Having the right inventory management system can work wonders for any business, big or small. Having all of your inventory information in one place rather than dealing with multiple spreadsheets or software enables you to find information quickly and grow your business. With a good inventory management system, you have complete transparency into your inventory lifecycle, giving you real time information, and preventing you from over-or understocking any given product.
But with so many different inventory management systems available, how are you supposed to know which one is best for your business? We’ve created this guide to help you narrow it down. Asking yourself these seven questions before researching inventory management systems will save you time and make the decision process that much easier.
Before you can pick your ideal inventory management system, you’ll need to take a step back and consider what your business looks like. It might seem strange to break down your own business in this way, but it’s actually a vital step toward finding the inventory system that’s going to work best for you in the short- and long-term. This question is actually twofold: what size business do you have, and what industry are you in?
Businesses that are just starting out may not be in need of an expensive inventory management system in the early days, while businesses that are growing quickly might be able to afford (and might benefit from) a more thorough system. Additionally, while many inventory management systems are more “one size fits all,” some offer features specific to certain industries. If you know you’ll have specific needs because of the type of work you do, this point is definitely something to consider.
Anything you purchase for your business should aim to solve a problem. So, what problems are you looking to solve with your new inventory management system? Think about the specific roadblocks you’re facing in terms of managing your inventory and growing your business overall.
Going into the purchasing process without considering this key question could lead to you spending money on a product that doesn’t actually help you. Once you’ve determined what your biggest challenges are in managing your inventory, think of the features that might be helpful to solve these problems. Be sure that whatever inventory management system you select has the features you need to address these challenges.
When you purchase an inventory management system, you’re not only buying the system itself; you’re also paying for customer support. Some businesses need more support than others, and that’s completely okay. Just be sure that your chosen system has the support you’ll need, both at your current status and into the future as your company grows.
If this is your first time purchasing a system like this, you may want a more hands-on and readily available customer support team, but if you’re more experienced, you may be okay with a smaller support department. Smaller businesses with simpler solutions may be okay with less support since there are fewer moving parts, while bigger companies might need a more dedicated support team to help with the more complex inventory management system. Consider reading customer testimonials or starting a free trial of a service to get a better feel for their support team.
Every inventory management system is different in terms of its capacity, so it’s important to determine how many people within your company will need access to it (and who those people will be). Smaller and more basic inventory management systems may only have access for one or two users, while more advanced systems can accommodate more people.
Within this same vein, you can decide whether you want to opt for a cloud-based system. If you have more than one location, it can be helpful to have a cloud-based system so employees at each location are always on the same page.
Of course, you’ll need to take the time to determine your budget. Some inventory management systems come with a free trial or allow users to access a basic version of the program for free. This can be great for smaller businesses who are just testing the waters. However, for bigger businesses, the costs of a high-quality inventory management system can go up into the six-figure range. It all just depends on your budget and your needs.
Consider this purchase as an investment for your business, and decide how much you’re willing to put in for an overall more productive and cost-effective company. You can also consider the money that you’ll be saving on man hours since you’ll no longer have to track inventory by hand. Thinking about your purchase through this lens can make it easier to justify spending the extra money on your program of choice.
Not only can your inventory management system help you keep track of your products, but it can also help you run reports and determine the prime levels of inventory for any given item at any given time. When you’re first starting out, you might be able to make these reports yourself, but it will become more time consuming and difficult as your business grows. That’s where an inventory management system with superior reporting capabilities can come in handy.
Consider what kind of reports would benefit your company overall, and more specifically, which reports you’d rather allow your software to create instead of compiling them manually. High quality management systems will provide smart reporting that automatically generates ideal stock levels to match supply and demand based on historic data. Not only can this step save you a ton of time, but it also eliminates the possibility of human error, allowing you the peace of mind to order with confidence.
Your inventory management system is not going to be the only tool your business uses. You’re likely already using several different types of software or web platforms to run your business! The idea of changing more about your business than what is absolutely necessary is probably nerve-wracking, so it’s important to select an inventory management system that can integrate seamlessly with the tools you’re already using.
Consider an inventory management system that already integrates with your accounting software, third party sellers, and eCommerce platforms. Many inventory management systems work with big names like Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Xero, and Shopify. However, integration capabilities can vary from system to system, so be sure to verify that your potential inventory management system will work with the programs you’re already using. This simple step will save you tons of headache down the road.
With these seven questions at your disposal, you’re well on your way to determining the best inventory management solution for your company. This tool is an incredible way to invest in your business, saving you the time and hassle of managing all your inventory and reporting yourself and allowing you to focus on the aspects of your business that you’re truly passionate about.
In your search, consider Cin7! Our system provides you with Connected Inventory Performance that connects your accounting, POS, sales, purchasing, manufacturing, eCommerce, and so much more. We’re proud to have assisted tons of clients all over the world to grow their businesses.