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chapter four of six. Main types of finance.

Inventory management systems


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Small business guides > A complete guide to inventory > Inventory management systems

Inventory management systems

You already know inventory management is vital to a healthy business. So let’s look at systems you can use for costing, reporting, and reordering inventory efficiently.

Periodic inventory system

A periodic inventory system is the most basic and frequently used by smaller businesses. It involves physically counting your inventory – via a good old stocktake – at set periods. You reconcile those numbers against the purchase and sales records in your books.

You can read more about stocktaking in chapter 4 on inventory accounting.

Perpetual inventory system

Under a perpetual inventory system, you update records as each item of inventory is purchased or sold.

This is generally done by software. You place your orders through the system, so it knows what you’ve ordered. And you link it to your point-of-sale (or invoicing) systems, so it knows what you’ve sold.

It does all the maths of AVCO or FIFO accounting in real time, so you’ll see how much money you’re making on each sale.

You will still need to do occasional stocktakes to confirm the system is working properly – and to complete annual tax returns.

Which is the best inventory management system for you?

Periodic inventory management may be enough for businesses that only sell a few products. It will show you broadly how much inventory costs your business and will allow you to complete annual accounts.

But if your product range or sales volumes grow, or you have a number of locations, periodic inventory management will begin to slow you down. Plus you will find it difficult to do the more precise FIFO accounting.

A perpetual inventory management system will give you a real-time view of your margin while giving you back a lot of the time normally spent on stocktakes.

Periodic inventory management: pros and cons

Pros of periodic inventory management
Cons of periodic inventory management

Perpetual inventory management: pros and cons

Pros of perpetual inventory management
Cons of perpetual inventory management

Starting with periodic, and switching to perpetual as you grow, is a smart option. To make it easier to do, set up your other business systems to accommodate a switch at some point in the future. Get a point-of-sale (or invoicing) system that can integrate with inventory apps. Do the same when you choose accounting software.


Chapter 6: Inventory management software

Inventory management software is taking the pain out of inventory management for small businesses. Here’s a few things to consider before you get one.

Read next chapter