Warehouse management systems were traditionally part of a larger ERP system, delivered as a module or component of larger ERP platforms. Do small businesses need ERP? Usually not. But that’s not to say they can’t benefit from some of those individual modules. In fact, in recent years ERP vendors have recognized that logic and have started rolling out solutions designed for small to midsize businesses. These include a wide variety of solutions delivered on an affordable software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, often on a modular, buy-it-as-you-need-it scale. And thankfully for those small businesses in need of inventory organization, warehouse management is now available for them on this basis.
Automation is often resisted by small business, with the business owner arguing that it is not necessary because of the small scale, which makes it possible to continue executing processes manually. However, that argument breaks down. A small business with few employees tends to be stressed, because the lack of staff makes it impossible to delegate and compartmentalize business processes in the same way a large business does. The business owner and two assistants may be responsible for everything from marketing, to designing the web site, to product fulfillment. Any automation that can be achieved to reduce that burden will benefit the small business.
Several companies, such as IntelliTrack, delivers warehouse management specially designed for small business. IntelliTrack DMS Lite is one of several such offerings, and includes all of the same features as the full version, including inventory, stockroom, check-in and check-out, and fixed assets. An inventory module can be especially useful, since even small businesses can have hundreds of inventory items—and keeping inventory manually can be time-consuming and error-prone no matter what size your business is. Bar code technology used to automatically track inventory is no longer costly, and it can easily be applied to a small business environment for routine inventory management.
Intuit, also well known for serving small business, offers its own Intuit Warehouse Management ES to track inventory in real time. Like most warehouse management systems, it has a facility for stocking inventory in multiple locations, and directing pickers to the correct location in the process of fulfillment. It also includes full bar code support, with a bar code import unit for bringing in bar codes from a QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions field, and a solution for migrating to a wireless bar code scanning system.
Another of the features a small business should look for when purchasing an inventory control or warehouse management system: the ability to create easily understood reports on-demand. These will help you to analyze your inventory and product line and accurately determine what is selling best, which items may be understocked or overstocked, and the ability to track merchandise from the initial purchase order, through payment receipts.