There are two ways to keep track of your stuff. You can use the Andrew method or you can use some actual inventory management system. Now, before you discount the Andrew method, it has led to only a handful of lost socks, misplaced books, and late fees from Blockbuster, when that was still a going concern. I also may have lost – and later found! – a baby.
Assuming you want something more than just my mediocre memory in place, you’re going to end up tagging things in one way or another. While radio-frequency identification (RFID) has seen an increase in popularity, it’s a potentially higher cost solution, with more technology required for implementation than you’d see in something like barcoding.
Barcoding has plenty of shortfalls – it inspires goofy tattoos, for instance – but it’s darn cheap. If you need to get started with little to no money down and you need to do so right now, barcoding can be your savior.
To that end, I’ve pulled together these free or open source options for managing your inventory with barcodes. They’re presented here in a no particular order.
The baby was totally fine, I promise.
Delivrd is a newer entrant in the free barcoding space. It offers a free forever account with a solid set of features for the small business. If you need to grow, you can jump onto the $99 per year plan, which comes with some more frills. We’ll focus on the free version here.
Free Deliverd is setup for a single location’s worth of inventory with up to 100 products. Within those confines, you can manage stock, get alerts when levels are low, and track your inventory’s history. These are the basics of inventory management that any small retailer would be interested in.
The product has a small eBay component, with some built-in tools for eBay sellers, allowing you to easily import your sales. The company itself was launched in 2015, after its founder got frustrated with the eBay fulfillment workflow process.
On the barcode side, Delivrd comes with printing and scanning capabilities and can be used with dedicated barcode printers or your office inkjet. You’ll need to figure out your own scanning system, but that’s true for most barcoding systems.
The paid version of Delivrd comes with unlimited items and locations. You also get a starter kit for barcoding, with one scanner and some stickers.
inFlow’s free plan comes with barcode support, making it an excellent option for inventory tracking. You’ll be able to track 100 products across multiple locations. inFlow is a great option for companies, as its free limitations aren’t overly restrictive.
You’ll just have one login with the free system, but most of the other limitations are customization or advanced tracking features. If you need these, you can jump on the advanced editions for a $399 or $799 one-time payment.
As a barcoding side note, check out inFlow’s overview of barcoding fonts. It has a free one to download on its site, and you can get some insight in why you might need one and how it can help your small business.
As with Delivrd, you’ll need to figure out a barcode scanner to get the data into the system. inFlow actually sell scanners on its site, so you can make sure you’re getting one that’s going to work with the system.
Beyond barcoding, inFlow will also give you some built-in reporting tools, which can help you keep track of how – and maybe “if” – your inventory is turning into cash. On top of all this, you get free automatic data backups. I like inFlow a lot, in case you didn’t notice.
ABC Inventory is a great option that’s been around forever. There’s no cloud hosting or fancy interface, it’s just solid inventory management software. ABC is produced by Almyta systems and is a “free subset” of its paid software, Almyta Control System.
If you’re business uses one workstation to manage inventory and doesn’t need remote access or any of the shiny new toys, I would go with ABC.
With it, you can manage purchase orders, barcodes, shipping, work orders, and bill of materials tracking. It’s as close to a full on system as you’re going to find for free – we’ve got a list of free inventory management systems, by the way.
One final note, ABC also lets you use barcoding for fixed asset tracking. That’s a nice perk for folks who have big fixed assets that need regular attention.
The low cost of barcodes can make them a great time and money saver for any sized business. If you haven’t yet moved to barcoding, take the time to figure out if it’s something your business would get value out of.
I bet you’ll have luck. Let me know in the comments if you’ve used any of these solution or if you have others to offer. Also, let me know if you’ve seen a little kid wearing an RFID tag. He’s not missing or anything, I just wanted to know if you’ve seen him.