Small Business Software Review: Fishbowl Inventory 2012

Fishbowl Inventory 2012 may be a niche-filler, but it’s no weakling stopgap measure. The popular inventory management add-on for QuickBooks does a commendable job keeping inventory assets in full view and on the move for small businesses.

It’s even suitable for mid-sized businesses or departments of larger organizations. “NASA, for example, uses Fishbowl to track food and materials for the space station,” said Kendrick Hair, product manager at Fishbowl.

To be clear, Fishbowl Inventory 2012 is a small business asset management system — that is to say an inventory management system — that automates inventory functions and processes. It tells you at a glance what inventory you have on hand, where it is stored, and what is on order. Plus it reconciles the order with what was actually received from the vendor.

You can tell, for example, that you have 15 widgets in Warehouse A, 30 in Warehouse B, 50 in route to Retailer XYZ, one under your desk and three that your top salesmen are currently carrying around for demonstrations.

The system can track inventory by nearly any criteria such as lot numbers, expiration dates, revision labels and serial numbers or any combination thereof.

“That’s why we named it FishBowl. You can peer into it and, like a real fishbowl, see your entire inventory — whether stored onsite or off — in one place or many, right down to what end of which shelf and on what row and packed in which box, if you wish,” explained Hair.

Coming Soon: Capacity Planning and CRM

It is, in essence, a SMB-tailored enterprise resource planning (ERP) system without the huge price tag and the cumbersome IT requirements, but it is also missing a few key features such as a capacity planning component.

Fishbowl inventory 2012 dashboard

Figure 1: The Fishbowl Inventory 2012 dashboard.

This means that Fishbowl Inventory will not calculate the inventory burn-rate and replenishing schedules. So, if you get hit with a large order, say at Christmas, the system will not automatically alert you to the need to order more stock or raw materials based on your projected need for the remainder of the month or the months that follow.

However, a capacity component is currently under development and will first appear as a calendar module scheduled for release on February 9. “We use Agile and release every two months, building the system brick by brick,” said Hair.

Next up, he said, is a cloud platform called Fishbowl Pipeline, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, and increased mobile functionality. Pipeline went Beta this month and is scheduled for launch in February.

For now, if you find that the total number of widgets on hand is too low, you can reorder widgets, or the raw materials to make the widgets, from approved vendors in your system. You can rank the vendors according to any preference you wish from price points to delivery reliability. Reordering is thus simplified to a click.

Warehousing and fulfillment processes are automated or integrated to other systems to complete the loop. For example, once you input a sales order, the system notifies the warehouse so the items can be picked, packed and shipped.

The system integrates with FedEx and UPS so shipment weights are automatically entered from the warehouse data. Contact info, shipping address, and shipping option (overnight, ground, etc.) are automatically ported from the sales form, and the shipping label is thus automatically generated. Invoicing is handled through integration with QuickBooks. Fishbowl also has a developer network and an API for other app integrations.

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