Inventory Management

The Best Inventory Tracking Methods for Businesses

January 24, 2020 • 4 min read

Inventory tracking is no easy task, and that’s because inventory turnover can be so complicated to keep up with. 

Trying to manage your business’s entire inventory is difficult to begin with. This why 43% of retailers ranked inventory management as their biggest challenge day-today. It can become even more complicated when you have a set list of items that need to be checked in and out to either internal or external clients, and you need to know who has what and when it will all be available. 

There are a number of different inventory tracking methods, from spreadsheetsto inventory management software, that you can use to keep track of all your company’s stuff. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each one. 

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Manual inventory management with Excel 

Some small businesses use manual inventory tracking. Manual tracking may involve an Excel spreadsheet or something equivalent. This should tell what items you have, how many you have in total, how many are in stock, and when any items will be outgoing or incoming. In many cases, these sheets will contain information about who has what items when.

Manual inventory tracking is the cheapest option, and it’s often either extremely low cost or it doesn’t cost anything at all. It’s simple for small businesses, especially those who don’t want to set up or learn to use inventory software.

There are some downsides to manual tracking, however. While it is relatively simple overall, it’s also more complicated to keep up with. It’s more prone to human error. If you’re managing large inventories, it’s often not a great choice. A single mistake of someone forgetting that they already loaned out inventory to one client could burn a bridge with another when they’re left empty handed.

Manual inventory tracking really only works for very small inventories that have only one or two people managing them. Most other methods work better across the board. 


Manual daily audits 

Daily audits are another method of inventory tracking that are popular with small businesses. Like manual tracking, they’re cumbersome and time consuming. They require you to check your entire inventory on a daily basis, ensuring that everything is in order. 

While they can help make sure that nothing is missing, they take up a significant amount of time. They also can’t always help much if something has gone missing and you have no record of why that may be. Was something stolen in the last 24 hours, or did someone just forget to log a checkout? 

Audits often also assess the overall standing of your inventory in many cases. Are you consistently too short in stock? Have you invested too much on extra products that aren’t needed? How many items are almost never used, and just taking up space? 

Ultimately, physical audits of your inventory can be useful to ensure that nothing has gone missing or been stolen on a regular basis. Daily audits, however, may be unnecessary unless you’re working with high-value, high-risk inventory that the majority of your staff can access unsupervised. In many cases, regular audits are most effective with other methods of inventory management instead of as the primary method. 

Using intuitive inventory apps & tools 

Inventory apps and tools are a game-changer for businesses who have inventory coming and going. 

With these tools, you can load your entire inventory into a database. You can then easily search for products with keywords, a product name, product category, or even a scanned barcode or QR code. Products can be checked out quickly and easily, helping you manage your inventory effectively all from a mobile app. 

Not all inventory apps and tools are created equal, however. Finding the right one is key. Some inventory trackers are downright frustrating, with complicated user interfaces or expensive equipment that cause the business more of a headache than anything. 

Intuitive, user-friendly inventory apps are the way to go. You want to be able to scan product codes on-the-go with your phone (which means that you don’t want to be restricted to specialized tools like RFID scanners), and to be able to access the information whenever you need it. 

Sortly, for example, allows you to create a visual database of your entire inventory that’s easy to categorize, manage, and review. There’s also the option to set up notifications like low stock alerts. This keeps you up to date on everything happening with your inventory and ensuring that nothing slips between the cracks. You can learn more about how Sortly works here

Inventory management and tracking is complicated and requires constant effort. There’s no getting around that, especially when you have a constantly revolving inventory with a lot of moving pieces. Fortunately, for businesses who are growing or that have larger internal and external inventories, inventory tracking apps are the way to go.

Look for tools that will scale alongside you instead of keeping you limited in how you’re managing your inventory. This will be essential as you continue to grow. Interested in learning more about how Sortly can help you manage your inventory more effectively and in less time? Start a two-week free trial.