Inventory control can be costly when done incorrectly and catastrophic when the right parts are lacking. The risks may be minimal for a clothing store or some other venture in which customers expect product to be out of stock occasionally, but the threat is dire in the automotive, medical or pharmaceutical fields.

Being unaware of which stock you have on hand or having a surplus of unneeded inventory can put your company in a lurch. You could have to leave repairs half-done until new stock comes in or you may need to send out for important pieces and miss out on economies of scale. Whatever the case, the right inventory control measures will help.

1. Automate Inventory Tracking

When you work in a field that requires many pieces to function well, inventory tracking automation is key. Automation Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technologies like bar codes and handheld scanners help your people know exactly how much inventory you have on hand at a given time. It might seem like more work to scan everything, but it is better than the alternative: hunting for parts in anonymous bins or finding that you are out of a needed item when you need it most.

2. Enable Easy Reordering

Automatic inventory tracking also makes it easy to reorder stock when you start to run low. You can set up your inventory management software to alert you when inventory levels fall under a certain number or trigger the system to reorder the items you need before you run out. It is a huge time saver, and it doesn’t risk the common human errors of forgetting to tell someone when your stock is low or writing down the needed parts number incorrectly.

3. Maintain Minimal Stock

Next, look at your inventory. Ideally, you want to make sure that you have a minimum number of stock on-hand. The exact amount will vary depending on the part and how often you use it. Inventory tracking will help you spot which items you rarely use, and which are most challenging to keep in stock. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used the item in six months to one year, you should stop stocking it.

4. Buy Small Parts in Bulk

You should also look at how quickly you run through an item, how long it takes to restock and how necessary it is to your operations. The things you use all the time need to have priority. For many companies, this means keeping more stock of crucial items, like core products or small parts. Items like o-rings should be held in bulk and multiple sizes.

5. Stay Organized

Finally, stay organized. All the bar codes and scanners in the world won’t help if you can’t find the items you need. Keep your inventory in separate bins and organizers so that it is easy to grab and go without confusing parts. Also, create a map that layout where each piece is stored then create a directory that lists out where each item is housed. Warehouses of all sizes benefit from this level of organization.

Staying on top of your inventory is one of the best ways to support efficient and profitable operations. Following inventory management best practices is one way to do that. Automating your inventory tracking, enabling easy reordering and maintaining minimal stock will help you reach your goals. Also, be sure to buy small parts in bulk and stay organized. Together, these efforts will help you keep better control of your inventory.