Tidying up and organizing a messy inventory is no small task, even for small businesses. Trying to maintain order with pen-and-paper is a dying process prone to error, and purchasing inventory management software to shoulder the burden is expensive. If only there were a cheap way to manage inventory — enter free inventory management software.
Just because you don’t run a Fortune 500 company and can’t afford a cutting-edge system does not preclude you from the inventory management game. We understand your doubts. Cheap solutions sounds like a recipe for disaster — but we’re here to tell you otherwise.
Is Free Software Worth It?
The world of inventory management is an expensive one. Businesses spare no expense when it comes to developing an efficient and accurate method to store, pick and ship their goods. However, these expenditures are worth it. A recent study shows that as businesses drop their old pen-and-paper methods in favor of inventory management systems productivity jumps by up to 25%, stock use efficiency rises by about 30% and the businesses gain valuable inventory space.
That’s all well and good but does opting for open-source or cheap inventory management software provide the same level of benefit? Firstly, and most obviously, free inventory tracking software is… well… free. This lack of expenditure immediately removes any expense related barriers involved in adopting the system, and in the same vein quickly boosts the ROI associated with implementing this new software.
If you are coming from an analog operation, simply switching to a digital system comes with numerous benefits. Reducing manual data entry, demand forecasting tools and automation features can breathe life into a floundering business. Not only that, but customers who you could have lost to shipping errors or a lack of demand planning can be brought back into the fold and turned into return clients.
Before we jump into the top platforms, covering the must-have features of a successful management system is key. If the platform you are eyeing doesn’t have the features listed below, take a step back and consider some alternatives.
Top Features of Affordable Inventory Management Software
Being free certainly is attractive, but without these key features the cheap system you have your eye on may not cover all your bases. Our SelectHub Analyst Team dug through the inventory management market and discovered these top features to be sure and look for:
Keeping track of a product as it travels from warehouse to shipping is vital. Whether this involves the usage of RFID technology, barcode scanners or real-time stock views, a successful system will keep you updated on where a product is, when it needs to be moved and how to store it at maximum warehousing efficiency. If you don’t know what products you have in-house at all hours of the day, how can you possibly plan for fluctuating demand?
Many businesses have to transfer stock between warehouses and other locations regularly. A successful management solution should make product movement simple while also providing in-depth information about each move. Included within this feature is the ability to bundle products together, also known as kitting.
Creating and sending purchase orders by hand feels similar to Dark Ages torture. Your cheap inventory management system should give you the ability to create single or bulk POs online and email them directly to your suppliers. Some solutions can automatically generate POs as certain item levels drop within the warehouse.
Get our Inventory Management Software Requirements Template
While you may think shipping belongs in the world of transportation management, your inventory system actually plays a starring role in getting product shipped out correctly. The best systems allow for multi-carrier and multi-modal shipment strategies. You want the most options available as possible to ensure your customers receive their goods on-time. Many systems can automatically generate critical shipping documentation and labels to attach to packages or store for later use as backups.
Any system worth its salt should give you support for order management from the creation of the order to fulfillment of the product. Other helpful features of order management let you develop custom pricing guides, send quotes to customers, mark committed stock and send invoices.
Reporting and Analytics
Analytics and reporting are the lifeblood of any growing business. These tools give you real-time access into demand information, on-hand stock, total sales, tax information and more. Features like these give managers and stakeholders up-to-date information to back up their decision-making processes. Analytics can also point out areas of your operation that are suffering or inefficient, giving you the tools required to step in before bigger problems arise.
The modern workforce is becoming more and more reliant on mobility as time goes on. Being able to unchain ourselves from our desks while still having the ability to interact with our inventory management software is becoming vital today. Many modern solutions give users the ability to log in, update and view important business data, manage processes and more all from internet-enabled smart devices.
As always, there are more features to consider as vendors create cutting-edge technology, but the features listed above are a good roadmap to start with. Now we can take a look at the top performers in the free inventory management market.