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Computerized inventory systems


#1

My business has grown to a point where A) I cannot grow more and B)
I’m continually going to be overworked and overstressed if I don’t
get my inventory and ordering systems computerized. However, I feel
wholly inadequate to make an informed decision regarding which
software system to purchase.

I THINK my main needs are as follows:

  1. Ease of use. I’m in the silver jewelry business, and due to the
    fact that I cannot pay any of my employees (with the exception of the
    manager) enough money for them to make a career out of this job, I
    will always have some employee turnover. As such, the system needs to
    be easy to train people to use and easy to learn.

  2. What I want the system to do is to track and control inventory
    levels and automatically tell me what I designs I need to re-order
    and from whom.

  3. If digital photos of the various items could be scanned into the
    system I think this would be helpful, especially when tags fall of
    and employees have to decide how to re-price the item.

  4. I’ve been told that I should buy a system that works in tandem
    with QUICKBOOKS, which is what my accountant uses. Agree or disagree?

  5. Certainly I want to buy a system from a company that’s been
    around for a while and who I can reasonably expect to be in business
    in the future, who provides reasonably priced customer support,
    upgrades, etc.

Any further insights, suggestions, or advice would be GREATLY
appreciated–thanks!

Doug


#2

Hi Doug

I consider myself a bit of an expert as I’ve switched computer
systems twice in my store (+/- 5000 SKU’s)

Here’s what I suggest:

Find a shareware program that wasn’t designed for jewelry
specifically but may have some configurable fields. Some of the
software vendors will include these types of field which you could
use for carat weight, color, clarity, etc. Don’t get too worked up
about entering every detail into the system. Unless you have pieces
with a history or something, it’s all pretty basic stuff. If it’s a
14kt yellow gold ring with a Sapphire and a few diamonds, I think you
may want to log the total weight of the side stones and the
dimensions of the center (probably in the description field) but you
wouldn’t necesarily want to log that the little 1 pointers flainking
the sapphire are I/I1. Know what I mean?

The picture part of the software has always been a hassle for me.
I’m not happy with snapshots untill I edit them to death. I
certainly wouldn’t drop an unedited photo on an appraisal or a
reciept. (Which my software does but it also cost $1200 I think? and
I’m not totally thrilled with it yet)

To me barcoding your merchandise is probably more important. Here’s
why: It’s not only to easy inventory. It’s also for the little old
lady that works in your store. Lets say she sells a ring SKU# 12868.
What if she rings up #12060 instead? With a scanner she can’t do
that. Another similar pitfal is having a seperate Visa/MC machine
and the user not pushing the last digit so that a $200.00 charge
turns into a $20.00 mistake. I’ve just fixed these things in the
past, but I always wonder if they would call and dispute the charge.
(I guess that’s why my wife thinks I’m paranoid…I think she’s just
out to get me though)

As far as Quickbooks go-- Full integration is expensive. And you
don’t really want it. I want to control my books manually. I don’t
want one of my part-timers entering a transaction which would hit my
Quickbooks and possibly screw something up. I’d preffer to manually
get reports out of the POS software at night and post a journal entry
into Quickbooks. This gives me an opportunity to see what I’m
putting in and also feel control of my business’s finances. There
are basically two numbers you want: Money taken in and What it was
for. I lied, it’s more like 8 numbers. The journal entry might look
like this in Quickbooks:

Checking    $100.00                                    (cash)
Checking    $250.00                                    (amex)
Checking    $1000.00                                  (discover)
Checking    $650.00                                    (mc/visa)
Income:Sales                $1500.00
Income:Repair                $350.00
Sales Tax Payable             $75.00
Layaways                           $75.00

The journal entries become a little more complicated with layaways
(esp pickups and cancellations) Otherwise, its pretty easy. Any
software you get should be able to give you the breakdowns like this.
Otherwise don;t get it.

I’m not putting the name of the software that I use now, because it
doesn’t have good layaway facilities. It’s almost impossible to
cancel a layaway. Otherwise it’s great. If you want the name, email
me off list. I hope I didn’t miss anything. Let me know if there
are any other questions.

