This is the final post of a series detailing a consulting job I recently completed. This post discusses the pros and cons of employing Excel as the decision support system.
The spreadsheets built for this job are a very good example of an automated inventory tracking system that can be built for much less than the price of purchasing a “real” inventory management software package. There are however some definite pros and cons to look at when building your own software package using excel.
The main pro is the price. Excel is a software package that just about every office already owns
and with a little bit of know how, you can build whatever you want. In some cases you might now even need to have
any clue in terms of writing code to use excel to get it to do what you want it
to do. It’s also a nice package to use
because everyone in the office should already know how to use it.
The downside of using excel is that it might not be able to do everything you want it to do, nor may it do everything it should do. For example, in this project I encountered a problem with the inventory counting. The counts should really be updated every 6-8 weeks just to be safe. But when they are, the used materials that are subtracted out of them need to be cleared. Unfortunately this involves the inventory manager at the mailing room to update the values in excel. Really this isn’t a huge deal but ultimately it cuts down on the automation of the system. (As it turns out, I found a way to get around this about 2 weeks after I wrote this, but I can assure you, it was a serious hassle).
hassle is getting these spreadsheets onto the internet. After completing this consulting job, I was
recommended by the firm I consulted to do a job almost identical to this
job. The only notable difference is that
I had to put the spreadsheets onto a webpage that gets updated daily. Although possible with excel, the interface
is not as friendly as I have seen with other software packages.
Another problem with excel for this project is that I ended
up using it as a daily and weekly demand database when really, Excel is a
terrible database system. What makes it
so terrible is that it does close to nothing to verify that the data is
complete. Ensuring the integrity of the demand
data is very using Excel.
Overall, considering I’m not a information system specialist
and yet I did manage to build this system using excel, I would have to say that
for low level jobs such as this one, excel is an excellent tool that is already
at hand and ready to be utilized by those who know what they are doing with it. As for the integrity of the data, had I
teamed up Access with Excel, I could have ensured the data’s integrity to a
better degree. In the end, the company
got a software package that meets their needs for a sliver of the price that it
would cost to buy a “real” inventory management system.
If you would like to see the spreadsheets I have made for the firm discussed in this series of articles, you can now download them. Please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts. I haven't received any from any users yet (thanks a lot guys), so don't be a jerk. I'll be posting user instructions very soon. I promise. Sorry to all who left comments any haven't received them yet.
Did you enjoy this post?
Posted by: suny | Sep 1, 2005 6:20:08 AM
Its quite impressive
Posted by: anurashika bari | Sep 19, 2005 4:43:54 PM
Great articles!!! I'm currently trying to create an excel spreadsheet to track inventory. Could you email me what you've done?
Posted by: megan | Mar 31, 2006 9:50:41 AM
Megan, I sent you an email regarding your spreadsheet request, which I will be happy to honor.
Posted by: Charles Atkinson | Apr 2, 2006 11:32:47 AM
Will u plz send the excel spreadsheet for inventory tracking?
I am also working on project of inventory management.
So your spreadsheet will be valuable input for me
Posted by: Sunish | Apr 16, 2006 9:22:14 PM
Great article. Any chance I can get a copy of the Excel tool you created?
Posted by: Felipe | Apr 25, 2006 11:31:02 AM
Very insightful, practical article. I'm currently doing some research on easy-to-use inventory management systems, it would be great if i could have a copy of your spreadsheets. Thanks!
Posted by: Joao | Apr 27, 2006 4:14:09 AM
can i have a copy of your excel spreadsheet cz i know this will be great help for me...cz i am working on inventory management.
Posted by: katie | May 23, 2006 5:26:01 AM
Could you please send me a copy of your excel spreadsheet? Thank You!!
Posted by: Kristen | May 31, 2006 8:48:28 AM
I am currently redeveloping our existing inventory and would appreciate a look at the sheet
Posted by: Jeff Darch | Jun 25, 2006 7:18:58 PM
Very helpful article.
I was just hired on to do the exact same thing you have described and I am sure your Excel spreadsheets would be a big help to me. Can you please e-mail them to me?
