Inventorying best practise

PIcture of cases of wine stored in a warehouse

With the most demanding of clients, and a desire to offer the best possible service in an increasingly competitive market, what identifiers associated with inventorying should a wine warehouse consider?

We’ve seen most variations in practise, from no barcodes (also called license plates) and a simple location and box naming convention, to barcoding of individual bottles.

The best solution for you will depend on your business and customer proposition but whatever your business, flexibility must exist at the heart of how you operate.

Pressure on space

For many wine warehouses, there’s constant pressure on space, and where customers are allowed to pull bottles out of cases there’s a need to routinely consolidate cases. 

Barcoding the case and inventorying the contents of each pack is the most flexible solution in this case. 

The consistency of the data when inventorying becomes important so that there’s no variation between descriptions of the same wine. To this end, a referential database is crucial to bring standardisation and greater accuracy to the inventorying process. Apart from the benefits of accuracy, speed of data entry and consistency, it looks far more professional and inspires confidence with clients. It also reduces the risk of client claims or arguments about which wine was inbounded into the warehouse in the first place.

With the case barcoded and the contents inventoried on the system, bottles associated to the case (which in turn is of course allocated to a location), the warehouse operator creates the most flexible form of inventory ready for future consolidations as needed.

So why would you choose to barcode bottles rather than cases?

Smaller warehouses or large cellars – typically related to an On Trade operation such as a private members club – will have a preponderance of mixed cases, boxes, drawers, fridges or racks. The container itself becomes the location, with the assortment of bottles inbounding and being pulled out of a container occurring at a fairly high frequency. Barcodes on the bottles help with billing assuming a degree of prior integration between the wine inventorying system and the electronic point of sale (ePos), which are scanned through ePos as bottles are consumed. 

Common rotations

Unlike their US counterparts, UK fine wine warehouses use rotation numbers and most are bonded, allowing wine to be landed and stored by an individual in a state of excise and sales tax suspension. An individual case will have its own rotation number. 

Pallets of cases of the same wine vintage that inbound and land at the same time (imported or purchased by merchants) may share the same rotation. Reconciliation processes are needed to ensure stocks on a single rotation in the warehouse tally with stocks owned by them and storage clients where allocated wines remain on the common rotation, so that any discrepancies are picked up and dealt with early on.

Referential wine data

Whatever the size of the operation, the biggest challenge is inventorying. Accuracy of inventorying on the inbound leads to less mis-picks later on, better client service and more accurate insurance valuations. Some warehouses split the inbound and landing processes that simply run a case count from the inventorying of wine that’s carried out by specialists such as ex-sommeliers. 

Having a reference database limits variability of data entry, improves accuracy and speed of inventorying, keeps the list of wine names presented to warehouse staff manageable and less confusing, and ensures the client sees full depth of information against each of their wine entries. The days of wine storage being seen as a lowest-cost, lowest-denomination utility are coming to a close. Discerning wine collectors expect excellence.

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