Whether you are running a tech start-up or a brick or mortar store, inventory management could mean the difference between surviving and thriving. A small discrepancy could beget a series of issues – over the purchase, stockouts, purchase delays, and more – which, in turn, could lead to severe crises and unhappy customers. As most small businesses run on bootstrapped mode, manual inventory management is mostly the norm.
Notwithstanding the benefit of saved cost in manual inventory management, tracking inventory in real-time is the need of the hour. You need to have a record of available stock all the time. Indeed, some small businesses have managed so far thorough manual ledgers and Excel spreadsheets; however, they must be dealing with process delays and increased costs sans inventory management.
Inventory Management Software, as the name implies, automates the inventory process of companies, thereby enhancing their efficiency. The software helps companies reduce human errors, gives a real-time record of inventory, builds a brand profile, and better customer service.
Out there, most of the inventory management software shares similar features. If you are running a small business and wish to switch toward manual inventory management, here are a few things to take care of:
The inventory management software that you are targeting should focus on the following things:
#1. Price of Inventory Software
You can whittle down to the inventory software of your choice by understanding your business needs first—rope in your inventory managers and other key members to put things in perspective for you.
The most noteworthy part of IMS software is that it is cloud-based. This means there are no hardware costs and resources costs involved when it comes to deployment and integration, which makes the IM technology easily accessible. In fact, there are several cloud-based inventory management software that could be tried for free.
#2. Ease of use
As per conventional wisdom, people dislike anything that calls for a lot of training. Ease-of-use is what inventory managers look for. If the user ends up spending a lot of time learning the operational processes of the software that keeps him away from his core job, then it’s probably not the ideal solution. Put another way, even non-techies should be able to handle it.
Also, consider the kind of training you need to provide to your future employees. You could even think of having one or two people learn all the software ropes so they could get around helping others.
#3. Real-time demand planning functionality
Managing inventory goes beyond picking and packing of goods from a warehouse or a distribution center. It also means anticipating customers’ demands and working out the logistics to fulfill the order.
To make the most of inventory software, zero down on the one that aids in real-time demand planning. For instance, the Orderhive inventory software uses forecasts and historical data to predict the demand for particular items at different points in the supply chain.
This will ensure better stock levels, controlled warehousing activity, less requirement for safety stock, and more informed decision-making across the supply chain.
#4. Operates in Every Device
Ideally, inventory management should be able to run not just on a desktop computer? It should be able to run on all devices, including iPhones, Androids, tablets, to traditional PCs. Bottom line: It should work from anywhere and at any time.
#5. Gives Accurate Update at any Given Time
Your inventory may be spread out in multiple locations, warehouses or distribution centers; however, sound inventory management software will keep you updated no matter where the inventory is. The software should help you sort and search by locations. Bonus points if the software syncs automatically and helps you locate goods at the nick of time.
#6. Full Control over User Permissions and Access
Indeed, inventory is meant for everyone, but not every employee should have access to it. The inventory system should be such that you should be able to audit to know who made inventory changes whenever an item is moved, or information gets changed.
#7. Add Visuals of Inventory
A picture serves many purposes. Using photos, your employees can easily track items they require and can even send images to clients if they are out of stock.
#8. Electronic movement of Inventory Data Should be Easy
If anything, inventory data should be easily shared; that is, data could be easily imported, exported, and even printed to use it the way it seems fit. You can use to create order sheets, audit lists, training manuals, or PDFs to share with clients and investors.
Modern inventory management calls for software that helps businesses stay organized despite industry type, business needs, and multiple locations.
#9. Should be Scalable
Your business is not going to remain complacent. It’s going to grow. So your inventory management software should be such that it will scale up as your business grows. In terms of scalability, you need to ask your providers whether the software will allow additions in the form of new locations, new products, and new features and all.
Additional Features you should look for
Tracking of real-time inventory – if you cannot measure inventory you cannot manage it
Orders received and returned – Orders received and orders returned need proper recording. If orders returned are not recorded, your customers would suffer, and resell of returned goods won’t happen.
Barcoding and Quick Scanning – If you manually input barcode, then the scope of human error is broad. This is a must-have feature for inventory software.
Cycle Counting – An ideal cycle counting inventory system aids in accurate inventory audit that reduces the need for physical inventory audits.
Order Picking – Order picking functionality makes it easy to find inventory, reduce fulfilment times, and cut down the volume of wrong orders.
Inventory management could make or mar businesses. So you must have a sound inventory management system that takes care of all the necessary and even advanced inventory requirements. Sure, a comparison between different inventory software isn’t easy, but you could start at the base level. Comparison of inventory at the base level is more straightforward, and also you could take into account the above points before finalizing the same.
Author Bio: I am Jennifer Warren- a blogger and content manager at GoodFirms – a review and rating agency that offers a level playing to businesses of all sizes.