In a report on the state of small businesses in 2017 presented by Wasp Barcode Technologies, it was found that only 18 percent of small businesses use some type of inventory software or system, such as an ERP, to keep tabs on their stock. That leaves another 82 percent of businesses without top-notch tracking capabilities prone to mistakes and inefficiencies.

Of the businesses polled, 24 percent did not have inventory to track, but another eight percent simply did not bother to track it. A large contingent used methods that relied upon human data entry and validation, such as software not specifically designed for inventory management.

A breakdown of the findings follows:

  • 24 percent do not have inventory
  • 21 percent use spreadsheets (Excel)
  • 18 percent use inventory software
  • 15 percent use inventory in accounting software
  • 14 percent use manual processes (pen and paper)
  • 8 percent do not track inventory
  • 2 percent answered “other”

It is perhaps surprising that only about one in five businesses use spreadsheets to track inventory. Spreadsheets are certainly not the ideal method, but their ease of use and familiarity pervade the daily operations of countless businesses in one form or another. That many businesses avoid this trap is an encouraging sign, though even spreadsheets look ironclad in the face of human error when compared to the 14 percent of businesses that use pen and paper to track their inventory.

Using a specialized system designed for a particular task is proven to lead to greater efficiency and more accurate tracking. Using the wrong tool for the job – a pen for example – is not only inefficient, but also dangerous.

The findings demonstrate a disconnect between the ideal tool and task for inventory. Though some barriers exist for small businesses – the cost of tracking software, for example – many are simply unaware of the benefits, or unwilling to ditch what they’re used to in favour of a more effective method.