Leadership

Five top apps for managing inventory

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.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Openbravo

Openbravo (Figure A) 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.

Figure A

Openbravo

2: vtiger

vtiger (Figure B) 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.

Figure B

vtiger

3: PartKeepr

PartKeepr (Figure C) 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).

Figure C

PartKeepr

4: inFlow

inFlow (Figure D) 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.

Figure D

inflow

5: ABC Inventory

ABC Inventory (Figure E) 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.)

Figure E

ABC Inventory

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.

Do you have a favorite free inventory tool that didn't make this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

28 comments
Navin Chaturvedi
Navin Chaturvedi

Hi, I have used inFlow myself, its payment options for subscription are very stringent. I would suggest the users to opt for GOIS-Pro. Give it a try, its apps are available in Android play store and iTunes.  

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.metaoption.goodsorder


https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goods-order-inventory-system/id734289196?mt=8


Its subscription plans are also very flexible and economical; have a look here https://www.goodsorderinventory.com/ProSubscription/PlansAndPricing

Stacey Woods
Stacey Woods

When I think of apps I think of tablet or smartphone apps. Maybe it's jsut customer conditioning but I was looking for something like SupeRep. http://www.superep.com
See, this is an APP that is used on on smartphone/tablet to deal with inventory.

That said there are some options here that are pretty good.

ajgilb
ajgilb

I found a great one for Bars and Restaurants, both a mobile app and a website, called Chefsheet www.chefsheet.com or Google Chefsheet if I have the URL wrong.

bwingman
bwingman

I'm evaluating several inventory control software products and I have a question from our buyer. Can inFlow track 100 parts (or sub-assemblies) with a max of 20 different lead times per part? If so, can somebody explain how inFlow can do this?  Our buyer wants to get notified when to buy parts which have different lead/delivery times.

Gaiyamato
Gaiyamato

Partkeepr is far far from simple to install. It has a long list of painful package dependencies (with virtually no reliable documentation for any of them) and takes days - if not weeks to get working. Woe to those who even bother to try and run it on a windows server. They barely manage to keep their demo server going, let alone managing functional installs. Partkeepr is for serious geeks with too much time on their hands.

Inflow looks good, but when we actually investigated many of it claims for support/options were all false. It only comes with a free limited trial. You need to pay for very restrictive licenses that cost as much as most of the big commercial packages. They have restrictions on reporting no matter what license you pay for.
InFlow is essentially a scam product and we wont be going near it anymore. 

The rest of these are rubbish cloud services that look nice but have few -if any- actual real-world usable features.

markellen
markellen

Gain control over your inventory with Serviceproz.net Inventory Management feature. Knowing your inventory usage trends and your most commonly used inventory items helps your business to operate more efficiently, profitably, and smoothly. The Serviceproz.net Inventory Alert Module advises you when your inventory has reached a minimum threshold, signalling your reorder point. If a work order is not fulfilled because of an inventory stock-out, then the work order is placed in a “Back Order” status until the required inventory is received and made available.

cloudskus
cloudskus

There is also an emerging market for users of online inventory systems such as CloudSKUs (http://www.cloudskus.com). The obvious advantages are your ability to use the software from any pc connected to the web and getting away from the normal licensing associated with software. While it is not free, it could be a nice solution for small businesses that want a low fixed monthly cost rather than a larger software purchase. Full discloser: I am associated with CloudSKUs, however even if our solution is not the right one for you, it is important to consider the freedom that online/cloud-based business systems offer.

tristar8
tristar8

Does anyone know if any of the above (or others) have the ability to add fields at the users discretion? We have a central product file for our inventory that resides on a number of systems - obviously, the same physical product has a distinct product ID on each of the different (and growing) numbers of systems that we use. Thanks in advance!

glnz
glnz

Two of the five here seem to be either (a) limited-use if free or (b) free only for a short intro-demo period. Which are truly free? Also, do they interconnect with other accounting software? Thanks for this article - we're looking for this.

Atharton_CB
Atharton_CB

Flextory could work really well for this. You'd also be able to create multiple user accounts so all of you could collaborate with the skills database. Also CollateBox could be another amazing tool. If you are interested, you can talk to me about it. Athar

inflowinventory
inflowinventory

"The management of your inventory should be tied directly to the flow of business, from the ground up." - Isn't that the truth? We see a lot of small businesses come from managing their inventory via pen and paper (or even just excel) before it just gets too far out of hand. It's a shame they don't know about potential inventory solutions before they reach that breaking point. Thank you for mentioning us, Jack!

Mahesh Nagaraj
Mahesh Nagaraj

Tally.ERP9 also provides great inventory management for all type of businesses from Small scale to Large scale industry.

McThePro
McThePro

SpiceWorks does an automatic inventory of all your hardware & software.

inflowinventory
inflowinventory

@bwingman With inFlow, you can set reorder points for each part. As soon as your stock is getting low you'll get an alert and can create a new PO in a click. 

Tracking 20 different lead times for a single part seems unusual but I've piped the question to our support team to see if they have a better solution for you. 

