A good fit for companies that manage smaller inventory levels, periodic inventory systems involve manually counting inventory at set intervals such as quarterly, annually or somewhere in between.
If your organization handles larger volumes, a perpetual inventory system offers a better way to keep track on an ongoing basis. This tool uses automation to track inventory levels in near-real-time.
The design of the periodic inventory system is fairly straightforward: Only when a physical count is conducted can the system or ledger be updated. In most cases, organizations that use a periodic system will conduct these manual counts at set intervals that coincide with specific business activities. For some, this might be every month, while others may choose to begin each new year with a fresh count.
One of the main benefits of using periodic inventory systems is that they are very easy to manage for smaller quantities. Counting — even when done manually — is relatively simple, and there isn't any software to cause confusion. Training new employees is also fairly straightforward and can be done quickly so that resources aren't spread too thin for too long.
Unfortunately, periodic inventory systems aren't a great fit for larger organizations that deal with high inventory levels. Manually counting inventory can be an extremely lengthy process in this scenario, and the potential for human error is high. In addition, there is no way to accurately estimate levels during interim periods; the only way to be sure (for a short time) is to conduct counts more frequently.
Organizations with lower counts, niche products, larger products and potentially higher-ticket products would see a more substantial benefit for their inventory management by using this type of inventory control system. These conditions may make it easier to count manually compared to organizations dealing with larger quantities that move quickly.
Of the two types of inventory control systems, perpetual uses software and automation to continuously track inventory levels as they change. Items are tracked constantly, and information is stored in a central database for simplified reporting, auditing and more.
Perpetual inventory systems don't require any manual counting, so resources can be better managed to keep costs down. It's also easy to view and understand exact quantities at any interval, as the software tracks the movement of each asset. This means that organizations can access insights whenever they need to in order to assist with ordering and replenishment, sales, discounts and clearance, and their inventory management as a whole.
One of the most common disadvantages of a perpetual inventory control system is the cost. The software required to manage each item can be expensive, and it isn't foolproof. Loss, theft, scanning errors and damage can cause discrepancies that the software isn't able to track, meaning that inaccurate inventory levels may go unnoticed.