QuickBooks Enterprise (Advanced Inventory) is the product of Intuit Corporation of Mountain View, CA
QuickBooks Enterprise Advanced Inventory Barcode Feature
We have come half-circle now, and as with the beginning that means we are back to QuickBooks inventory, but not just any QuickBooks this is QuickBooks Enterprise Advanced Inventory. Intuit’s Advanced Inventory subscription began life as an add-on offering a method to differentiate inventory on a location (site) basis. A year later additional features were added including barcodes, and alternatives to the receiving process completely segregating it from billing. Additional functions of FIFO cost-valuation, serial/lot numbers, bin/shelf/row tracking, and advanced pricing methods (which is another optionally priced subscription), have also been incorporated as of present. Exactly what the Advanced Inventory team has in store for us in the future only they know.
Unlike every other product that we have discussed in this series there is one thing that makes Intuit’s products unique, the advanced feature data is stored within ‘data tables’ inside the QuickBooks Company-file but hidden from the QuickBooks Application until the subscription(s) are turned-on. Some people might consider this a good thing, after all it means that all of the advanced functionality is simply a part of their QuickBooks, and therefore the source of support for advanced inventory issues will be Intuit. While this is true, this design also 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. I have written in a variety of forums about the potential problems this causes, the QuickBooks application and database engine are limited in their ability to support large files within the confines that Intuit has created. Adding all the extra data associated with the advanced inventory feature can contribute greatly to the expansion of the Company file size thus straining performance.
Let’s look at each of the features in a little greater depth. Inventory locations can be setup to represent different cities, stores, warehouses, service trucks, shipping containers, drop-shipments or consignment inventories. Location tracking also allows you to see how many items are on hand, on sales orders, on purchase orders, and your reorder point. As of this year, QuickBooks will automatically calculate which items you need to restock. If one location is running low on inventory at one location, you can transfer stock from another location to meet demand. A variation of location (or what you might think of as sub-locations) is the bin/shelf/row tracking. You can track specific inventory items down to the bin location level within one or more locations. When filling out forms, automatically see quantities and serial or lot numbers for each bin. Sort pick lists and item receipts by location for efficient picking and stocking.
Barcode scanning can increase efficiency and reliability for all inventory data entry by scanning items and serial numbers without touching a keyboard – QuickBooks automatically puts the information into the right field. Print barcode labels from inside QuickBooks, Advanced Inventory will even create your barcodes if you don’t have them already. QBES-AI works with many simple USB barcode scanners. As an alternative to the native ‘Average Cost’ inventory costing, you can select the option of tracking inventory using ‘FIFO’ (first in, first out) costing. If you later decide that FIFO is not appropriate for your business, you can switch back to the average cost method. With Serial or Lot number tracking you can enter serial numbers and lots at the time of purchase, transfer, or sale based upon this data; you can also track lots and serial numbers through assemblies and sub-assemblies as well as via location, bin/row/shelf and via purchaser.
As you might expect, QBES-Advanced Inventory users process every type of transaction normally within QuickBooks; however, the subscription turns on the additional fields for various transactions that link to data such as locations, serial numbers and barcodes for each line item. This is undoubtedly the tightest QuickBooks integration as one might expect, after all it is simply expanded QuickBooks, but the feature set it lacking in both functionality for available features and feature options. Take for example the Barcode feature, it is seriously lacking in what is needed. While you can scan barcodes on items to fill-out forms (similar to the process in QuickBooks Point-of-sale) this is about the total functionality. You do not have a way to configure and print other barcodes that are common in most complex inventory managements systems such as a complex barcode that represents item, serial or lot, location and supply confirmation.
In terms of supply confirmation you can track physical locations but there is nothing that actually links physical locations to inventory capabilities; what happens if you assign too many of a specific item to a physical location, QBES-AI doesn’t advise you. You must choose serial or lot number tracking, you cannot use both. There is no tracking of expiration dates, or other mission specific inventory functionality as with many other advanced inventory products.
This year the Intuit Advanced Inventory team gave us the new optional subscription Advanced Pricing feature. This feature expands on the standard price levels and allows you to create price rules to be more specific about the way and options for changing specific item prices. Each price rule can contain multiple conditions that must be met to receive a specific price. You can option to give a specific customer or group of customers a discount when they purchase specific items. Many of these are similar to pricing options that have been available in QuickBooks Point-of-sale. Several flaws in the pricing feature were present in the initial release but Intuit has been making inroads into correcting those. It has been rumored that additional pricing options will be incorporated into this subscription in the future and that is needed in my opinion in part because QuickBooks has always worked from the assumption that sales price is the basic number from which item pricing based. While we capture ‘price’, and Enterprise did add ‘mark-up’ management, the pricing options are built around a variation (plus/minus $ or %) of sale price, not cost. Most advanced inventory software products offer this kind of pricing as part of their functionality.
When it comes to reporting, there really is very little that exceeds the normal for QuickBooks with respect to Advanced Inventory. Essentially the table data for information like serial or lot numbers, and location are added to existing or repurposed reports, nothing creative has been provided in the way of ‘sales trends’ by location or inventory turns. QBES-Advanced Inventory does not contain any advanced inventory reporting or analytics.
While QBES-AI has the potential for providing a lot of necessary functions, it has issues. Let’s look at pricing, in general. Rather than incorporate this year’s Advanced Pricing options into the Advanced Inventory subscription, Intuit chose to add that feature as an ‘additional subscription’ thus raising the price of having both of the subscriptions.
In addition to paying the annual subscriptions for these features you must maintain the QuickBooks Enterprise Full Service Plan; the moment that subscription lapses your Advanced Inventory and Advanced Pricing options come to a halt even if you paid for a year where the dates don’t match-up. I also found out that if you make any downgrades in your QuickBooks Enterprise product you better be ready to change to the new product immediately because your Advanced Inventory and Pricing subscriptions are now tied only to your most current purchase, they no longer work with your older subscription even if you are still using the older version of QuickBooks.
What these ‘tight customer sales rules’ really mean is that your ‘advanced inventory’ needs and data are under the control of Intuit. So you must ask yourself if you are prepared to continue in this kind of subscription model to keep these features going; of course, that is true with any ‘subscription’ based software solution.