Stock Controller/Stores Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

Stores assistants work in the stores or stock departments of a wide range of employers. They are responsible for the reception, checking and storage of the products, tools or parts needed for the proper operation of businesses engaged in:

  • Manufacturing operations producing anything from vehicles to cosmetics.
  • Assembling consumer products, such as computers or washing machines.
  • Servicing operations in electronics or office equipment.
  • Wholesale and retail distribution and selling.

They also work in the stores departments of large organisations, such as hospitals or the armed forces, and in thousands of medium-sized shops and businesses.

Stock controllers may also be responsible for the ordering procedures in a stores department and for ensuring that correct stock levels are maintained. In some cases, they may also have to organise and supervise the despatch and collection of goods.

Typical tasks can vary widely, depending on the employer. However, they may include:

Dealing with incoming stock:

  • Taking delivery of new stock, which may include helping to unload delivery vehicles.
  • Checking that the stock matches the delivery sheet and that it is not damaged.
  • Logging the delivery on to a computer system.
  • Making sure stock is stored in the correct place and in the right conditions.

Keeping the storeroom in good order and well stocked:

  • Cleaning and tidying the area and making sure there are no health and safety hazards.
  • Checking stock levels, tracking orders and carrying out stock checks on a regular basis.
  • Ordering new stock when levels fall below an agreed level.
  • Being responsible for the security of the stores.

Dealing with outgoing stock:

  • Identifying the right part or product required.
  • Locating the part or product using a computerised inventory system.
  • Using lifting gear to collect heavy products from storage.
  • Preparing paperwork, such as invoices.
  • Dealing with customer sales, if the stores has a sales counter.
  • Packing the product and despatching onwards, if required.
  • Recording the outgoing stock on the computer system.

The maintenance of correct stock levels is of major importance in modern business. Carrying too much stock at any time not only costs a lot in terms of storage and security, but it also has a detrimental effect on cash flow. Stock shortages may affect production or sales levels.

New computer applications for monitoring stock levels in stores departments are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are being constantly updated with changing technologies.

Stores assistants normally work 37 to 39 hours per week. Some stores assistants work standard hours, Monday to Friday. Others may have to work shifts and weekends. Overtime work is quite common and part-time jobs are available. Store assistants may be required to work longer hours at certain busy times of the year, such as Christmas.

Most storerooms are clean, tidy and well lit. The work may involve accepting deliveries outside in all types of weather, standing up, climbing ladders, lifting heavy goods, operating machinery, such as fork lifts, powered stackers and movers, or being seated to use a computer.

Boots and overalls or uniform are standard. Some jobs may require extra protective clothing, such as goggles and gloves when storing and handling hazardous materials.

Starting salaries for stores assistants are around £12,000 a year. An experienced stock controller could earn more than £20,000 and stores managers can earn up to £25,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Stores assistants work for any company or organisation that store and supply products, tools or parts. There are opportunities for stores assistants across a wide range of industries and sectors, including manufacturing, engineering, distribution, motor vehicle, aerospace, the armed forces, retail and electronics.

Work can be temporary, depending on the needs of the employer. For example, in the warehousing industry, vacancies can peak at certain times of the year, such as Christmas. Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and employment agencies.

Education and Training

No formal academic qualifications are required to work as a stores assistant, although GCSE's in English and maths together with ICT skills would be essential to take advantage of training schemes or an Apprenticeship.

The Diplomas in construction and the built environment, engineering, information technology, as well as manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this type of work.

Some stores assistants are required to have a driving licence and be qualified to drive a fork lift truck.

In stores that use colour coding storage systems, stores assistants need normal colour vision.

Entry is possible through an Apprenticeship in warehousing and storage.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Previous experience in warehousing, packing, engineering, manufacturing or assembly work may be an advantage.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New stores assistants often train on the job, learning skills such as IT use, stock identification, lifting, carrying and loading techniques, and storage requirements.

Short courses away from the workplace may be available, e.g. in health and safety procedures or computer software packages. There may be opportunities to do block or day-release courses, and work towards qualifications such as NVQ in business and administration Levels 1-4. Assistants working in warehousing may be able take the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK)'s Level 2 Introductory Certificate in Logistics and Transport.

Companies must provide training if a stores assistant is required to drive a fork lift truck or use similar equipment.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A stores assistant should:

  • Be able to complete paperwork legibly.
  • Have good numeracy skills for counting stock items.
  • Have an eye for detail, as parts can be very similar in coding and/or appearance.
  • Be able to read and follow instructions.
  • Be able to follow safety and security procedures.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to work on their own or in a small team.
  • Have good colour vision.
  • Have good computer skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion opportunities vary according to the size of the company. Promotion to stores supervisor and then on to stores manager may be possible, especially in larger companies.

There may be opportunities for specialist work in some industries. For example, it may be possible to move into fork lift truck operations. In some companies, stores assistants may be offered the opportunity to train as a driver of a large goods vehicle (LGV).

Get Further Information

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK),
Logistics and Transport Centre,
Earlstrees Court, Earlstrees Road,
Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 4AX
Tel: 01536 740104
Website: www.ciltuk.org.uk

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply,
Easton House, Church Street,
Easton-on-the-Hill, Stamford,
Lincolnshire PE9 3NZ
Tel: 01780 756777
Website: www.cips.org

SEMTA, 14 Upton Road,
Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Website: www.semta.org.uk

Skills for Logistics, 14 Warren Yard,
Warren Farm Office Village,
Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360 and 0870 242 7314
Website: www.skillsforlogistics.org

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