October 2, 2016      4 min read
More and more businesses of every size and variety, are trading in the tools of old and embracing the best that technology has to offer. In the realm of inventory management, this can best be seen in the mass movement away from manual methods – like excel spreadsheets – to dedicated inventory management software solutions. And it’s no wonder really. The latest and greatest in automated inventory software provides a large variety of tools and solutions far beyond what manual methods can muster. Everything, from the basics of inventory tracking and order processing, to the more advanced tools of product forecasting and lean manufacturing solutions, can be better utilised with the use of good inventory management software. For the benefit of those still sitting on the fence, or those who need more convincing, let’s take a closer look at why your business should stop using excel spreadsheets and start using inventory management software.

Greatly reduce the human error prevalent in manual inputting

While the basic inputting of information in excel spreadsheets is relatively easy, and requires little else but basic computer skills, the likelihood of ongoing inputting mistakes and human error is huge. In a nutshell, the more manual a process is, the more likely the chance of errors. And while this can seem like a largely benign problem, left unchecked, it can spell disaster for your business’ most urgent and important processes. When it comes to successful inventory management, accurate and up-to-date information and data are crucial. After all, it isn’t just numbers that you’re inputting but real costs and capital. This information is the lifeblood of a business’ operations. The daily ins and outs of stock and products, including their accounting and tracking, form the details that a business must master in order to not only survive but thrive in a competitive market. This is one of many areas where inventory management software leaves Excel, and others like it, in the dust. This is especially true when a business utilises the full range of inventory management tools available. Automation via barcoding, mobile technology and perpetual stock counts all add new levels of control and visibility previously unachievable without exhaustive man-hours.

Avoid the snowball effect

Once an incorrect input has been made in Excel – and not subsequently noticed or corrected – a snowball effect can be triggered, greatly distorting information further down the line. This can be extremely hard to correct the longer it goes unnoticed, and without the safeguards of automation and real-time corrections, Excel users find themselves in this situation time and time again. While human error is still a factor with software solutions, both the occurrence and the damage can be greatly minimised, thanks in part to a high level of automation and add-on features like barcoding or mobile technology. As many inventory management platforms perform perpetual stock counts, errors are more likely to be noticed and corrected in real-time.

Trade complex excel spreadsheets formulas for universal usability

Anyone who’s tried programming a spreadsheet in Excel for the first time can attest to the frustration of learning how to write and work with the complex formulas required to get accurate data. While it’s relatively common for employees to have pre-programmed spreadsheets to use, most will find themselves, at some stage, having to adjust existing spreadsheets or write new ones. On the surface, it can seem as though inventory management software platforms will be more complex to utilise than spreadsheets. After all, they are performing a lot more functions, most of them automated. There is the false idea that lingers in many industries that using spreadsheets is ‘keeping it simple’. In reality, most modern software solutions are not only straight forward to use, but are specifically designed to make inventory management easier and more intuitive. With the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing, many platforms are now as easy to use as a smartphone or tablet app. The magic, so to speak, goes on under the surface, in the programming. For most frontline users, no major understanding of the back end is required to perform daily tasks.

But inventory management software is expensive, right?

A common reason that businesses still use Excel to track their inventory is cost. Many small or start-up businesses will choose to use spreadsheets for this reason, thinking that inventory management software is too expensive. Fortunately, many current solutions are very affordable, even for very small businesses, thanks to the rise of cloud-based platforms. Traditionally, inventory management suites had to be purchased outright, hosted onsite and run by an IT employee or department. The costs involved in both the purchase and the ongoing upkeep often priced smaller businesses out of the market. Many of these businesses would turn to low cost methods like Excel, as it came with the Office package and was easy to start using straight away. Thankfully, cloud computing provides a ‘best of both worlds’ solution for small and start-up businesses. Instead of a one off purchase cost, cloud-based platforms are available at an affordable monthly subscription. This can also mean a significant reduction in ongoing IT costs as the platform provider is responsible for upgrades and server upkeep, freeing businesses to concentrate on what they do best.
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