Inventory Control

A Guide to Visual Inventory Control

November 9, 2022 • 5 min read

What does it mean when a business practices visual inventory management? In simpler terms, this indicates that a company is using a system that allows them to truly see what inventory they have on hand, even across multiple locations.

While traditional inventory strategies—especially those involving inventory lists or spreadsheets—use alphanumeric characters to sum up inventory and stock levels, a truly visual inventory system leans on words and photos to catalog what items a business has on hand. 

Is a visual inventory management system suitable for your business? In this article, we’ll help you understand more about visual inventory and outline the benefits of practicing inventory visual control.


What is visual inventory?

Visual inventory refers to any inventory system providing a business with photo-based verification of every item they have. When a company’s entire inventory list features high-resolution photographs, the result is a robust, visual database of a business’s stock. 


What is visual inventory control?

If a business uses visual inventory control, that means that every time an item is stocked, sold, consumed, or even moved or transferred, someone on your team visually verifies the transaction. This can be recorded on a sheet of paper, a spreadsheet, or—most easily—using an inventory app that enables quick, in-app barcode and QR code scanning


6 Benefits of a visual inventory system

There are various benefits of switching to a visual inventory system, from increased peace of mind to reduced human error. Here are six of them.

1. Truly see what you have on hand

A picture is worth a thousand words. There are so many different reasons why a few good images of items in your inventory can help your company get a better handle on its stock levels. Whether inventory is kept in boxes that are hard to access or open, or several items your business stocks have very similar names, or you work in an industry where aesthetics simply matter, being able to visualize your inventory can make a world of difference. 

2. Identify items with greater speed

If your business is losing time pulling down boxes off hard-to-reach shelves, calling warehouses across the country to verify what a product looks like, or is simply tired of sifting through storage closets looking for a certain something, a visual inventory system could be the answer.

With an app like Sortly, your team can use either the search function or scan a barcode or QR code to learn more about a product in the blink of an eye. 

3. Track asset condition over time

If your business stocks fixed assets like equipment, machinery, technology, or other high-value investments, a visual inventory system can help you track the condition of those assets over time. By updating item photos during annual audits or other inventory checks, your team can capture and record an item’s depreciation over time. This can come in handy when your accountants need to claim depreciation, or your business wants to dive deeper into how, when, where, and why an asset’s condition has worsened over time. 

With an app like Sortly, you’ll also have item histories to review alongside photos.

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4. Distinguish products with lots of variants

If you stock inventory with many variants—highly similar items with just slight variations—then a visual inventory system can save your team from quite a bit of frustration. That’s because pictures can help you distinguish slight variations in color, cut, and so on.

With an app like Sortly, you can use photos, custom item details, and barcodes and QR codes—plus SKUs, Sortly IDs, or other nomenclature—to differentiate similar items. By clarifying exactly what’s what, these pictures can reduce costly human errors that can lead to underordering, overordering, and worse. 

5. Visualize inventory across multiple locations

When your inventory is stored off-site, it can be hard to picture exactly what you have on hand. With the help of a visual inventory system, your team can picture any item your business has on its stock list, even if it’s thousands of miles away.

6. Better evaluate visual stock

For creative professionals—from event planners to interior designers to photo booth rental companies—there’s no better way to track inventory than with images. If you rely on images to select, rent, or sell your inventory, then implementing a visual inventory management system that supports those needs is absolutely essential. 


How to create a visual inventory management system

If you’re ready to implement a visual inventory system, here are a few steps you can take to get started today:

1. Pick a system that properly supports images

If you’re serious about visual inventory management, a spreadsheet or a sheet of paper won’t cut it. Instead, you’ll need to select an inventory management system that supports photos, attachments, and any other visual documentation you may need. 

Since documents and spreadsheets are not built to showcase images, inventory management software is usually the best bet for businesses hoping to implement visual inventory management or visual inventory control. 

2. Set up your visual inventory system

If you’re using an inventory app like Sortly, creating a robust, visual inventory system should be relatively intuitive and quick. Here’s a quick run-through of how it works:

  1. Create items for each product in your inventory—or use the bulk import feature to add all your inventory at once via spreadsheet
  2. Upload a variety of high-resolution photos for each item in your inventory
  3. Connect each item with a barcode or QR code for fast, error-proof searching, updating, and auditing 
  4. Generate image-rich, insightful inventory reports using customized reports 
  5. Use photos—and other attachments and documents—to track changes to inventory over time

Experience the simplest inventory management software.

Are you ready to transform how your business does inventory?


About Sortly

Sortly is a top-rated visual inventory management software system designed to help your business understand its inventory through images and words. With powerful features like barcode and QR code scanning, low stock alerts, and lightning-fast reporting, Sortly can help your business track inventory better than ever before—in a fraction of the time.


Curious how Sortly can help your business? Try a free, two-week trial of our top-rated visual inventory management app.