Almost every business needs to take some kind of inventory. And more and more frequently, companies of all shapes and sizes are turning to inventory management software to help their businesses run more productively and more profitably.
You already know why taking inventory is so essential. It keeps your business organized, for sure. But beyond that, it helps your company in a ton of other ways. This is especially true when companies transition from regular inventory to inventory software. There are many benefits to top-notch inventory and asset management, from rapid audits to pain-free accounting to reduced inventory loss to more accurate forecasting.
These benefits—especially those that pay off right away—will be exactly what we’ll cover in this article. But first, we’ll define inventory software and touch on some of the signs that your business is ready to digitize its inventory. Then, we’ll dive into how implementing an inventory management system can help companies operate more efficiently with less stress and fewer wasted resources.
What is inventory management software?
What inventory management software does is help businesses track, manage, and organize all their inventory and assets. Whether your business needs to track the contents of a couple of storage closets or track a ton of inventory across multiple locations, the right software can make this process way less tedious.
And these days, a digital inventory system isn’t just something you have to use on a desktop computer. Modern inventory apps like Sortly work right on a smartphone, tablet, or any computer. And these apps can be used by multiple users to create transparency, accountability, and security.
From ordering to receiving to consuming to auditing to analyzing, an inventory app can shave hours (or even days!) off your most time-consuming inventory tasks. And with cutting-edge automation features like barcode scanning, QR code scanning, and low stock alerts, inventory software makes tracking all your business’s stuff easier than ever before.
What does inventory management look like without software?
If a business is not using software to manage their inventory, they are likely using some less-advanced system—or none at all. Usually, a company that’s not yet using an inventory app relies on manual, pen-and-paper inventory tracking or uses a spreadsheet to track all their stuff. And sometimes, a company has no inventory system whatsoever. Typically, when no system is in place, that company relies on one employee who just seems to “know” where everything is.
And yes, sometimes a business that’s small enough (and stocks very few things) can get away with using a less advanced system for managing inventory. But as a business grows, gets busier, or has employee turnover, these “outdated” or non-scalable inventory tracking systems can threaten productivity and profitability.
Here are six signs your current inventory management system is no longer working:
1. You don’t know where anything is
One of the main reasons to adopt an inventory system is so your business can keep track of all its stuff. So, quite simply, if your current inventory strategy has you feeling disorganized… it’s time to try something new. Yes, a spreadsheet or a sheet of paper can feel simple because it’s so “manageable,” but these systems cannot show you the big picture.
With an inventory app, you can visualize where all your stuff is—even if you stock a million things, your inventory is spread out across dozens of storage units, fifty warehouses, or a hundred remote home offices. Plus, apps like Sortly offer powerful categories, folders, and tags—plus instant, customizable reporting—so you can always have a look at your inventory through any lens you wish.
2. You’re constantly taking physical inventory
If your team is repeatedly counting inventory, your business has almost certainly outgrown its inventory management system. Now, there can be tons of reasons why you or your employees have to count inventory by hand way too often. Perhaps inventory turnover is super high, your team is terrified of running out of stuff, or maybe stock tends to “disappear.”
Whatever the reason, a digital inventory solution can reduce (or even eliminate) the number of times your team has to take inventory manually. It’ll be easier to track inventory as it comes and goes, you’ll be more confident in the inventory reports you do have, and improved transparency will reduce inventory loss. And, with low stock alerts, you can get notified when you are running low on something instead of having to count every single item to find out what needs to be re-upped.
3. Inventory is eating up time you need to do more important things
Another tell-tale sign your inventory system is failing you? Managing your company’s stuff is taking up way too much time. Whether it’s tracking down missing equipment, opening up a zillion boxes, or rifling through paperwork to figure out how to reorder something, the right inventory management software can slash the amount of time you spend handling inventory.
With an inventory app, you’ll always know where all your stuff is. Plus, you can scan a box’s barcode or QR code to get information about a product instantly, and you can attach PDFs and other notes to an item so that no essential information ever gets lost in a sea of files.
