Top 7 Tips for a Successful Army Inventory

Today, I want to share my Top 7 Tips for a Successful Army Inventory.  These tips pertain to ANY type of inventory you might be responsible for.  These are some inventory tips I learned during my 15+ years in the Army.  Although I was never a Supply Sergeant or 92Y, I probably did close to 50 different inventories during my time in the Army.  I made some mistakes and did a lot of things right.  My goal today is to share some of the things that I learned along the way, so I can help you have successful inventories.  The tips are listed in no particular order.

1.  Sit Down with an Expert and Educate Yourself – One of the best things you can do ahead of time is sit down with your Unit Supply Sergeant, S4 or Property Book Officer and get some expert input.  Find out any tips or secrets or guidance they can give you for doing a successful inventory.  All of these folks have a ton of experience in the inventory world and can point you in the right direction.  Take your Supply Sergeant out for lunch one day.  Pay for the meal and pick their brain.  It will be money well spent.

2. Develop a Game Plan and Schedule – Like anything in life, it helps to have a game plan.  Before you just start doing an inventory, you want a written game plan and inventory schedule.  This will let you break down your inventory into bite-sized chunks and it will allow you to stay on track.  If you just wing it, you won’t do very well.

3.  Find a Helper – With most inventories, you will need a helper.  Find someone with a Supply background, or good Supply knowledge and see if they will help you.  This gives you an extra set of eyes at the inventory, and an additional perspective.  If you miss something, there’s a good chance they won’t!

4.  Get the Respective TM’s – One of the best things you can do is get the respective TMs for each piece of equipment you are inventorying.  That way you know the components and sub-components that come with the item.  For instance, an Army Truck might have 100 or more different components and sub-components such as a fire extinguisher or car jack.  If you don’t know what these things are, you won’t know if they are missing.

5. Have an Updated Shortage Annex – Make sure that you have a copy of the shortage annex with you, so you can see what missing items have already been identified.  You should also update any missing items or components/sub-components that you find during your inventory.

6. Physically Touch Everything – Make sure that you PHYSICALLY touch EVERY item on the list.  If something is signed out to another unit, go to the location it is supposed to be at and touch the item.  For example, if one of the unit’s machine guns is at the Small Arms Shop getting fixed, visit the Small Arms Shop to actually see it.  Put your hand on it and touch it!  Never take a hand receipt or sub-hand receipt at face value.  Always verify!

7. Don’t Rush Yourself – Don’t be in a rush to do the inventory.  I understand that we all have deadlines to deal with.  That’s fine.  But give yourself enough time to do the inventory the right way, the first time around.  That comes back to having a game plan!  When you are in a rush, you will miss things and make mistakes.  You definitely don’t want that to happen.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  These are my top 7 tips for a successful Army Inventory.  What are your thoughts? What are your best tips for doing a successful inventory?  Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Top 7 Tips for a Successful Army Inventory”

  1. You are so right about getting a helper for your Army Inventory. As you said, not only does it give you an extra set of hands, but more importantly, an extra set of eyes. While doing an inventory once, we were counting loose piping valves. We had been running through some ball valves made by several different manufacturers. I came upon a manufacturer I had never heard of, and to save my soul I could not find those valves anywhere.

    I called over my assistant, and sure enough he had experience with that particular supplier. The reason I couldn’t find them — even though they were almost right in front of my face — was because that supplier painted the stems and handles green, whereas all the others were painted red. My eyes expected to see red and wouldn’t recognize the green ones as ball valves. It sure saved me a lot of time having that help for my inventory responsibilities, and it probably helped save me from tearing out my hair too!

  2. Inventories can be a bear. I've recently completed an inventory on medical records and let me tell you it was a long complex task. Even if 80% of the items are where they are supposed to be the other 20% will take longer to find and will take up most of your time.

    I had several people assure me where things where and when I went to physically find them, shocking, they weren't there. So make sure you physically see and touch every item in your inventory.

    Be honest about needing help and the time it will take to complete. Don't try to be a hero or commit yourself to an impossible completion date.

  3. I can’t think of a more tedious job than inventory. When I worked in retail there were inventory checks several times throughout the day to deter theft (cash, lotto, cigarettes…) There were also daily, weekly and monthly inventories done. I have to say – as much of a pain in the butt as it is – it is necessary to keeping everyone honest, maintaining responsibility, and there is a certain amount of pride and satisfaction when all the numbers are good. You are so right about laying hands on all items! It’s not a matter of trust – it’s a matter of confirmation. Anyone who misses that step is taking shortcuts, which will eventually catch up and bite you in the bum.

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