A Brief History of Inventory Management

History books, Fishbowl BlogRight now is a great time to be alive, isn’t it? I mean, we have so much technology that makes life easier and reduces the amount of time it takes to perform simple, mundane tasks. I think it’s good to step back every now and then and think about things we take for granted and acknowledge how good life is because of them.

One of those things I’d like to talk about right now is inventory management software. While many companies still aren’t taking advantage of it to the fullest, ones that are using it can easily forget how hard it was to manage inventory without it. So let’s go through a brief history of inventory management to see what an amazing invention inventory management software truly is.

In the Beginning

I suppose inventory management was first invented by Adam when he named all the animals or by Noah when he counted the clean and unclean beasts for the Ark. But for the sake of brevity, we’ll jump ahead to modern times.

Before the Industrial Revolution, merchants basically had to write down all of the products they sold every day. Then they had to order more products based on their hand-written notes and their gut feelings. This was an incredibly inefficient and inaccurate way of doing business.

Merchants couldn’t really account for stolen goods unless they did time-consuming physical counts on a regular basis. They also had trouble making sure they got the right number of products when orders came in because of sparse record keeping. But it was the best they could do.

Hole-y Breakthrough, Batman!

Luckily, in 1889 a man named Herman Hollerith invented the first punch card that could be read by machines. By feeding sheets of paper that have little holes in specific places, people could record complex data for a variety of purposes from census taking to clocking in and out of work. This was basically the precursor to computers that can read data in tiny microchips. And Hollerith’s company even went on to form the world’s first computer company, IBM.

Harvard University took Hollerith’s idea in the 1930s and created a punch card system for businesses. Companies could tell which products were being ordered and also record some inventory and sales data based on punch cards customers would fill out for catalog items. Unfortunately, Harvard’s order management system cost too much and was too slow to keep up with rising business challenges.

The Best, Bar None

In the 1960s, a group of retailers (mostly grocery stores, at first) got together and came up with a new method for tracking inventory: the modern barcode. There were several competing types of barcodes before they were standardized with the Universal Product Code (UPC) in 1974. It’s still the most-used barcode in the United States today.

As computers become more efficient and cheaper, UPCs grew in popularity. In the mid-1990s, companies started experimenting with inventory management software that would record data as products were scanned in and out of warehouses. The technology evolved into a comprehensive inventory management solution by the early 2000s. And now, even small and midsize businesses can find affordable inventory management software to meet their needs.

Inventory management software has been decades (even hundreds of years) in the making. And now that it’s here, you should definitely take advantage of it to make sure your business doesn’t become history. Sign up for an online inventory software demo today.


About Robert Lockard

Robert Lockard is a copywriter with Fishbowl. He writes for several blogs about inventory management, manufacturing, QuickBooks and small business. Fishbowl Inventory is the #1-requested inventory management software for QuickBooks users. Robert enjoys running, reading, writing, spending time with his wife and children, and watching movies. His favorite movies include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Fiddler on the Roof, Back to the Future and Lawrence of Arabia.
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11 Responses to A Brief History of Inventory Management

  1. Cap Table says:

    I’ve one query, I was unable to find software OS requirements at the website. Can you please make s post in this.

  2. Nwosa jackson says:

    Pls sir/madam i am a final year student of delta state polytechnic in nigeria pls i need ur help on this project topic the effect of inventory management on the productivity in manufacturing company (chapter one) i will be very greatful if u help me on this quest. Thanks

    • Thank you for asking. Here is a link to a half-dozen case studies that show specifically how improved inventory management (through the use of software) affected manufacturing companies: http://www.fishbowlinventory.com/case-studies/manufacturing/

      They mostly benefit from greater efficiency, making better use of their workers’ time, and being able to plan and organize their operations and inventory needs so they conserve resources and spend their money more wisely. I hope this helps. Good luck with your project.

  3. kelvin says:

    hello please help me on my project on impacts of I.T on service delivery in procurement procedures and inventory control is an independent variable

  4. khadar says:

    Thank you, we have got great description about inventory

  5. mariahassan says:

    helo plz tell me about history of information systems beginning to this time plzzzzzzz em waitng

  6. joice says:

    please im effa kindly help me with this: the impact of technology on inventory management

  7. Eye Light says:

    Thanks for your help ^-^. keep on your good work.

  8. Anietie Bassey says:

    pls I need an updated site that specifically described hw to implement inventory system easily and manage

    • Thank you for asking. You know who could really help? Not a Web page, but an expert. Call Fishbowl at 1-800-774-7085 Ext. 2 and they’ll be able to answer your questions and be a big help.

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