4. You’re overordering—or running out of stuff
Sometimes, when a business isn’t confident in its inventory counts, team members will over-order to avoid shortages. On the flip side, if a company falsely believes they’ve got more inventory than they do, they’re apt to run out of stuff quite regularly. Either way, these are both symptoms of a business that needs to practice tighter inventory control.
But with the right inventory system, it’s way easier to order just enough stock to meet your business’s needs without overspending on inventory you aren’t going to use.
5. Human error plagues your inventory
Even the most dedicated and diligent of employees are bound to make a mistake at some point. And when it comes to counting stock, mindless data entry, and all the other tedious tasks that come along with manual inventory management, it’s not a matter of if but when a costly error will be made.
This is especially true when asking employees to track inventory on a spreadsheet, then transfer that information over to a computer. Information gets mixed up. Numbers get fudged. Items start to look alike. Rows get bungled. But with the right inventory app, you can use automation features like barcode scanning to confirm you’re making adjustments to the correct item.
6. You don’t understand what you’ve used or what you’ll need next
Finally, if your inventory strategy can’t help you decide what to do next, it’s probably not serving you anymore. Ideally, you can use your inventory history to get a good idea of how you’ve used inventory in the past and use that information to figure out how you might use supplies, materials, equipment, and assets in the future.
In other words, if you’re looking to your inventory system for answers—but all you get is questions—it’s probably time to step up your inventory game.
When does inventory management software make sense?
There are lots of signs your business is ready to upgrade to an inventory app. As discussed, inventory management software makes sense when your business is disorganized, constantly auditing inventory, spending way too much time on inventory, overordering or underordering, or has unanswered questions about inventory usage.
But these are just a handful of reasons why it might be time to make the switch to a digital inventory solution. Maybe you need to keep better records. Maybe your current warehouse management system isn’t working. Maybe you need to be able to access your inventory remotely.
Even more reasons to make the switch might include:
- Inability to keep up with reporting requests from accounting, corporate, or upper management
- Unacceptable levels of inventory loss or theft
- Over-reliance on one or a few employees who seem to “know everything” about inventory
- A desire to switch from physical inventory to perpetual inventory
- Spending a fortune on storage or warehouse costs
- Inability to keep up with customer demands
What to expect once you have a digital inventory system in place
So, say you feel your business is ready to modernize its inventory strategy… what happens next? Well, some benefits will materialize in the long-term—but others will be felt right away. Here are some immediate rewards your team will unlock almost at once:
1. Your team can collaborate on inventory
One of the most instant benefits of switching to an inventory app? Suddenly, all your employees or colleagues can work together to get things organized. Software like Sortly allows for multiple users to access the app on their devices, so you can get everyone inventorying and organizing at once. (On devices your business already owns, no less.)
Plus, the best inventory software is a cinch to use—and even your least tech-savvy teammates should get the hang of it in a few minutes. After all, who has time to attend an all-day webinar or read a 100-page manual?
Another benefit? Custom user permissions. With Sortly, admins can select just-right access levels for every user, from read-only to restricted. (For example, admins can hide confidential information like value or purchase price.)
2. Everyone will spend less time inventorying
As soon as your company makes the switch to digital inventory tracking, you’ll likely notice one thing: your team has a whole lot more time to handle the rest of their to-do lists. Yes, they won’t have to count physical inventory all the time—but it’s more than just that.
Tons of time-saving features will, little by little, add minutes back to your team’s day. Scanning a barcode instead of manually looking up information about a product. Getting an email when your supply of cotton swabs falls below a custom-set threshold. Being able to trace the condition, value, and whereabouts of all your company’s laptops for an IT department audit… the list goes on and on.
Plus, if your business has to take inventory cycle counts or end-of-year inventory, you can expect these challenging tasks to take a fraction of the time.
3. Your business will be ready to scale
Another immediate benefit of modernizing how your business handles inventory? You’ll have adopted a system that’s agile and truly ready to grow. After all, when your business starts to pick up steam, you don’t want anything to slow you down—and that includes your inventory management system.
