For purposes of these articles we have defined three forms of Inventory-related Applications that work with QuickBooks. These three forms are:
- those which ‘supplement’ standard inventory features of QuickBooks and typically are acquired as individual components, we call these “add-on” applications;
- those which ‘integrate tightly’ into QuickBooks providing a greatly expanded inventory feature set as a comprehensive package, we call these “add-in” applications;
- those applications which essentially remove basic Inventory features from QuickBooks and take ownership of your inventory by performing inventory related transactions within their application passing back financial information to QuickBooks (on varied levels), we call these “in lieu of” applications.
These programs allow users to supplement QuickBooks with specific feature expansions. There are a variety of these, but here are five SmartScan products:
- SmartScan Barcode Translator – adds the power of bar code scanning to QuickBooks by means of a translator application that maps bar codes with corresponding items in the QuickBooks item list. This allows you to scan a bar code directly into a QuickBooks transaction item field and have the corresponding item code appear in the QuickBooks transaction.
- SmartScan Label Link – print bar code labels directly from your QuickBooks item list or transactions.
- SmartScan Sales Order/Invoice/Sales Receipt Verification – use bar code scanning to verify the products being billed for and shipped. The product works with one type of form. Permits the use of product location codes.
- SmartScan Purchase Order Verification – use bar codes for receiving of purchase orders (item receipts). Permits the use of optional serial or lot number tracking.
- SmartScan Inventory Count - use bar code scanning for purposes of taking a physical inventory count; time and mistakes are reduced.
These programs, from Baus Systems, tend to be relatively economical, and you ‘purchase them’, you don’t pay an annual subscription. You can buy the features (products) you need, rather than paying a lump sum for features you have no need of.
These programs have a tight integration with QuickBooks typically allowing QuickBooks users to perform many of the ‘sales’ and ‘purchasing’ functions within QuickBooks, but expanding the capabilities of QuickBooks Inventory by providing such features as bar codes, alternative valuation of inventory, specialized pricing options, location tracking such as warehouses, bin/shelf/rack, and serial and/or lot numbers. Many also offer expiration date tracking as well as put-away/pick guidance. A variety of reporting options will normally accompany these types of programs.
- One such pair of Add-ins is the ‘Advanced Inventory’ & ‘Advanced Pricing’ subscription products offered by Intuit for QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. There is one thing that makes Intuit’s products unique, the advanced feature data is stored within additional ‘data tables’ otherwise hidden from the QuickBooks Application until the subscription(s) are turned-on. This means that the overall size of the QuickBooks Company Data file is ‘increased’ by these additional features, as contrasted with non-Intuit Add-in Applications that store the data outside of QuickBooks. QBES-Advanced Inventory users process every type of transaction normally within QuickBooks, but use additional fields on transactions for the purpose of linking the enhanced data (such as locations or serial numbers) to the line items. Reporting must rely on the additional data tables as the source for information, this is fine until there is some 'difference' between the data differentiated in these additional tables from the basic 'core' data kept in the standard QuickBooks tables. (For example, the sum of all inventory site quantities for a specific item does not match the quantities in the item quantity table.)
- Another Add-in product is AccuCode’s Rapid Inventory, a product which at one time was marketed by Intuit as QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions Warehouse Management. Rapid Inventory is a ‘web-based’ product to which users subscribe on a monthly no-commitment basis. Because it is web-based it uses the QuickBooks ‘Web-connector’ utility to link the two sets of data. While the QuickBooks Company file will have some additional ‘custom fields’ added to Items and Transactions (for example) that serve to hold data that links up to Rapid Inventory, the vast majority of Inventory related data that expands the capabilities is a part of the on-line database, not the QuickBooks Company file. When QuickBooks is linked to Rapid Inventory sales transactions are initiated in QuickBooks, the data then flows to Rapid Inventory where the ‘additional details’ are matched up so that the order can be processed (picked, packed and shipped) within Rapid Inventory, only after the order is processed is the information sent back to QuickBooks as a completed sales transaction or invoice. A similar approach is used for purchasing; purchase orders prepared in QuickBooks are received in Rapid Inventory and then the data is transmitted back to QuickBooks as a completed item receipt or a vendor bill. This type of integration means that QuickBooks inventory data in terms of both quantities and values remain complete and ‘in-sync’ with Rapid Inventory counts and values.
