How Do I Choose the Best Inventory Control Software?

Jeri Sullivan

There are literally hundreds of inventory control software programs available and choosing the best one for a particular business is imperative. Understanding what features the inventory control software offers, the initial price, any recurring charges, the software compatibility with current systems, and its scalability are factors to consider. Knowing what is needed to support the company's business will also help to make an appropriate purchase decision.

Price and recurring charges are two factors to review when deciding on which inventory control software to purchase.
Price and recurring charges are two factors to review when deciding on which inventory control software to purchase.

Common features of this type of software include inventory stock level tracking, purchase order history, current purchase order status, and standard pricing tables. Other features included may be: serial number tracking, automatic reorder points, expiration date tracking, volume pricing tables, multiple cost methods, multiple location inventory separation, and kitting or bill of material (BOM) process capabilities. Some or all of these features may be required depending upon the type of business that will be using the software.

Some systems allow stock to be tracked through barcode scanning.
Some systems allow stock to be tracked through barcode scanning.

Price and recurring charges are other factors to review when deciding on which inventory software to purchase. Since the purchase price will be paid up front, determine how long the software will be in use to calculate the cost per year. Recurring charges such as license fees, upgrade charges, and troubleshooting charges should also be reviewed. The prices for these "extras" vary significantly by supplier so companies should understand how often their business may need to use these services to determine what they can expect to pay.

Even with the use of automated inventory management, manual inventory reconciliation may be necessary.
Even with the use of automated inventory management, manual inventory reconciliation may be necessary.

Software compatibility with current systems may be the most important factor when deciding how to choose the best inventory control software. Typically, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems already include an inventory control module. If the company does not utilize ERP systems or has other systems such as research and development (R&D), engineering change tracking, warehouse management, and financial management to incorporate with the new inventory control software, then an IT professional should review for compatibility. If the current and new software are not compatible, the company will not get the complete benefit of having all of the information flow from one system to the other.

Inventory personnel can be used to ensure software remains accurate.
Inventory personnel can be used to ensure software remains accurate.

Scalability is another factor to consider when choosing an inventory software. Depending on the size and future plans of the business, certain software may be better than others. For example, if the company plans to expand significantly within a short period, will the software be able to support many more users and data files? Ensuring the inventory control software has the ability to grow as the business grows is an important factor in the decision making process.

Common features of inventory control software include inventory stock level tracking, purchase order history, current purchase order status, and standard pricing tables.
Common features of inventory control software include inventory stock level tracking, purchase order history, current purchase order status, and standard pricing tables.

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Discussion Comments

everetra

@SkyWhisperer - One of the most useful applications of business management software of this kind is not only how well it tracks current inventory, but how well it forecasts future demand.

This may or may not be part of the inventory control software, but I think it’s an important piece of the puzzle. If you can accurately forecast future demand then you know how much inventory to keep in stock.

The inventory control software should at least provide you with some functionality that will help you in this regard. Otherwise it’s just a glorified database in my opinion. What you need is business intelligence.

SkyWhisperer

I used to work in the manufacturing industry. One of the most important features of our inventory tracking system was the ability to keep track of part numbers for products. Of course that much should be obvious.

But what happened is sometimes manufacturers would call and say that they had changed their part numbering scheme. So all the part numbers for their product line in our database had to be updated.

You can imagine the nightmare that would ensure if we still used the old part numbers. Everything would be totally out of whack when it came time to track the inventory.

Fortunately the manufacturing inventory control software we used was very versatile and allowed us to make changes to the part numbers, while retaining a history of the old numbers for reference purposes.

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