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


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


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


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


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.