‘What happened to that stack of hard drives I just had? I could have sworn I had three video cards in stock, but they’re nowhere to be seen!’ If you’re having issues tracking your inventory, or failing to track it at all, it will seriously hamper your efficiency and can even cause your workflow to grind to a halt. There are some excellent inventory management systems available now, and they’re not that expensive. In fact, some won’t cost you a thing, and they may provide exactly what you need. If a simple spreadsheet just isn’t working for you anymore, it’s time to get something more advanced. I’d like to cover just a few options you should try out if you need a good inventory management system.
Before we consider those options, however, you should consider what type of scenario you need to cover. For instance, how many machines will you need to track inventory on? Will you need to use a solution that allows multiple network machines to access the same inventory database, or will you just be tracking your inventory on one machine? How much of an issue is investment and monthly service cost? Would you like to use barcodes to track your inventory, or are you considering another alternative option to what you already use that makes use of scanners? Finally, should you store your database in the cloud or would you rather keep it locally on your machine or on a server in your network? Depending on your preference, you might decide on one of these options over the others, but in any case, you should at least try them out. Your preference in ease of use regarding software may change how you manage your workstations and your retail infrastructure.
RepairShopr is an excellent full size CRM solution which includes great inventory management tools, and is focused primarily on the technician field. It supports adding items for inventory by barcode scanning, and you can use barcodes for quick locating as well. RepairShopr also integrates inventory management with invoicing, which is another bonus. You can track parts and supplies for clients, maintain price lists, and integrate parts orders with job tickets as well.
In addition to all those features, as I said, it’s a full size CRM solution, including a customer portal for your clients. You and your clients can both access your respective interfaces via a mobile website, which works with all smartphones and tablets, including iPhones and iPads. There’s also a beta feature which integrates a POS module, so you can make sales on the spot without needing to create customer records. As far as pricing goes, there is a free option, and upgrades if you need more features. If you need a good inventory management system as well as a CRM solution, check out RepairShopr.
mHelpDesk is another great inventory management system. It’s not just for inventory, though. It’s also focused on the technician industry, and is fast, reliable, and very easy to use. Along with inventory management, it covers work orders, scheduling, billing, and other features. It works from current popular mobile devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. If you use Quickbooks, you’ll appreciate the integration with that software as well.
mHelpDesk also uses barcode scanning for items and customer assets, so that’s another bonus for this software solution. You can also integrate with your website so clients can schedule a service call. It also has several features that eliminate paper waste, so if you’re into ‘going green’ and would like a great CRM and inventory management system, check out mHelpDesk. There are a few other good options for inventory management as well, so keep reading for more ideas.
Skyware Inventory is a web based inventory tracking system developed by Open Sky Software. It’s free for just one user, so if you’re the only one running your inventory management system, and you don’t mind using a web app for tracking, check this out. It provides receipts for inbound inventory, tickets for outgoing inventory, transfers for moving inventory between storage areas, and if anything is lost or damaged, you can track that as well. It provides easy transaction tracking also, and the interface is fairly easy to pick up quickly. If you need to add another user, it’s $10 USD per each new user.
One main advantage to this system is the ability to use it from the web, which means you can use it on many mobile devices in the field when you use items from your inventory. You can also move throughout your storage area with a mobile device, adjusting your inventory numbers, make notes about ordering more or less of certain items, and keep a good eye on where you need to make changes. I found the interface transitions between screens a little slower than I would like, but I believe the mobility feature more than covers any slight lag in speed.
inFlow Inventory is a more advanced inventory management system, produced by Archon Systems. It’s a very professional looking interface, and is compatible with most barcode scanners designed for office computers. You can track inventory across several locations, and even track the full history on movements to track down missing items or other issues. If you build custom machines, this system will track the inventory you use to assemble the finished product as well. It features invoice emailing and printing, and generates purchase orders when you get low on stock, which you can then print or email to the supplier. Graphs and reports are provided as well, so you can get a better feel for how your inventory movements match against sales and profit. If you have multiple machines using the same inventory database, you can control what users have access to what information, which is a fairly nice feature when you have employees who only need access to certain areas of the system. Also supported are international currencies, which is a plus when you have international clients or want to switch between currency systems.
There is a free version, but it is limited to 100 total products and customers, and only has most of the basic features. You can use the multi-user network mode in read-only mode with the free version. If you’re mostly a repair center and don’t keep a lot of stock, you may be content with the basic features, but it does limit what you can do. The Regular Edition costs $299 USD and covers more features, with unlimited products and customers, and multi-user mode will allow you to make changes to the inventory database. However, the maximum number of computers you can connect with the Regular Edition is only 5, but then again, for many small businesses, they don’t need more than 3 machines tracking inventory. If your business exceeds those requirements, the next step is the Premium Edition, for $499 USD. The features included are focused towards larger businesses, including material bills, the aforementioned access rights per user, work orders, and more. The Premium Edition also does not limit the number of products and customers or the number of computers connected to the inventory database.
ABC Inventory Software is another inventory management system, provided by Almyta Systems. It’s free, but you can only modify database records on one workstation, and you won’t be provided with support by the system provider. On the plus side, there’s no limit on the number of records you can have in the system database, and you can install it on as many workstations as you need, but the developer warns that you won’t be able to link the workstations together to read and modify the same data.
It’s a well-rounded inventory tracking solution, and it has a very long list of features, so if you prefer a software solution that is not web based and you only need to run it on one machine, you might try this out. They have an upgrade package that has many more features, so if you decide you like the layout and functionality, and you need it to run on multiple machines with multiple users modifying data, you can get the next step up.
There are many more inventory management systems available to businesses, but the examples I’ve provided should give you an idea of which direction you should go based on your needs. In the end, the type of inventory management system you choose will mostly depend on the needs of your specific business and your current infrastructure, but don’t be afraid to change your way of managing inventory to suit the software solution that appeals to you. The main focus should be on streamlining your processes, eliminating time consuming tasks that can be performed automatically or in simpler ways, and most importantly, keeping track of the products that are the staple of your industry to prevent your service offerings from grinding to a halt.
If you have a recommendation on inventory tracking, drop a comment below, your input and comments are a valuable asset to technicians everywhere.
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