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  April 2014

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What is Inventory Records Accuracy and Daily Cycle Counting?
Chuck Intrieri, Charles M. Intrieri Consulting

The Warehouse is your Bank. There is MONEY in it. Not pallets, parts, items, bins or boxes, but the company's MONEY. Protect it. Care for it. It has to be secure. There has to be genuine discipline and teamwork to meet the goal of 98-100% accuracy daily.

The inventory: Any part number or commodity is money in the bank. You probably know how much money is in your wallet. If you opened your wallet and NO money was there, what would you do? You would figure out where it went (root cause).

Goal: The on hand number in the warehouse equals (=) the on hand number in your ERPWMS or computer software 98-100% of the time.

Cycle count the computer generated items provided daily by part number (with no on hand balance showing) from the ERP/computer software system. It is imperative that you count the warehouse on hand amount first in all locations and then compare it to the ERP/computer on hand amount. This is known as a "blind count." Knowing the ERP/computer on hand balance while you are counting the warehouse on hand balance, will jeopardize the cycle count and influence your counts. You can cycle count by location daily until you do the entire warehouse, use the A, B, C inventory value classification of items or the 80/20 Pareto principal wherein 20 items out of a list of 100 are 80% of the total. Cycle count ONLY when warehouse, or any transaction, activity is frozen. Post today's percentage accuracy on the cycle count board/inventory accuracy report to track progress to the 98-100% goal.


The distribution warehouse cycle count team divides the number CORRECT items by the total number counted to obtain your accuracy figure for the day: 4 correct out of a 10 count equals (=) 40% accuracy for the day. This percentage is not good. Any variances that occur between the on hand balance in the warehouse and the ERP/computer indicate the need to find the root cause of the variance.

The root causes may be:

  1. Incorrect unit of measure
  2. Obsolescence: excess/obsolete inventory
  3. Poor/No security: easy access; other departments allowed in the warehouse to look at/take parts
  4. Theft
  5. Locator system problems
  6. Item identification (all locations should have part numbers on items)
  7. Timely reporting of transactions (transaction detail study)
  8. Transactions going on during cycle count
  9. Receiving count incorrect
  10. Poor physical inventory
  11. Bad count by cycle counter

Both numbers should be the same. When you tell a customer you see 100 on hand in the computer, the warehouse on hand also must be 100 units.

Once the root cause is found, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is written to avoid the root cause from happening again. Root cause examples must be on the daily cycle count sheet.

Once you are through cycle counting a part number in a bin location, use the "in-out-balance" card (a check and balance system) to keep inventory accurate in that bin, as items are received or withdrawn (picked) and the balance in the bin location changes. When you cycle count that bin location again, the in-out-balance should be an accurate count of that bin, but you do a blind count anyway to check the balance on the in-out-balance sheet. Eventually, as the warehouse becomes completed with cycle counts, and inventory accuracy increases, as seen on the cycle count board, this balance on the in-out-balance sheet can be used when you cycle count.

Cycle counting is more efficient and timely rather than taking physical inventories which are costly and very labor intense. Cycle counts are done daily, not every year, every quarter or monthly. On hand numbers degrade quickly after physical inventories are taken. Once you reach 98-100% accuracy on a daily basis, physical inventories may be eliminated based on company policies.

Inaccurate inventory records accuracy affects all facets of the business - purchasing (over and under purchases), finance (dollars on reports), sales, customer service promises, inventory control decisions, operations control, the supply chain, the owner of the business, et al. Our goal is to make the inventory as accurate as possible: 98-100%

Inventory records accuracy is critical. It is one of many visible (place the cycle count board for all to see) key performance indicators (KPIs). It is one of the foundations that must be in place for world class distribution/warehousing. It cannot be taken for granted. Don't say we have "90% + accuracy in the warehouse" - KNOW THAT YOU HAVE 98-100% accuracy by daily cycle counting and root cause analysis.

Chuck Intrieri is a highly experienced and credentialed supply chain professional and is a recognized thought leader and innovator, primarily in the areas of third party logistics (3PL), supply chain optimization, logistics, strategic sourcing, international procurement, supplier management, contract negotiations and reviews, and purchasing operations. He is a motivational team builder with a history of conducting significant organizational transformation and achieving important operational successes at the local, regional and global level. Chuck is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration at the Northwestern's Kellogg School specializing in Manufacturing and Distribution Management. Chuck may be contacted at