-Stanley Bright


#3

Doug,

There are a lot of options out there in computerized inventory,
ranging from the very basic to the does-everything-but-brew-coffee
variety. (Heck, by now some of them probably brew coffee, too…) The
first question is how much you are prepared to pay. If you have a
relatively low budget, your best bet is probably to use an
off-the-shelf commercial package, like Quickbooks. (One of the
Quickbooks versions comes with an inventory management module… I
know there are folks on the list who use it.) MYOB (Mind Your Own
Business) is another option that many jewelers and designers find
works well – I understand its inventory management module may be
more versatile than Quickbooks.

An off-the-shelf program offers the advantage of being inexpensive,
and the odds are much better that you can hire help that is already
familiar with the program, and if not, there are lots of resources
for training them. The downside is that it’s a one-size-fits-all
solution, and so may not be a perfect fit. For example, Quickbooks
isn’t really designed to handle consignment or manufacturing, and can
require some real contortions to figure out how to track consigned or
component inventory. If your needs are pretty straightforward, such
as standard retail, it probably won’t be much of a problem for you.
But if you want it to track your repairs and custom work as well as
your finished inventory, or you take a lot of things in on memo, you
may find it’s less useful. You may be able to make it work, but odds
are it won’t be simple, and it will take you where no tech support
person has ever gone. This disadvantage may become more of a problem
as you grow bigger, and will complicate training new help.

If you have the cash and the desire, there are also a number of
inventory/financial management programs designed specifically for
the jewelry industry. Many will export data to Quickbooks or other
financial management programs in common use, such as Peachtree.
Although several orders of magnitude more expensive than
off-the-shelf programs, they have the advantage of being set up for a
jewelry business, and will anticipate most common needs unique to
jewelry, such as maintaining separate inventories for things like
findings and components, printing and tracking job bags for the
repair shop, and producing consignment and “memo” reports. This
should make your set-up time considerably shorter, and the system
easier to use in the long run. Many can also be expanded with
additional modules as your business grows and you find you have new
needs. You won’t find help already conversant with these systems,
but on the other hand, many of these companies offer on-going
training, and you won’t have to jury-rig anything to get it to work
the way you need it to. That can make it easier to teach someone to
use the program, and reduce the chance of errors. The main downside
of using a program like this is the cost – they typically range from
a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

AJM Magazine published brief descriptions of a number of these
software options in the November 2002 Technology Sourcebook. In
addition, many of these companies offer free downloads on their Web
site to allow you to play with the program and test its features. If
you’d like a copy of the article, let me know and I’ll e-mail it to
you. If anyone would like a complete copy of the 2002 Technology
Sourcebook, give MJSA a call at (800) 444-MJSA: they usually have
these available well past the issue date.

Good luck!
Suzanne

Suzanne Wade
Writer/Editor
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255
@Suzanne_Wade1
http://www.rswade.net


#4

Doug;

You have already done a good job of outlining what you consider to
be the most important features you are looking for.

There is another question you need to answer. Which type of computer
are you the most comfortable using, Windows or Mac? Either way you
might want to go to http://www.myob.com/us and look at their
offerings, they do software for both systems.

While I’m the “Accounting/IT Manager” at my day job (Windows
network),

my home network is Mac based. As my day job is in the construction
industry I’m not familiar with Windows based accounting packages
that will do what you are looking for.

I use MYOB’s Account Edge on my home system and it includes a very
nice inventory management system. You can set reorder levels, who to
order from, and include a picture of the item. (Disclaimer: I do not
work for

MYOB, I’m just a satisfied customer.)

One thing you must keep in mind. To get the level of sophistication
you are looking for in inventory management, you will be looking at
"full" accounting packages. This means Accounts Receivable, Accounts
Payable, Inventory, Payroll (maybe), and General Ledger.

Working in tandem with QuickBooks would make things easier for your
accountant. However, first and formost, you are looking to make your
life easier. Keep that in mind at all times.

Good luck in your search. If you have any more questions post them
to the list and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Gale Childers

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
F Robert Frost