If you’re standing in the middle of a big retailer such as Wal-Mart, and you look around, you’re witnessing one of history’s greatest logistical triumphs. Retailers such as Target, Lowe’s and Best Buy stock tens of thousands of items from all over the world. Wal-Mart alone stocks items made in more than 70 countries, according to its corporate Web site. At any given time, the Arkansas-based retailer manages an average of $32 billion in inventory, reports Supply Chain Digest.

With those kinds of numbers, having an effective, efficient inventory control system, or inventory management system, is imperative. Wal-Mart’s system helps it maintain its signature “everyday low prices” by telling store managers which products are selling and which are taking up shelf and warehouse space.

Inventory management systems are the rule for such enterprises, but smaller businesses and vendors use them, too. The systems ensure customers always have enough of what they want and balance that goal against a retailer’s financial need to maintain as little stock as possible. Mismanaged inventory means disappointed customers, too much cash tied up in warehouses and slower sales. Factors such as quicker production cycles, a proliferation of products, multi-national production contracts and the nature of the big-box store make them a necessity.

Modern inventory management systems must have the ability to track sales and available inventory, communicate with suppliers in near real-time and receive and incorporate other data, such as seasonal demand. They also must be flexible, allowing for a merchant’s intuition. And, they must tell a storeowner when it’s time to reorder and how much to purchase.

 

5 Free Solutions for Inventory Management

A good inventory control tool will help your business be more efficient and profitable. These five apps are either free or open source, and one of them might be just what you need.

If you manage or administer a business, one of the most important tasks is tracking inventory — whether that means hardware or software or products. Without the ability to manage that inventory, your business could fail. You must know where the inventory comes from, how much you have, where it goes, and how you profit from its sale.

The management of your inventory should be tied directly to the flow of business, from the ground up. Luckily, plenty of tools are available that can help with this process. Some of them are even free and/or open source. Let’s take a look at five tools that can help you track and control your inventory so your business can be more effective, efficient, and easily managed.

 

1: Openbravo

Openbravo is one of the leading open source ERP tools available. Within Openbravo is a powerful inventory tool that keeps your product flowing and ties in directly to every aspect of your ERP solution. Not only can you manage your vendors, you can track where the inventory moves (between warehouses and/or clients/customers) and much more. OpenBravo can even help you accelerate new product introduction.

2: vtiger

vtiger is CRM software that includes a powerful inventory component designed to handle complete sales cycle management. Both pre- and post-sales activities are built into vtiger to help you better control and understand the flow of your product. vtiger supports inventory management functions like price books, sales quotes, purchase orders, sales orders, and invoices.

3: PartKeepr

PartKeepr is a niche tool for tracking and managing inventory of electronic components. It’s a much smaller tool and it doesn’t include a full CRM or ERP. But it will do wonders for those of you looking to keep track of electronic parts. It’s simple to install (written in PHP 5.3 and JavaScript) and does make use of a database (MySQL).

4: inFlow

inFlow is a bit different from the other options, in that it is a client-side only tool. There is no Web-based component, but there is a database. Even though it’s not a Web-based tool, inFlow can handle more than 10,000 pieces of inventory — all from a standard PC. Other features include barcode scanner support, multiple units of measurement, multiple locations/sub-locations, full product movement history, and the ability to assemble products from bill of materials, take orders from customers, handle advanced workflow, and invoice via email.

5: ABC Inventory

ABC Inventory is a great inventory solution for small to midsize businesses. A free subset of the Almyta Control System, it’s a stand-alone solution that’s meant to take a single PC and turn it into your inventory station. (If you want to use multiple machines for inventory, you should migrate to the ACS solution.

ABC comes with several modules that support a vast number of features, including multiple companies, multiple warehouses for a company, multiple currencies, currency rate auto-updates, screen and report customizations, multiple workstation configurations, multiple logos, and much more.

 

Other choices?

The proper management of inventory flow can not only take your business to a higher level of efficiency, it can also ensure fewer accounting mistakes and less loss in both inventory and profit. Give one of these free and/or open source solutions a try. I’m fairly confident one of them will do the trick.

RMS Consulting is a team of experienced technical and business professionals whose single aim is to deliver the world’s best retail management systems. We understand the needs and deliver cloud-based, multi-channel retail management system that brings together POS, eCommerce, CRM and marketing, merchandising and order management, financials, and warehouse management into a single centrally managed solution. RMS Consulting serves client inside North America specifically USA and Canada while physically serving clients in the cities of Seattle, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Monreal, London, Kitchener, Windsor, Detroit. Feel free to contact us or Drop us a note for any help or assistance.

 

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