UPDATE: See response from Unleashed in the comments
Sometimes a business needs a more advanced inventory to track stock and sales. Unfortunately, few online accounting programs have anything more than the basics.
The best option is to find an add-on program that will integrate with your accounting program. Xero has the most options (15 when I counted) although some were specific to certain industries. QBO has just three add-on inventory programs, one of which (Unleashed) is still in beta.
I road-tested two of the add-on inventory products that could be integrated into both Xero and QBO – Dear and Unleashed. Although Unleashed is still in beta for QBO it should be available within the next couple of months.
CIN7 also integrates to both but was not reviewed. I had issues accessing a trial version and it is not directly comparable with the other two. CIN7 is a lot more expensive and is probably best suited to a larger organisations with more complex requirements.
I focused on the financial aspects of the total solution including the integration to the accounting software and reviewed the logistics functionality.
Product or Item Details
Both software products supported:
- Ability to clone/copy products
- Stock & Service product types
- Price Categories/Tiers
- Reorder levels
- Default supplier for purchases
- Attach jpegs
- Drop shipments
Unleashed has two advantages here. It allows for an automatic mark-up of product selling prices based on a variety of cost prices and a default purchase price by product. Dear requires a purchase price by supplier.
Customers and Suppliers
The data stored on customers and suppliers was standard across both software products with just a couple of notable features:
- I couldn’t set a credit limit on customers in Unleashed, although there is a tick box for stop credit. I could set a credit limit in Dear.
- A plus for Unleashed is separate email addresses for invoicing and packing slips for each customer, which is a nice touch. Dear has separate email addresses by contact but not by function.
Both software products support the standard logistics functions:
- Quotes, pick, pack and ship for sales orders and receipting for purchase orders
- Partial receipts of purchase orders and partial shipments of sales orders
- Assembly and production orders. Dear allows the inclusion of labour costs against a production order. This is in the pipeline in Unleashed.
- Unit of measure conversion, although this was fairly limited in both.
- Manage multiple warehouses with transfers between warehouses
- Stock on hand and stock availability reporting
Businesses that import goods from overseas need to know a landed cost to calculate gross profit margins rather than a purchase price. This is important as it includes components such as duty and freight.
The process is more straightforward in Unleashed as I could add these additional costs against the purchase order. This must be done before the goods receipt is recorded which may pose a procedural challenge, however the solution did work quite neatly.
Dear links the purchase order and the supplier bill so landed costs need to be added to the purchase order via a manual journal. This is a little more cumbersome but certainly doable.
Stock takes are a necessary evil, especially at year end. Both software products had functionality for a complete stock count by warehouse but I found Unleashed to be lacking some desirable features:
- Unleashed doesn’t let you enter a date for the stocktake. This means you have to record and finalise the count before midnight on June 30 for the reporting to be effective in that financial year. Many of my clients would struggle with this challenge.
- Unleashed doesn’t let you specify which account to post the stocktake variance to. The variance is automatically posted to the account specified in the integration set-up for cost of goods sold. Many businesses prefer to have a specific stock adjustment account in their P&L. The workaround would be to change the cost of goods sold account just to post the stocktake and then change it back.
- The quantity on hand is not displayed in Unleashed when entering the count. (This was available via a parameter setting in Dear.) This can sometimes prevent errors but the variance report will assist here.
Dear was more flexible in its approach as I could specify the write-off account on the stocktake. Entering the date for the count meant I could backdate it. However, data entry for the count was slow and laborious, requiring the user to click each line and enter the quantity in a pop-up window.
The recommendation from Dear is to export the stocktake to Excel, enter the quantities there and import back if the product list is long.
Both software products allow for stock adjustments for ongoing adjustments. Dear has separate sections for products with a positive and zero quantity on hand which is a bit cumbersome.
Unleashed can make a value adjustment which can be helpful for obsolete stock. Dear didn’t have this feature.
Both software products had a range of reports which appear to satisfy most requirements. Dear has an inventory aging report which I couldn’t see in Unleashed.
Dear has filtering on each column meaning the report could be very specific if required. It also has more analytical reports e.g. purchase Order vs Invoiced, Goods Received vs Invoice, Profit by Sales Representative, etc.
Both software products export reports to PDF and Microsoft Excel.
Dear uses FIFO along with batch and serial number-specific prices while Unleashed uses average cost. For most businesses the costing methodology is not an issue, neither is it necessarily better except under certain circumstances.
Both products support multi-currency for purchase and sales orders. I encountered a few issues, though.
- Neither Dear nor Unleashed converted product sales prices into the currency of the customer. This was the same for purchase orders, although Dear did allow for a purchase price to be recorded for the supplier so the FX (foreign exchange) price could be recorded there.
- Unleashed values stock using the exchange rate recorded on the purchase order. When the draft bill passes to Xero, however, Xero uses its exchange rate current at that date which may not be the same as the rate in Unleashed. This results in a variance between the Unleashed Inventory Valuation report and the QBO balance sheet. The solution from Unleashed is to do a value adjustment in Unleashed to get the values back into sync. This could be a time consuming and laborious practice. Dear passes the exchange rate recorded on the purchase order across to QBO so no variance due to FX rates was experienced.
Integration to Accounting Systems
I integrated Dear to QBO and Unleashed to Xero so I wasn’t exactly comparing apples with apples. However, in both instances the integration was easy to set up. Unleashed continuously synchronises in the background to the accounting software whereas Dear requires user intervention to sync.
- Unleashed can specify a sales account for a product so it is possible to post sales invoices to different sales accounts. However, the Cost Of Goods Sold account is set up in the integration mapping so only one COGS account can be used across the board. In Dear, I can specify both sales and cost of sales at the product level giving a little more flexibility, especially as neither product supports tracking categories (Xero) or classes (QBO).
- Unleashed unexpectedly creates a draft invoice for a sale transaction and a separate draft bill for the Cost of Goods Sold entry. As draft documents they must be separately approved before the accounts are updated. I was advised that a similar process will happen when the integration to QBO is available except there is no concept of draft documents.
- Dear unexpectedly passes both the supplier bill and the purchase order to QBO. While the purchase order did not create any updates to the financials, it was possible to record a bill against this in QBO which was both confusing and could lead to errors.
- I also had some issues with the correct treatment of orders on overseas suppliers and the GST status which I am still following up with Dear.
Help and Support
Unleashed won this one hands down. I could go directly to the relevant section in the help centre from the data entry screen. Dear has some comprehensive video tutorials which are not too helpful when you need assistance in a particular screen.
The Dear website has some knowledge base articles and the ability to log a support ticket.
Dear subscriptions are priced in US dollars; Australian users could be in for some unexpected shocks with the current currency volatility. It costs US$50 for the first user and US$25 per additional user.
Unleashed is AU$38.50 for a single user. Most businesses will want the professional licence (AU$104.50 per month or AU$86.90 billed annually) which allows for three users, three warehouses, 10,000 products and multi-currency.
- Start with a clear understanding of business requirements from the inventory software.
- Fully test the trial version of both including the integration to your accounting software to check it meets requirements.
- Consider if you will need an e-commerce or CRM solution and how this will work with the inventory program.
- Remember, you are likely to be paying a lot more in monthly subscription for the inventory add-on than you are for the accounting software, so careful checking is worthwhile.
A version of this post first appeared on Cloud Accounting Buzz.