By choosing an inventory app that offers various plans designed to scale with your business, you’ll never have to worry about outgrowing your inventory system. Some apps, including Sortly, offer plans for enterprise-sized teams, too.
4. You’ll know where everything is—and reduce inventory loss and theft, too
Once your inventory is all accounted for, you’ll immediately have information about the whereabouts of all your stuff at your fingertips. Plus, with high-resolution photos, barcodes, QR codes, and tons of custom details linked to every item in your inventory, you’ll know everything about each item your business stocks.
This is also a key component of reducing (or even eliminating) inventory loss. When you have an airtight inventory system, it’s suddenly hard for high-value assets or stock to just “disappear.” And if and when they do, you’ll have a record of who had what, when.
5. You’ll stop relying on certain employees for clarity
One more benefit you’ll enjoy straight away? No longer relying on that one go-to person for information about what’s where or who’s got what. Now, these details (no matter how obscure) will be available right in your software. (Of course, you can always create restrictions to make sure only the right people can access specific details about your inventory.)
6. You’ll save money and stop stressing
By modernizing your inventory strategy, your business will immediately start saving valuable resources—all while stressing a whole lot less. By preventing costly over-ordering and even costlier work stoppages or inventory shortages, your business will run smoothly. You won’t be wasting money on stuff you don’t need or wasting time on physical inventory counts that don’t need to be conducted. You won’t be replacing lost or stolen inventory, and you won’t be paying your way out of costly human errors.
With all the extra cash saved from these inventory processes, you can reinvest that money into another aspect of your company.
Plus, your business won’t just be saving money—it’ll be stressing less, too. Running out of inventory, having to wait for materials to arrive, making customers and clients wait—these are just some of the pain points that come along with a disorganized inventory system. And all of these consequences lead to stress and tons of wasted resources.
But with the right inventory app, your business can focus on its mission—not all its stuff.
Experience the simplest inventory management software.
The most useful inventory management software features
So, what should your company look for in inventory software? There are tons of features to choose from:
A flexible way to organize all your stuff
Pick software that allows you to decide how to organize your items. Maybe that’s using a couple of folders, tons of categories, or checking items in and out. Whatever works for you, look for an inventory app that can support that functionality. Ideally, you can try out a product before paying to make sure it’s a fit.
Barcode and QR code scanning
Look for an app that allows you to scan barcodes and QR codes with your phone or tablet. (Who wants to pay for clunky equipment that just breaks, anyway?) Plus, you’ll want to find a system that allows you to generate and print custom barcodes and QR codes, too. That way, you can label any unmarked inventory or bundles your business might use.
Detail-oriented inventory lists
You’ll also want to choose an app that allows you to get into the nitty-gritty details of your inventory. An app like Sortly, for example, allows you to handpick what you track, from item color to SKU to value. You can also add dozens of custom details to track whatever information is important to you. You’ll also want software that lets you add high-resolution pictures, barcodes and QR codes, attachments, and custom notes.
The best inventory app can let you know when you’re running low on something or if an item is approaching its expiration date or warranty end date. And if you track a ton of stuff, these alerts can be total gamechangers. With Sortly, you can decide who gets notified, and how, and when.
Finally, search for an inventory system that allows you to create beautiful, shareable reports about your inventory. These are perfect for everything from impromptu requests from a manager to sharing with vendors and clients. And, best of all, you can decide what details to include (think: price, location, picture) and what to exclude based on who you’re meeting with.
Inventory management software doesn’t just change your day, it changes the core of your business
When it comes to getting your business organized, there’s no substitute for cutting-edge inventory software. The best apps are easy to use, affordable, and perfect for every shape and size of company. And, as you’ve already learned, you won’t have to wait long to reap the rewards of digitizing your inventory.
You’ll start saving time and money right away—and stressing less, too. And hey, who doesn’t want a more organized, more profitable business?
Ready to upgrade to inventory software? Try Sortly free for two weeks, and see just how good it feels to stay on top of all your company’s stuff.