Introduction, inFlow and Brightpearl
Inventory management is unlikely to be a subject that gets many people's pulses racing, but the successful management of a business' inventory is both an important business matter and a difficult skill.
The ebb and flow of items in an inventory is rarely entirely predictable and is open to unexpected fluctuations. At the same time, organisations need to keep enough items in stock to fulfil orders or actions while minimising the amount of capital tied up in inventory items.
Inventory management software allows organisations to track the number of items in their inventory and to help avoid them becoming over or understocked. It can be used to track the location of inventory items, follow the status of orders and deliveries, and analyse efficiency and stock value. For businesses that sell a variety of different products or use different components to manufacture products, inventory management software is a critical tool.
As with all sorts of business software, however, choosing which piece of inventory management software is right for your organisation can be easier said than done. There are a variety of different factors involved and not all products in the market are directly comparable.
It's first important for you to have a good understanding of what your business needs from its inventory management software. Once you understand this, the following article provides a selection of some of the most popular inventory management tools on the market to get you started.
Price: Free edition available; paid editions from US$299 (around £185, AU$340) per license
inFlow's parent company, Archon, was set up in 2005 by two friends. The first version of inFlow was released in 2007 and, according to Archon, it "has grown to become the #1 most downloaded inventory software for small to mid-sized businesses… with over 300,000+ installs and 1+ million website visits."
The firm boasts customers in over 60 countries and in industries including retail, wholesale, manufacturing, e-commerce, professional services, healthcare and government.
inFlow allows users to manage over 10,000 products from a single PC. Users can benefit from barcode scanning to track items quickly, working with multiple units of measurements for ease of communication, working with multiple locations and sub-locations, and the ability to assemble products from components while updating the inventory automatically.
Orders can be easily taken and inFlow's workflow displays details such as shipping information, specialised picking and customer returns. Stock levels can be tracked with new items ordered and purchase orders easily produced. Detailed analytics and reports are available.
inFlow is highly customisable, with admins able to set user permissions and customisable fields. Data can be exported and imported as required and the platform works with multiple currencies and languages.
Price: From US$99 (around £60, AU$110) per user per month
Brightpearl is another company set up by two friends. It was founded in 2007 to service an existing business that they were running and now has over 1300 customers in 57 countries. A total of 87 employees are split across offices in San Francisco, US, and Bristol, UK.
Brightpearl focuses on helping businesses to do three main things through controlling their inventory. It aims to help them improve cashflow, have the flexibility to grow, and make faster, better decisions.
The software provides users with a full inventory audit trail that allows for real-time cashflow tracking, along with the ability to manage an inventory spread across multiple locations with product and seasonal variations. It also offers built-in accounting functionality to provide financial insights into the performance of an organisation's inventory.
Brightpearl integrates with a number of sales channels, such as Amazon, eBay, Magento, Shopify and Bigcommerce. The platform is cloud-based, meaning it can be easily accessed from anywhere via any operating system, and updates are pushed out to the software regularly. Users are provided with 24/7 support, in-person launch training and a variety of knowledge base resources.
Lettuce, Ordoro, JumpStock and Zoho
Price: From $39 (around £25, AU$45) per month
Like Brightpearl, Lettuce was set up by friends who needed a better inventory management solution than was already available for an existing business that they were running. It was designed to be cost-effective and simple to use, where other platforms were not. The platform was publicly launched in 2012 and was bought by Intuit earlier this year.
Again like Brightpearl, Lettuce is cloud-based, meaning it can be accessed from anywhere on any operating system. It provides both inventory management and order management functionality. Inventory management features include an overview layout to give a real-time view of what is happening in an organisation's inventory, and the ability to group sub-parts together into products for manufacture, and forecasting for future inventory planning.
Lettuce allows users to capture and track orders online for both consumers and retailers, and in the office via phone call, fax or email. The platform integrates with a variety of powerful services such as Google, QuickBooks, Shopify, UPS and FedEx. Functionality is included for managing shipping, customers and vendors, amongst other activities.
Price: From US$39 (around £25, AU$45) per month
Ordoro bills itself as primarily a shipping app, but with built-in inventory management functionality. The company was founded in 2010 and says it has processed over US$244 million (around £150 million, AU$280 million) worth of orders since its conception. It claims to "create user-centric, thoughtfully-designed software that's helping merchants efficiently manage everything that happens after the order is placed on their webstore."
Ordoro uses what it calls a "unified inventory" for managing the stock levels for all of a user's distribution channels, such as different retailers and marketplaces. By doing so, it aims to minimise the amount of manual updating that is required to an company's inventory.
As with other platforms like Lettuce, parts or components can be grouped into larger products for manufacture. Resupplying of items can be done from within the platform, with suppliers and products added in as required.
Jump Technologies was established in 1999 and offers a variety of software for inventory management, replenishment, procurement, and proof-of-delivery. The company operates across a number of industries, including healthcare, office supplies, food logistics, transportation and distribution. It claims to have been "among the first companies to use the cloud to leverage existing smartphone and tablet technology to solve supply chain problems associated with procurement, inventory management and proof-of-delivery."
JumpStock aims to provide a simple, lean and agile inventory management solution. It is primarily targeted at the healthcare industry. The platform uses barcode scanning and smartphone devices to automate procurement and inventory management processes and reduce the amount of time that staff must spend on administrative functions. Its focus on automation is also said to reduce inventory errors.
In addition, JumpStock enables users to better track item information (such as use by dates), provide a clear overview of an organisation's inventory as a whole, and scale manageably should an organisation begin to grow. Jumpstock says its implementation process takes less than a week and requires minimal staff training.
Price: From $25 (around £16, AU$29) per month
Zoho's inventory management functionality is actually part of its CRM offering. Zoho has built up a sizable portfolio of over 25 business applications over the years, which can be used in a modular manner. It's products are all cloud-based and have won awards from the likes of InfoWorld, PC World and TechCrunch. The company boasts over 9 million customers worldwide and has offices in the US and China.
Zoho's online inventory management software aims to provide seamless integration between pre-sales and post-sales activities in the one application. It allows users to manage organisation-wide product catalogues, create multiple price-books and offer different discount types as required. Users can create and track sales quotes, track sales orders and purchase orders, monitor current stock levels and manage the invoicing process.