Inventory management can mean different things to different businesses. For a retail store, having the right inventory level means reducing out-of-stocks so customers won't walk out the door. For a company producing physical goods, poor inventory management might mean a stalled production line with orders delayed or not completed at all. And a popular bar or restaurant? Proper inventory management keeps the refrigerators and freezers stocked to the optimum level along with enough beer, wine, and spirits to keep the customers happy when the weekend arrives.
Whatever it means to you, inventory management - done well or done poorly - is sure to affect your bottom line. That said, you might want to find out a little more about the components of a successful inventory management system. Most experts agree you'll need the following:
(1) Inventory software
(2) Bar code scanners (wired and/or wireless)
(3) Bar code printers
(4) Bar code labels
While you may already have some or all of these hardware components, there's a good chance you could use a new or upgraded inventory solution. This article focuses on inventory software, providing an overview of several current products that meet the needs of different size businesses across industry verticals.
Do-It-Yourself Meets POS and Inventory Management
Retail Plus POS offers inventory software as part of a full-featured point-of-sale product. Designed to transform any PC into a POS terminal, Retail Plus runs just in a Windows environment (Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) and is also compatible with QuickBooks, the business accounting software. Since the Canadian branch of Intuit (maker of QuickBooks Canada) discontinued their POS module, they now recommend the software for their customers.
Billed as a "do-it-yourself" system, a trial version of Retail Plus can be downloaded right away. If you decide to upgrade to the paid version, all inventory information and client data is preserved. Also, the program is ready to support multiple users across a company network. There's no limit to the number of terminals you can run with your license. You can find out more about this inventory software at Retail POS.
Three Levels of Inventory Management Software
Designed for small to mid-sized businesses, inFlow inventory management software does just that, helping you track inventory, take customer orders, reorder stock, and generate reports on your business activities. Compatible with most bar code scanners, inFlow also lets you buy and sell in different currencies, and set your own exchange rates, and is available in English, Spanish, French, and Chinese versions.
Depending on the size of your business and desired software features, you can use one of three versions, Free, Regular, or Premium. The free version limits you to a combined 100 products and customers, and the multi-user network mode allows you to view data only. With a per license fee of $299, the regular version limits you a maximum of five user stations. And as expected, the premium version - at $499 for each license - offers maximum functionality, including features geared toward larger businesses. Both paid versions offer phone and email support, compared to just online forums for the free program. Take a more in depth look at inFlow's inventory management software.
Inventory Software Compatible With Microsoft SQL Server
Another program that runs exclusively in Windows, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 (both 32 and 64 bit), iMagic Inventory also offers a version that will run on Microsoft SQL Server. Created as both an inventory control and invoicing system, iMagic allows you to record multiple details about your product, including additional custom fields. You can even link the software to programs in the Microsoft Office suite, giving you custom reporting and mail merge capabilities, with the programs you already have.
The invoicing feature is quite robust and the software also builds a customer database from your invoices. You can also connect a bar code scanner which easily integrates with the inventory software, saving you time and reducing database errors when entering product codes. There's also an item grouping feature that comes in handy if you sell bundles of products. Simply link the affected items together and when a sale goes through, your inventory levels are adjusted correctly.
And if you want to try the inventory management software before you buy, you're in luck. Download a fully-functional trial version, giving you a ten-use evaluation period. Then if you like what you see, the regular version of iMagic Inventory starts at $249 for a single user. Find out more about this versatile inventory software.
While most inventory management software includes the same basic components, you'll probably want to demo a few programs and dig a little deeper to find the solution that's the best fit for your company. And don't forget to get feedback from the people who'll be using the software every day. You'll be glad you did.