Next time, for the fastest reply, you can email them direct at support@inflowinventory.com Or get in touch via live chat / community forums/ phone here:  

http://www.inflowinventory.com/software-contact-info.aspx

Cheers,

-Matt

inflowinventory
inflowinventory

@Gaiyamato Ouch! I'm really sorry if we've steered you wrong. Hopefully I can clear some things up for you. 

Our licenses cost $299 and $499 one time with no other hidden fees. They are NOT restricted. Everything is unlimited when you purchase a license including reports. The $299 Regular Edition works for most businesses where the $499 Premium Edition is mainly for manufacturers who need bills of materials/work orders. 

The Free Edition is not a trial (there's no time restriction). The main limitation with the free edition is it's limited to 100 products/customers. It's meant for those just starting their businesses who are trying to get set up properly without added costs. We figure once you reach 100 products/customers, you'll be able to afford the $299/$499 license.  

Send me an email at matt@inflowinventory.com  or call 1 866 923 4974 x 711 and I'll take care of you personally! Let me know a bit about your business and I'll recommend something that will work for you (even if it's not inFlow!) 

Cheers,

-Matt


kc7qwh
kc7qwh

I only quickly reviewed inFlow, but it states you can customize and add fields.

inflowinventory
inflowinventory

Hi Glnz While there's no time limit on the Free edition of inFlow Inventory, we do have a 100 products+customers limit of entries. The idea is, by the time your business grows to that amount, you'll be more then happy to spend the $299 for a license. By trying it out, we're sure you'll fall in love with how much more productive it will make you to more then justify the purchase. It's also important to note that you're still able to export all your data after the 100 limit increase in case you choose to go else where (we don't lock anything up). We're a business too so we do have to make money :) We just have a different model where we want the software to sell itself vs having sales people telling you how great it is. Hope this helps, -Matt matt@inflowinventory.com

SamTheSam
SamTheSam

@inflowinventory People would use another application because sharing excel with its good pivot table form inventory report is a difficult. Would inflowinventory be of help in that?

Gaiyamato
Gaiyamato

@inflowinventory Except Inflow supports so little outside of it's narrow options that it actually makes more work to tie in with other business applications. We have found that using an excell spreadsheet is in fact easier and less work than Inflow.

biz3
biz3

@Mahesh Nagaraj But as other choice, why are you not trying orderhive.com as a simple and accurate inventory management system. I sure you will like. 

yogi_john
yogi_john

Jack is referring to a company's physical inventory, not IT inventory. His mention of "whether that means hardware or software or products" confuses the matter a little. Perhaps he's talking about those companies that sell hardware or software; perhaps about helping with the 'capital equipment' aspect of a company's financials. The programs he mentions, though, are definitely for managing inventory in the accounting sense (raw materials, bill of materials giving an assembly or sub-assembly, finished product). EDIT: P.S. Nothing against SpiceWorks. I've looked at it's specs in the past and am impressed; just haven't taken the time to implement it in this small company.

NicCrockett
NicCrockett

Spiceworks is hands down the best free management software I've ever used.

inflowinventory
inflowinventory

@SamTheSam @inflowinventory The reporting feature of inFlow is fairly robust. You'll have options with filters, columns, and different sorting options. You'll be able to save your selections as a custom report so you don't have to make selections every time (like you might have to with a pivot table).

inFlow also has a bunch of built in reports too: 

http://www.inflowinventory.com/software-support.aspx#/article/21281568/what-reports-are-included-in-inflow

Plus, you could share read-only access to an unlimited number of people in your organization so everyone could see the same reports. They could even generate specific ones they want for themselves. 

Let me know specifically what you're reporting with your pivot tables and we can show you how to get the same data in inFlow. Email support@inflowinventory.com or contact me direct, matt@inflowinventory.com. Hope this helps!

inflowinventory
inflowinventory

@Gaiyamato @inflowinventory

Which applications are you looking to tie into? Chances are, we have an article about how to do it here: http://www.inflowinventory.com/software-support.aspx 

While you're right,  we don't have automatic integrations (we'll be working on it), everything you do inside of inFlow can be exported as a CSV (excel) file. Most other applications accept CSV files to import. 

Conversely, you can also import your existing data via CSV too. 

If you're just starting your business, using an excel spread sheet is fine (although, of course, we recommend the 100% free edition here: www.inflowinventory.com). 

But what happens when you grow? Who's going to keep updating the formulas? Are you going to remember to keep manually changing numbers every time you buy stock or make a sale? Are you making invoices, sales orders, purchase orders manually? How about a movement history? What if you buy your items in a different unit then you sell? Barcode integration? Reporting? Keeping customer history? What if you want multiple people like warehouse personal to have access to your inventory?

Basically, dedicated inventory software can run a product based business and help you grow and scale.   In fact, most of our customers come to us after their frank-en-sheet file gets out of hand.

You're more then welcomed to contact me matt@inflowinventory.com with any questions!

Cheers,

-Matt


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