Choosing the Right Inventory Tracking Software
The age of inventory management on spreadsheets and log books is over. Paper-based inventory management invites errors and costly mistakes that hinder company growth and profitability. Companies still searching spreadsheets on a shared drive for inventory data are putting their company at risk, especially in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Fortunately, software companies are meeting the challenges of the industry. With the right system offering seamless inventory management, a company can position itself for rapid growth by cutting unnecessary costs and adding value for their customers.
With so many options and systems to chose from, it can be difficult to find the right system that blends functionality with ease of use.
Dear Systems can help. Here are 5 critical questions to ask when evaluating inventory management and tracking systems.
Tips for Selecting Inventory Tracking Software
Every system will offer similar core functionality, but it’s important to understand how that functionality will translate into your enterprise processes. These questions will cut the confusion and put each solution into perspective for you.
Do I have real-time visibility into stock levels and order status?
At the speed of modern business, companies need real-time visibility of stock levels and order status.
Look at how the system works. Will your team go to a single location for information, or will you need to consult multiple systems for the answers you need? How accurate is the information? Is the system pulling data in real time? Does it require any manual data entry? Manual data entry can be error-prone and inaccurate, even if the company promises real-time visibility.
Keep in mind, cloud-based systems typically offer superior visibility into inventory and stock levels.
Without real-time, up-to-minute information on stock and inventory, your business units will make business decisions using guesswork. Your company will struggle with out-of-stock inventory or late shipments even after the system is in place. Over- and understock issues are common with systems that don’t offer real-time data on inventory.
Does the system offer flexibility to support my future needs?
Many systems, especially custom inventory management solutions, don’t offer enough flexibility to support modern businesses.
For example, if your business needs change, does the system support creation of new product families? Can you create variations of the same product using unique SKUs? Is the data for your inventory linked into manageable product families so you can source products? Can you generate unique serial and batch numbers for products?
Often with custom solutions, or systems not based on pure-play inventory management, you will need to contact the supplier with any changes to the product family. This is not only inefficient, but costly and limits future updates to the solution.
Can the reporting system support quick and accurate business decisions?
Real-time information is important but generating accurate and timely reports when and where you need them will help your company make better business decisions.Build a reporting requirement list for your company. What reports will you need? Review the schedule and timing of your reports. Do you need them to be automatically generated, or will you access them as needed? Is the data being used in the report being pulled in real time, or are you looking at reports from the day before? Can I create both site-specific and enterprise-wide reports? What about specialized reports like Bill of Materials and Job Costing?Once you understand your reporting needs, review the reports that come with the system. Ask the supplier about any reports that don’t come standard. Many companies will limit your access to reports and your data unless you pay for additional modules.
Does the solution offer enterprise-wide integrations?
Enterprise-wide integration, or system connectivity, is critical for modern software systems. It’s also one of the weakest and most problematic features with some systems.Identify your needs for system integration and review what is offered by the solution. Ask the vendor about any gaps you can see. You want to eliminate as much manual data entry as possible. Integrations should include pulling and organizing product data from other systems automatically to save time and eliminate errors.Keep in mind the integration needs you have now may not reflect your future needs. Look for systems that offer API (Application Programming Interface) functionality. With the right system, you can configure the system API to support your own integration paths. This will eliminate the need for expensive custom integrations and save you time and money in the future.
Is the support for the solution right-sized for my company?
For many companies, the support offered for software can be the difference between an effective solution and shelfware. What support resources are available for your solution? Is there a forum or documentation you can use, or are you forced to rely on a helpdesk in another country? Is there a support ticket system for tracking issues, or will you be forced to hope for the best when an issue comes up?Also look at the cost of support. Is it included in the license fee or is there an additional cost? Often, the support costs can dramatically increase the overall price of your software solution.
Putting It All Together for Comprehensive Inventory Management
Now that you have a better understanding of how the functionality of an inventory management system can translate into cost savings and real-world efficiency for your company, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice and begin looking in the market for a solution.