Right now is a great time to be alive, isn’t it? I mean, we have so much technology that makes life easier. Not only that, but it reduces the amount of time it takes to perform simple, mundane tasks. With this in mind, it’s good to step back every now and then and think about things we take for granted. Then we can acknowledge how good life is because of them. One of those things I’d like to talk about right now is effective inventory management software.
While many companies still aren’t taking advantage of it to the fullest, ones that are using it can easily forget how hard it was to manage inventory without it. So let’s go through a brief history of inventory management to see what an amazing invention inventory management software truly is.
In the Beginning
I suppose Adam invented inventory management. When he first named all the animals, he was engaging in that type of operation. At least there is a good argument for that. On the other hand, Noah counted the clean and unclean beasts for the Ark. So you could argue he did it, too. Actually, both of these examples have to do with animals. That is interesting. But, for the sake of brevity, we’ll jump ahead to modern times.
Before the Industrial Revolution, merchants just had to write down all of the products they sold every day. There was simply no other way to keep track of them all. Then they had to order more products based on their handwritten notes and their gut feelings. That was an incredibly inefficient and inaccurate way of doing business. Why? Because it was far too easy to make mistakes when writing things down.
Merchants couldn’t really account for stolen raw materials or finished goods. Unless they did time-consuming physical counts on a regular basis, that is. Also, they had trouble making sure they got the right number of products when orders came in because of sparse recordkeeping. However, it was the best they could do.
A Big Breakthrough
Luckily, everything changed in 1889. That year, a man named Herman Hollerith invented the first punch card that could be read by machines. He wanted to help with the census the following year. By feeding sheets of paper that had little holes in specific places, people could record complex data for a variety of purposes from census taking to clocking in and out of work. This was basically the precursor to computers that can read data in tiny microchips. And Hollerith’s company even went on to form the world’s first computer company, IBM. IBM stands for the International Business Machines Corporation.1
Harvard University took Hollerith’s idea in the 1930s and created a punch card system for businesses. Companies could tell which products were being ordered. In addition, it could record some inventory and sales data based on punch cards customers would fill out for catalog items. Unfortunately, Harvard’s order management system cost too much. Additionally, it was too slow to keep up with rising business challenges. Therefore, someone needed to come up with a new breakthrough. Once technology improved, of course.
The Best, Bar None
In the 1960s, a group of retailers (mostly grocery stores, at first) got together and came up with a new way of tracking inventory. Never before had anyone thought of something so simple yet useful in this area. And what was it called? The modern barcode. There were several competing types of barcodes before they were standardized with the Universal Product Code (UPC) in 1974. It’s still the most-used barcode in the United States today.
As computers became more efficient and cheaper, UPCs grew in popularity. In the mid-1990s, companies started experimenting with inventory management systems with inventory tracking, inventory forecasting, and warehouse management features that would record data as products were scanned in and out of warehouses. The technology evolved into a comprehensive inventory management solution by the early 2000s. And now, even small and midsize businesses can find an affordable warehouse management system to meet their needs.
Inventory management software has been decades (even hundreds of years) in the making. Now that it’s here, you should take advantage of it to make sure your business doesn’t become history. Sign up for an online inventory software demo today.
Robert Lockard is a copywriter with Fishbowl. He writes for several blogs about inventory management, manufacturing, QuickBooks, and small business. Fishbowl is the #1-requested manufacturing and warehouse management software for QuickBooks users. Robert enjoys running, reading, writing, spending time with his wife and children, and watching movies.