- There is a third Add-in product I will review called QStock from MSA Systems. This product works almost identically to Rapid Inventory with one big exception; this is a software based solution that runs on your own hardware, not a cloud-based SAAS- subscription product. QuickBooks users purchase QStock, once it is installed it integrates with QuickBooks in as close a linkage as Rapid Inventory, but all of the Inventory extra data supporting functions like bar codes, serial/lot numbers, locations and sub-locations, etc. are all stored in a separate database outside of QuickBooks on your own server. Both Sales and Purchasing transactions are initiated and completed in QuickBooks, with only the middle steps performed in QStock. A manufacturing option that expands capabilities related to assemblies and process tracking, is available. Throughout the processes (sales, manufacturing and purchasing) both inventory related quantities and values match in QuickBooks and QStock at all times; integration occurs via the SDK. QStock offers a wide variety of reporting and inventory management related capabilities which we will examine more closely in a future article.
“In Lieu Of” Applications
These applications essentially ‘take ownership’ of your Inventory and require you to perform most, if not all, inventory related transactions inside of their applications. The method by which these products ‘integrate’ within QuickBooks varies with each product, and in some cases within the products themselves. Some post only financial data back to QuickBooks, usually in the form of Journal Entries and many only at the ‘end of business’ as part of their day-end close-out. Others allow you to either configure a ‘sync’ schedule, or perform a ‘manual sync’ between the two applications; sometimes the sync is one-way, and for other forms of information the sync maybe two-ways.
- While not really considered an ‘Inventory’ application, QuickBooks Point-of-sale fits this definition. When you first link QuickBooks to QB-POS, all of the inventory items in QuickBooks are ‘zeroed out’ as the data is transmitted over to QB-POS, then QB-POS will post a financial adjustment to post the inventory value back into QuickBooks. From that point on all inventory functions from Sales to Purchasing are handled only in QB-POS with the exception that Sales ‘Invoiced’ to open account customers can have payments received in QuickBooks, and Vendor Bills must be paid from QuickBooks, but only after having been received in QB-POS. QB-POS offers different levels of ‘integration’, you can choose only to post ‘financial summary’ data, or post ‘transaction details’ for every transaction, or post ‘transaction details’ only for open account charge customers. If QB-POS were configured for something other than primarily ‘sales receipt type sales’ it would serve as a good inventory package fitting the ‘in lieu of’ definition.
- One of the most popular ‘in lieu of’ inventory applications is Fishbowl by Fishbowl. In Fishbowl essentially all inventory related transactions, from sales and customer payments, to purchases and vendor bills are performed in Fishbowl. In fact you actually ‘turn-off’ the Inventory and Purchase Order preference in QuickBooks. The method of importing data is what I refer to as a ‘forced transaction’, rather than transmit data from Fishbowl to QuickBooks to correspond to QuickBooks lists; it simply populates QuickBooks forms with data posted from Fishbowl. For example, Fishbowl exports ‘items’ to QuickBooks using the Fishbowl Item code, not a QuickBooks Item Code, at the same time the Item description is populated from Fishbowl along with other information using a variety of ‘custom fields’ specific to each type of transaction. This type of data transfer provides a level of detail superior to pure financial postings using Journal Entries, but it also precludes the ability to see QuickBooks Item based histories. We will examine Fishbowl much more closely in a future article. Depending on the version of Fishbowl you select, the number of additional functions Fishbowl offers to supplement QuickBooks ranges from 15 to 25 (as best I can count, not including variances on those functions/features).
- ACCTivate Inventory by Alterity is another ‘in lieu of’ inventory application which takes complete control over the inventory items in lieu of QuickBooks built-in-inventory. ACCTivate specifies that they have bi-directional integration with QuickBooks and that customer related and vendor-related transaction are posted from ACCTivate to QuickBooks and customer and vendor information is sync’d back-n-forth. Bills maybe posted in QuickBooks and will post to ACCTivate; the same applies to Customer payments. ACCTivate professes to offer more features and options than any other solution, as of yet I do not have my own ‘comparison’ ready, so you will have to wait to a future article for such an independent comparison. As with the other products we have discussed we will be looking at ACCTivate, as well as the other products, in greater detail in the future.
There are a variety of other general and specialized ‘manufacturing’ programs that also manage inventory as part of the manufacturing process; however, we will not be reviewing them within this series.
Please send us your comments about any of the products we have mentioned, or any others you have found meet your inventory management needs.