As a company that prides ourselves on streamlining eCommerce processes - specifically automating tedious and complicated manual warehouse practices - we encounter a lot of frustrated small - medium sized businesses using Excel for inventory management. And the reason they're frustrated? Using Excel for inventory management is like sticking your three kids in a two-door Sedan on a cross-country road trip - sure your whole family can cram in there, but why would you ever want to?
Let's be clear: here at Agile Harbor, we love Excel; it's an invaluable tool, and capable of some pretty complex functions. But Excel isn't made for inventory management, and as anyone who's tried to make it work will know, trying to make that square peg fit into that round hole takes a lot of finagling. In our experience in switching clients from Excel to our warehouse management system SkuVault, this is how it usually goes down:
A client who uses Excel for inventory management usually has spreadsheets that are more of a general approximation of their stock, rather than a full, accurate representation of their physical inventory. This may not seem like an important distinction at first glance, but please trust us when we say that it really, really is. And here's why:
The Importance of Maintaining a True Available Quantity
This is vital for a few reasons, but it all really boils down to the havoc that out of stocks wreck on customer satisfaction and brand trust. Say you sell online, and say specifically, you sell on your company's eCommerce website, and, say, Amazon US. If your spreadsheet quantities are incorrect, then so in turn will your website and Amazon quantities. And if you want to expand your business onto new online marketplaces? Well. I'm sure you can see where we're going with this.
In our experience, clients manually update their Excel spreadsheets when shipments arrive and when products are shipped out, and then, usually only whenever they can get around to it - maybe at the end of the business day when things aren't as hectic.
When they use Excel for inventory management, these spreadsheets need to contain a huge amount of information, such as: their quantities, forecasting info such as when they'll need to replenish their stock and how much to order, as well as tracking costs, suppliers, add / remove reasons, order and transaction history, employee accountability, and much, much more.
Manually, this is virtually impossible to accomplish. And to even attempt it, they need to allocate serious man hours - at the very least an hour a day - for maintaining the spreadsheets. Assuming they're at least paying this warehouse worker minimum wage, that's at least $225 / month spent on Excel for inventory management. We have a lot of clients who thought they were saving money by not getting the right tool for their business, but if anything, we've found that such clients were actually losing a good deal of money once they'd also accounted for the customer service and labor hours necessary to remedy customer issues concerning out of stocks.
There are plenty of reasonably priced warehouse & inventory management systems out there geared specifically toward the needs of small-mid sized eCommerce companies (cough, SkuVault, cough!) - it's in your best interest to at least check them out. So maybe the next time you're taking a cross-country road trip, you'll just go ahead and rent a minivan with AC and a DVD player for the kids and be done with it.