Any business with even moderate amount of inventory needs to manage it. The company must know how many inventory items it has on hand,
how many it uses over time, what are the trends, when it is time to order more. It must know where the assets are, who is having them, when they are due back.
There are a lot of software programs, of different complexity and cost, that
help businesses to automate asset and inventory management. Why than so many small businesses are still managing their inventory using spreadsheets?
One reason could be that until recently, most inventory / asset management programs where very complicated, expensive and required significant implementation time
and resources, which simply did not work for small businesses. This is changing now with the growing number of web based inventory management systems, that tend to
be less complicated, less costly and are much faster to implement.
Still, even with these new online systems there are several things that do not work very well.
Employee who enter inventory transaction or current asset status into a program must be located in the office in front of the computer, while in reality
people who deal with inventory and assets are not in the office when inventory transactions take place. They are in the warehouse, on the truck, in the field
servicing customers, on the factory floor, at the remote site. As a result, inventory transactions are never entered on time.
Inventory transactions need to be entered manually, which requires extra time and introduces errors. And if software allows for the traditional barcode
scanners, there is additional hardware cost, often much higher than the cost of the software itself. Traditional barcode scanners need to be either attached to
a computer, or be in its vicinity - which makes it impossible to enter inventory transaction or asset status at a remote site.
It looks like these limitations make small businesses think that they are as good using spreadsheets as specialized inventory management software.
The newest generation of inventory management software, which uses smartphones to track
inventory in the field, and allows for scanning of QR codes or barcodes on the items to process inventory transactions, should change this thinking. This kind of
software gives small businesses a tool to automate inventory management and asset tracking and make it work.
There are several key issues in inventory management / asset tracking process that are solved by using QR Codes / barcodes and mobile devices:
Employees in the field can now process inventory transactions or change asset status at the moment it happens,
with one scan of QR code / barcode. The transaction immediately goes to central database, and updated inventory status is available right away to
all authorized devices (smartphones, tablets, computers in the office). Entries of inventory transactions are not delayed or forgotten.
Similarly, authorized company employees can access accurate inventory count or asset status in the field with one scan of QR code or barcode.
The company can benefit from scan based inventory and asset management, which eliminates errors and speeds up processing of transactions, but without
associated hardware cost. Employees can use smartphones, which they already have in their pockets, to process inventory and asset transactions -
no extra hardware is required.
Unlike regular scanners, smartphones can also include a form to select custom properties for inventory transactions (for example, for which project or
client the item was taken). This option makes it easy for the companies to adapt inventory management software to their business by creating custom
fields to keep track of, and than including these custom fields in the reports.
Keeping these new opportunities in mind, it now makes sense for business of any size to abandon spreadsheets and
try out modern inventory management software.