How Businesses Take Inventory - Tips for Improving the Process

Tips to Make Taking Inventory Easier, Faster, and Better

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Taking Inventory

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Inventory is important to your business because it leads to sales and it affects your business tax and financial situation. it's also important to get an accurate account of inventory to cut down on losses.

Why do businesses take inventory? 

Inventory is products, parts, and materials to make products or parts. It's what you are selling. You can take inventory of office supplies or all the computers in your business. While that's a great idea, it's not what we're talking about here.

Businesses take inventory of items for sale for several reasons:

For income tax reporting. Inventory is needed to calculate cost of goods sold on a business tax form. Inventory costs reduce business income and business taxes. This is the end-of-year inventory done by many retailers.

To minimize loss and theft. Keeping track of inventory allows you to spot losses from loss and theft. If your inventory is disappearing and you can see that sales aren't going up, you know something's wrong.

To get rid of obsolete and out of date inventory items. if items in your inventory aren't ever going to be sold, you need to get rid of them to make room for more saleable items.

To evaluate movement of specific items. If a product in your inventory isn't moving out the door, maybe it's time to replace it. On the other hand, items that move fast might need to be ordered faster and in larger amounts. Of couse, this can change quickly, so you may need to do inventory more often than once a year.

Questions businesses use inventory to answer:

How Much Do We Have On Hand?

Inventory is a valuable business asset. Businesses take inventory so they know how much they have on hand at a specific point in time. Inventory includes both finished products, work-in-process (products in various stages of completion), and products to be used to make new sales items (called). 

For example, inventory for a business that makes candles and candle-holders might include finished candles in boxes ready to go out, candles that have been completed but not boxed, and wax and other materials that will be used to make new candles.

Taking inventory in some companies means that a business stops work on a specific date and everything gets counted. In a very small company, everything gets counted. In larger companies, with many products and many parts to be made into products, inventory is spot-checked or sampled. Counting every bolt that goes into a car, for example, would take too much time, so samples are used to estimate the inventory.

How Often Does Inventory Turn Over?

Inventory turnover shows the number of times a year inventory "turns over" or is sold and replaced. Rosemary Peavler, Business Finance expert, says that inventory turnover "measures the efficiency of a business in managing and selling its inventory." The higher the turnover, the higher the sales, the more efficient the business.

What is the Value of Our Inventory?

The value of a company's inventory depends on the valuation method: First In-First Out (FIFO), Last In-First Out (LIFO), or Average Cost. The valuation method can make a big difference in taxes, and the IRS has rules on valuing inventory.

FIFO valuation measures inventory by assuming that items that are in inventory first are sold first (even if this isn't necessarily the case). LIFO valuation assumes that items in inventory last are sold first. Average cost is, as it says, an average of the cost of all items sold in a period of time. Whether your business uses LIFO or FIFO depends on your business type and IRS regulations. 

Is Inventory Disappearing? 

One reason for doing a physical inventory is to make sure that inventory is not disappearing, for one of several reasons: 

  • Some inventory might become obsolete and needs to be discarded. This might be the case for technological obsolescence of electronic devices and computer products. 
  • Some inventory might be unusable or damaged and needs to be discarded. 
  • Some inventory items might be disappearing due to employee theft. 
  • And some inventory might not have been recorded correctly, for various reasons. 

When discrepancies or issues arise, action needs to be taken because the value of inventory is being overstated. Obsolete or unusable inventory needs to be removed from the records. Changes in record keeping or investigation of loss due to theft might be needed. 

What is Beginning and Ending Inventory for COGS?

Cost of good sold is an important calculation for businesses that sell products, whether they are manufactured or purchased and re-sold. Cost of goods sold, as the name implies, is a cost of doing business. 

To calculate cost of goods sold for its tax return, the business needs to know the value of beginning and ending inventory. The higher cost of goods sold, the lower business income, so this is an important figure.

How Do Businesses Manage Inventory? 

Because inventory is an asset, it's important to manage it, just like you manage other business assets. Managing inventory means keeping track of it, not having too much or too little on hand. 

Businesses manage inventory in one of two ways: perpetual inventory and periodic inventory. Most retailers use the periodic system, which tracks inventory by counting. In the periodic system, a business takes inventory at the beginning and end of a period. 

The other inventory management system is a perpetual system, which uses point-of-sale technology to track inventory after every transaction. 

The most important thing to know about inventory: it's valuable to your business. Take it seriously. Set up a system to count products/parts for sale and work the system.

Can We Get a Loan from Our Inventory?

One final reason to take inventory is to value it for financing purposes. You can get a loan based on the value of your business inventory.

Some Tips for Managing Your Inventory Process

  1. Get organized first. Taking inventory is much more difficult if your shelves are a mess. It's also a good time to clear out obsolete or outdated inventory. Be sure to count and value what you are throwing out. You will need that information for taxes.
  2. Consider cyclical inventory taking. Set up a schedule for taking inventory of different products or parts each month. By the end of the year you will have everything done and you can start over.
  3. Train your staff. it doesn't sound like rocket science, but taking inventory should be taken seriously. Select good employees and teach them how to do it right. Give them a checklist of what to look for (in addition to counting, of course). Then make sure they comply.
  4. Use FIFO to manage inventory on your shelves. Yes, FIFO (First-in-First-out) is an accounting technique, but you can also use it to get the oldest items at the front of the shelves so they get taken first. Grocery stores do it for perishables, but you can do it too.
  5. Use inventory control software to save time and money. You might find a software program that fits your business needs in this article evaluating several inventory software apps.
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