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How to Choose an Inventory Tracking Solution for Your Business

Accurately managing your inventory is a key component to the long-term success of your small business. Whether you sell your wares online or you run a brick and mortar store, keeping your shelves stocked with the right items can make or break your business. You already know why Excel is bad for tracking inventory, but if you’re not sure where to go from there, we’ve put together a list of factors to consider when you’re trying to find the perfect inventory solutions for your small business.
  1. Ease of use – Training staff to use new technology can be an expensive, time-consuming process. Many vendors offer live demonstrations or software trials, so you can test drive the inventory software before you buy it. This is a great way to evaluate how easy (or hard!) a product will be for you and your employees to learn, without having to spend a dime.
  2. Balance of features and simplicity – Like buying a new car, it’s easy to get caught up in bells and whistles that aren’t mission critical. Unfortunately, this can add to the complexity of a product. Make a list of the inventory tracking features you can’t live without – like the ability to create packing slips, track inventory by serial number, or manage your supplies – and use this as a measuring stick for the solutions you’re considering.
  3. Integration with existing technology – There are two considerations here: hardware and software. Avoid unexpected expenses by carefully reviewing the system requirements for the inventory software you are considering. Be sure that your existing computer and operating system can support the solution in question. You should also take into account any software you currently use. For example, if you’ve used Excel or Access to track your inventory in the past, can you import this data into the new inventory software? How about integration with any accounting software you use, like QuickBooks or PeachTree?
  4. Timeliness of data – Inventory solutions can be used as software only or with a mobile computer. Using a mobile computer gives you the flexibility to update inventory data from your warehouse, instead of doing every transaction from your computer. Inventory tracking solutions will use either batch data transfer or RF (wireless) communication. In a nutshell, that just refers to how the updates from your mobile computer are transferred back to the software. With batch data transfer, the updates are only made in your software once you sync with your PC. It’s a manual process done by cabling the mobile computer to your PC, and can be time-consuming. RF data transfer uses your wireless network to instantly pass updates from your mobile computer to your software, so all of your data is real-time. If your inventory changes rapidly, or you don’t keep large amounts of stock on hand, wireless inventory solutions that offer real-time data is a must.
  5. Cost – Trying to determine what an inventory tracking solution actually costs can be difficult. Elements that can bump up your basic solution cost are per-seat software licenses, hardware add-ons (like mobile computers or barcode scanners), technical support contracts, training, and implementation. Request a quote that includes everything you need, so there are no surprises when it’s time to buy.
Choosing the right inventory solution for your business will take time and careful research, but it’s worth the investment. Does your small business use an inventory tracking solution? If so, did you use any criteria that didn't make the list above? Share your thoughts in the comments.