Posted by: Chris Gravitt | Jul 19, 2006 1:44:48 PM
Great article set! I would like to see the actual spreadsheets. Thanks,
Posted by: Derek Clow | Aug 4, 2006 8:56:23 AM
I would love a copy of your spreadsheet!!!
Thanks so much
Posted by: Rae | Aug 9, 2006 11:43:27 AM
I am a field service engineer that is looking for a way of keeping track of his inventory of electronic components and parts. I know zero about inventory management. I just know that the company requires that I keep control of these parts and maintain an accurate count of what I have at all times. I thought of trying to implement some sort of simple barcode system. Each part in my inventory already has a unique part number so I thought I could make a barcode of each part number and somehow scan it into some sort of program on my laptop. I dont know if I could do that with an excel spreadsheet or what would be best for my needs. I would want to wand a part in as I received it and have the program increment that part number and then as I used a part, have the same program decrement that part. What do you think would best meet my needs? I already have a hand held barcode scanner but thats as far as I got. Thank you for sending the excel spreadsheet and any advice you could provide.
Posted by: Scott Moorhead | Aug 13, 2006 11:44:56 PM
Interesting article, & one that I empathise with as I am just going through a similar situation myself. I have to get an inventory/parts management system off the ground & running with zero budget & no time to do it in. A copy of the spreadsheets that you developed would be a great place to start, so I really would appreciate it if you could mail them to me.
Posted by: Mark Lees | Aug 25, 2006 8:18:32 AM
Good Article. Please forward Excel sheets. Thanks
Posted by: Scott | Aug 25, 2006 1:35:50 PM
This was very helpful. I would appreciate a copy of the excel spreadsheet!
Thanks - Kathy
Posted by: kathy | Aug 31, 2006 2:00:02 PM
Very nice, I will be working in this subject shortly, can you send me the spreadsheet, it could be a great help for me.
Posted by: Rocky | Sep 5, 2006 12:12:12 PM
Would you mind sending a copy of spreadsheet?
Thanks Cari Brown
Posted by: Cari Brown | Sep 12, 2006 10:04:59 AM
Interesting article and perfectly timed. I am just in the beginning stages of implementing a new inventory control procedure and your spreadsheet would be a great start. Could I please get a copy of the spreadsheets.
Posted by: Charles | Sep 13, 2006 3:47:08 PM
You can now download the spreadsheets from the website. Check the end of the post for the link.
Thank you all for reading.
Posted by: Charles Atkinson | Sep 14, 2006 9:45:49 PM
Article is interesting but I am not sure if it is timely , it is long overdue at the moment already. Buth thank you anyway for a good work.
Posted by: Thyroid | Oct 1, 2006 11:34:47 AM
Consulting job most of the time in logistics operation is a mockery on expertise, speaking on inventory managements outside expertise in non existant, to render advice and expert on management of inventory and logistics in general have to posses a neded knoweledge of the products requirements. As for instance in medical and pharmaceuticals industry all product has different requirements of storage and transportation. Outside expertise in completely out of the question , all attemts that was made rendered only disruption of the regural servie.
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Posted by: Thyroid | Oct 1, 2006 12:05:50 PM
Thanks for the response. Based on the comments I've received so far, and my experience in logistics, it seems as though the timeliness of a system that helps track inventory without the aid of more expenisve systems, such as RFID, is still helpful.
For pharmaceuticals, this may very well be the case, although I can assure you, there are a myriad of industries that can achieve real savings through logistics consulting. However, it certainly is not for everyone.
Posted by: Charles Atkinson | Oct 1, 2006 7:05:23 PM
Good article. Excel has it's limitations but at the least you are starting to build data. Usually only one user at a time can maintain a spreadsheet. If you need several staff working with the system that can be a problem. Another problem is that data is often unstructured. Data kept in spreadsheet are not relational data, so locations, building names, etc. may not be in the same format from record to record. This makes importing into other systems difficult. I often have clients build data in spreadsheets for imports to relational databases and that will work to the extent that data is consitently formated. Down the road you may want to implement a more sophisticated asset management system with a served database back end, like Oracle or SQL server. Perhaps a mySQL database or Access database might be a good short term choice if you have someone that can design a database for you.
Posted by: Jim Reid | Aug 16, 2007 8:29:31 AM
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