A Brief Overview of Inventory Management Software
For those of you looking to simplify your daily business tasks, inventory management software may be the perfect solution for you and your company. Inventory management software, or as it is often called, inventory tracking software, is a computer-based system that tracks orders, sales, deliveries, and inventory levels.
Clearly, inventory is important. The more inventory your business is shipping out, the more money your business will be bringing in. With that said, your ability to keep track of all orders and shipments will be equally essential to the survival of your business. Hence, the need for inventory tracking software.
According to SBA.gov, inventory management is one of the top eight reasons small businesses fail. Without keeping close track of your goods through inventory tracking software, you will inevitably face several problems you could have easily avoided.
For instance, without the proper inventory tracking software, you could over- or underestimate the value of your shipments. You could order too much of one item or send some products to the wrong addresses. Ultimately, this will cost you money while also making you look unprofessional.
Image Source: Pixabay
In this day and age, keeping track of your inventory in an Excel spreadsheet is time-consuming and could lead to enough errors that will set your business back. Therefore, the only way to be sure that all of your products are properly accounted for is by finding an inventory management system that is right for your needs.
Throughout this article, we will answer several of the most commonly asked questions regarding inventory management software, including the following:
- How do I begin searching for inventory software?
- Is it okay to trust free inventory software?
- What should I focus on most when choosing inventory software?
As with most business-related products, inventory tracking software will benefit some companies more than others. Depending on the number of shipments that are made, the size of your business, and the type of work required, the perfect inventory management system for you may not be the perfect inventory management system for the company across the street.
It is our intention to get you started on your inventory software search, but which system you ultimately choose is your decision. Think about the needs of your business while reading and be sure to weigh all pros and cons before settling on the one for you.
Why Choose Inventory Management Software?
If the amount of time you spend tracking inventory through an Excel spreadsheets is not enough to make you switch to inventory management software, you should consider how business operations are changing.
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The best inventory tracking software will track, manage, and organize all material purchases, product sales, and most other production processes. While it was once acceptable to keep track of all shipments with pen and paper, most products today can be accounted for with radio-frequency identification or barcodes.
By simply scanning a product, inventory tracking software can tell you when a product was shipped, when it arrived, and where any necessary raw materials can be found. As a result, you can repurpose countless hours of tracking your inventory by looking at new ways to improve business operations.
Additionally, it is essential that your company keeps close track of its inventory in order to create growth. There is currently no method that is more accurate than using inventory management software. By making a simple error in your inventory spreadsheets, you will ultimately create a higher lead time, the time between initiating and executing a process.
A higher lead time will result in a slower response to demand, not to mention upsetting customers who were expecting their purchases to be delivered on time. The truth is, roughly half of small businesses fail in the first five years, and two-thirds will have failed in ten years. Without sufficient inventory tracking software, how will your business separate itself from the pack?
Essentially, that is the question you should ask yourself. If you are unable to quickly and accurately keep track of your inventory, will you be able to make your business profitable? If other companies use inventory management software to keep track of their shipments, how will you keep pace?
Now that a lot of free inventory management software is available online, our best recommendation is for you to at least see what the fuss is about. If your business does not benefit from using an inventory management app, you can go back to using a system that works for you.
That being said, we will begin to discuss strategies for finding the inventory management system that is right for you.
What Should You Look for When Choosing Inventory Software?
If you believe that an inventory management system may be right for you, think about the features that are most important to your business. What kind of help do you need most? What features must your inventory tracking software have?
We have compiled some information about features that typically come standard in inventory management apps but which vary in effectiveness from system to system. Ask yourself which of these you need most:
Think about how much inventory you need to keep your eyes on at all times. Are you regularly bringing in and shipping out goods to and from your customers? Depending on the amount of inventory you need to track, inventory monitoring could be the most important feature you look for in an inventory management app.
Some of the best inventory management software will allow you to monitor your goods on the go. If you want to ensure that your company has everything it needs even when you are away from the office, make sure your inventory tracking software comes with these capabilities.
If your primary focus is to find small business inventory software, then this feature may not be as important to you as some of the others. Small businesses may specialize in just a few products and may not need a feature that breaks inventory down into categories.
On the other hand, large companies often have so much inventory coming in at a given time that it will be imperative to find inventory management software that can categorize their goods quickly. Some of the inventory that large companies deliver will be so similar that errors could arise when trying to keep track of specific products.
It is for this reason that large companies should almost always find inventory software that can categorize products efficiently.
The best inventory tracking software will come equipped with an order management feature. Order management keeps track of what has already been ordered and what needs to be reordered. This will ensure that you never run out of the products you need, while also cutting back on having too much of one particular good.
We would recommend that all business owners find an inventory management system that can keep track of their orders. It does not matter how big or small the business is; by being able to order inventory on time without spending too much on unnecessary goods, a company will be far more likely to compete and survive.
