As any new business grows, one can quickly find that sales, orders and deliveries become too much to handle with a simple spreadsheet. Sooner or later you need a more advanced system to keep track of what comes in and goes out - which is where inventory management systems (IMS) come into play.
There are a number of IMS to choose from and finding the right option for your business depends on a range of factors, namely, the size of your business, how much stock you typically have coming in and going out on a daily basis, your current IT network, and your budget.
What does inventory management software do?
Inventory management software is an application that helps you keep on top of your stock by tracking sales, orders and even material costs (for service-based businesses). The concept is quite simple: You never want to run out of stock, or order more than you need. However, in practice this can be much tougher than it sounds when you have surprise bulk orders, supplier issues or defect products come in.
Inventory management software means you always know what you have in stock, what is coming in, and what is going out. Let’s say your customer makes a bulk order for your biggest selling product. You don’t want to accept the order and then have to explain to your customer that you don’t have enough in stock. Or, worse, sell to another customer in the meantime after the goods have already been paid for.
With inventory management software you know exactly what stock you have on premises and when the next order is due. You can also set items aside as they’re sold, so you never have to worry about running out or selling the same product twice.
How to choose the right software
The right inventory management software for your business depends on your specific needs as a company. There is a wide range of free and paid options available, each with a variety of features to help you keep on track.
Some accounting packages like Quickbooks include inventory management features, while dedicated inventory applications like Inventory Pro focus entirely on your in-store stock. More advanced systems often include barcode/RFID scanning, custom pricing models and transfer management - but how useful these are depends on the nature of your business.
It’s not just about features when it comes to inventory management software, and just like any application, you’ll want a fine balance between features and efficiency. The whole point of this software is to avoid mistakes with your inventory so you don’t want a confusing or difficult system. And when you do run into difficulties you want to know you have a good support team available 24/7.
A system for every budget
With a wealth of inventory management software options available there is a package for just about every budget. The most expensive option isn’t always the best so check independent reviews before you commit to buy. And if you’re on a tight budget, just remember that investing more now could save you more in the future.