess the situation quickly to understand how important the missing stock is. You want to look at two things: the value of the stock, and the demand for it, viewed in the light of stock quantities already on hand. This is another good reason to use a mobile inventory control app like DataQlick, which doesn’t tie stock control to your workplace computer but let’s you do it on the go, outside office hours.

3. Talk to the person who last saw the stock. With a cloud inventory control system you can view the location history of the missing stock to determine at what point it went missing. This is especially important when you have multiple warehouses or locations. If the stock went missing before it reached your location, talk to your supplier until you get to the bottom of things.

4. Replenish stock as fast as possible if the stock is critical. The cost of not creating a purchase order to replace the missing stock as soon as possible will likely surpass that of ending up with overstock later, if the missing stock is found.

5. Identify the cause that led to the missing stock and seek to eliminate it or reduce the chance of it reoccurring. Without resolving the underlying issues that caused the problem — whether it’s an ineffective inventory system, bad warehouse practices, or theft — the same problem is likely to crop out again in the future.

Most importantly, use the steps above and any other insight you have gained from your own experiences with missing stock to come up with a strategy that you can use whenever stock starts missing. An action plan will spare you from the tension and stress of indecision, helping you deal with the problem more effectively, whether it means ordering replacement stock or patiently waiting for a confirmation that the stock is lost for good.