An inventory management system is an application that helps a business manage its product or asset inventory. Open source programs are developed by a community of developers and often include features similar to commercial solutions. These systems usually are free to use, making them ideal for small businesses that want to save money on their operations budget.
Open source inventory systems are highly flexible and freely downloadable. Some can be customized using plug-ins, or small pieces of code, that extend the system’s functionality. Using this software option rather than hiring a programmer to create a customized inventory solution can save a business owner in costs. Most open source programs use other free, open-source technologies, as well, such as the Apache Web server and PHP scripts.
Features for open source inventory systems can vary greatly. For example, some programs may include point-of-sale (POS) functions while others do not. When evaluating applications, ensure the one you choose has the features your business requires. Inventory projects that have an active support and development community are good choices, as these projects are more likely to have regular updates.
Pros of Using Open-Source Warehouse Management Tools
One of the biggest reasons that small businesses use open-source warehouse management software is simple: it’s a question of cost. Business leaders feel that they don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on licensing fees, so they get by with a much cheaper open-source solution.
Whether this works out, again, depends on the implementation and use case. If the business can figure out the nuts and bolts of the open-source software by working with the community, an open-source project can be successful. Others get mired down in confusion, partly due to a lack of support.
A Versatile Framework
Here’s another big reason that many companies of all sizes use open-source warehouse management software: many of these tools are fairly simple to install and learn. But quite a few of them also offer the possibility of self-customization — that is, as long as there are tech-savvy people available who can modify the software. If they do, then they can make the software do all sorts of things that are unique to their business model.
A company that makes food products and needs detailed documentation of different sizes and shapes of containers can build the product specifications into customized software modules that show inventory pieces. A company that wants to tie certain data tables together can do that, in order to get more real-time business intelligence about what’s happening on the floor. This kind of “do-it-yourself” approach appeals to firms that have enough IT skill to make an open framework their own.
Working with the Community
As mentioned above, business users of open-source warehouse management software work with the developer community that maintains the software package. Working with a community is different than getting support from a vendor. It often allows for the kinds of creativity mentioned above, and again, it can be a lot cheaper than trying to get all of the services and support that a client would require from a traditional software vendor.