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Before inventory can be effectively managed, it has to be accurately tracked. Even if you already use a powerful mobile inventory management app such as DataQlick, if you don’t know where all your products are, whether in a warehouse, store, or in transit, you expose yourself to the dangers and the costs of both overstock and understock. There are several ways to track inventory, but it’s up to you to determine which is the most useful and cost effective for your business.

The Digital Stock Book

Used predominately by very small businesses, digital stock books are digitized version of the traditional stock book that stores used before the advent of computers. These come in the form of a spreadsheet divided into two or more columns, which contain the items, their current state, their location, and so on. Stock books can be as detailed as you want to make them, since you can easily add new columns. However, the more information they contain, the harder they are to update and manage.

For very small, one-man businesses that sell a narrow range of products, a digital stock book may still work today, but it is an approach that’s very prone to input or memory errors, and doesn’t allow for any easy data analyses, making it but a poor companion to a sales forecasting inventory management app.

The Bar Code Scanner

Bar code scanning is a significant improvement over the stock book, allowing for a varied inventory and virtually eliminating many of the risks associated with the latter. To use a bar code scanning system, you need two things: a barcode label for every item you stock, which includes a product description, location, price, expiration date if any, and so on, and a bar code scanner which can read that information and send it to your computer.

A bar code scanning system does require an investment, but it provides more reliable data than a logbook, and saves you time. Today, when mobile phones can be used as barcode scanners, helping reduce hardware costs, the barcode scanning system can be used by virtually any company, however small.

Radio Frequency Identification Tags

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags usually come in the form of tiny microchips that contain electronically stored information. They can take many different forms, and you have probably noticed them at your local supermarket or favorite clothing store. Just like barcodes, RFID tags can be read using hand-held devices.

RFID tags are an improvement over barcode labels in many ways, in that they contain more information, don’t have to be read directly by a scanner but can be detected from a distance or even remotely, which means that many different tags can be read in a moment, without the need for individually scanning every item in a new shipment.

Also, they can deter thefts by setting off an alarm when the items leave the store without being scanned. An RFID tagging system, however, is more expensive than a barcode system. If you handle large shipments of products, need a faster way to scan your inventory, or have trouble with stolen items at your stores, an RFID tagging system can be a worthwhile investment.

In conclusion, for many businesses a barcode scanning system is the most cost-effective option, integrating seamlessly with a mobile inventory management app like DataQlick. But you may also consider a RFID tagging system, or a mix between the two, with RFID tags for more expensive items.