The final feature we will review regarding inventory management software in this article is service management. This will be especially important for businesses who focus on delivering services to their clients more than physical goods.
For those of you searching for an inventory management app that is capable of tracking any and all necessary materials required for a service, the service management feature will do just that. The best inventory management software will be able to keep track of all material costs and will then use that information to calculate how much you should be charging for your services.
If you are a small business owner who specializes in delivering services, this feature will be the most important to find. Inventory management software with this feature will make sure you do not charge too little. You will not have to worry about going out of business simply because your material costs are too high.
Is Free Inventory Software Effective?
While a good inventory management system is certainly worth the investment, you will find plenty of free inventory management software available online. But the question then becomes: should you consider free inventory software over one that charges a fee?
The answer, especially if you are a small business, is yes. Free inventory management software will come with many of the aforementioned services. Plus, when you’re beginning your search for small business inventory software, you may not know exactly how much help with inventory tracking you will need.
Perhaps you simply need small business inventory software that is a step up from updating an Excel spreadsheet. In that case, just about every free inventory management software will be able to complete the task. By downloading inventory tracking software for free, you will have all of your documents in one place with all of the vital inventory information.
Additionally, free inventory software is perfect if you are just getting your small business started. Remember that you do not want to fall behind the curve by wasting too much time tracking inventory or miscalculating your deliveries.
It is for this reason that we recommend at least trying free inventory management software as you begin your business. You may find that your inventory needs do not require a paid service. The amount of goods you are bringing in may all fall under one category, and you could find that your shipments and deliveries are the same each week.
Since this is not usually the case, however, you can always begin with free inventory software before turning to a paid route.
Some inventory tracking software systems even give you the option of free, paid, and premium accounts. You may find that upgrading your inventory management software from free to paid will best fit your business needs, especially as you grow.
In the following section, we will briefly go over one such inventory management software that allows you to upgrade as your business grows.
Free and Paid Inventory Software: inFlow Inventory Software
Image Source: inFlow Inventory Software
The great thing about inFlow Inventory Software is that it allows customers to begin with a free inventory management software system before upgrading to a paid account. In fact, they recommend starting with a free account on their website. They do not try to pressure any customers into paying for their services immediately.
As mentioned earlier, good inventory tracking software will allow you to scan a barcode to account for a particular good. The free software gives you room to do just that, as well as offering multiple locations and custom fields.
The multiple locations feature is helpful in that it allows you to know exactly where your items are, not just how many you have. This is similar to the product categories feature mentioned above, and it will be especially important to have when using inventory tracking software.
The custom fields feature in this free inventory management software will also serve your business needs because it allows you to input your own fields to products, customers, and orders. Since every business is unique, this will give you complete control over the way you view the service.
The free inventory management software comes with many other features as well, including track payments owing, sales and purchase orders, and multi-user mode for read-only purposes. However, inFlow also offers paid inventory management software, which you can upgrade to at any time.
By spending a one-time fee of $399, you can upgrade to gain features like customize documents and separate user logins.
With customize documents, you will be able to print all invoices with your company logo. If you plan to use inventory tracking software to print and mail invoices to your clients, this will make you look far more professional in the long run.
The separate user logins feature allows you to use the inventory tracking software to keep track of who is accomplishing which tasks. If your company is large, this may be especially important to you. By knowing exactly who is updating the information, you can pinpoint the source if anything is lost during a delivery.
If you want to upgrade again to gain even more features, inFlow offers a Premium membership, which requires a one-time fee of $799. The Premium paid membership for this inventory management software will give you access to all of the previously mentioned features, as well as some that go above and beyond the basic mechanisms.
Take a look at inFlow’s services if you are interested in the free and paid accounts. While we would recommend trying the free inventory software first, you may find that features like customizable documents are essential. In that case, it may be best to pay for at account at the start.
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Conclusion: Consider Your Business Needs
Inventory management software could be the break your company needs, but only you will be able to determine which features are most important. With so many failed business ventures occurring in the first five years, it will be imperative that you take the necessary steps to separate your company from the pack.
Take a look at some of the inventory management software features we mentioned throughout this article and determine what you will need help with today and in the future. If your company relies solely on goods, you may not need features such as service management, which could push you from one inventory management system to another.
While the hardest decision you make may be between free and paid services, try to find inventory tracking software that allows you to upgrade along the way. This will help you ease your way into inventory software while keeping the door open to a much more robust tracking system in the future.
AdvisoryHQ (AHQ) Disclaimer: Reasonable efforts have been made by AdvisoryHQ to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info. Note: Firms and products, including the one(s) reviewed above, may be AdvisoryHQ's affiliates. Click to view AdvisoryHQ's advertiser disclosures.
AdvisoryHQ (AHQ) Disclaimer:
Reasonable efforts have been made by AdvisoryHQ to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info.
Note: Firms and products, including the one(s) reviewed above, may be AdvisoryHQ's affiliates. Click to view AdvisoryHQ's advertiser disclosures.