If you manage a business which deals with physical goods, supply chain management is an important part of your business process. Whether you're running a tiny Etsy store with just a few customers, or a Fortune 500 manufacturer or retailer with thousands of products and millions of customers worldwide, it's important for you to have a close understanding of your inventory and the parts and raw materials you need to make your products.
Keeping track of physical items, suppliers, customers, and all of the many moving parts associated with each can greatly benefit from, and in some cases be totally dependent on specialized software to help you manage these workflows. In this article, we'll take a look at some free and open source software options for supply chain management, and some of the features of each.
Supply chain management goes a little further than just inventory management. It can help you keep track of the flow of goods, to reduce costs, and help plan scenarios in which the supply chain could change. It can help you to keep track of compliance issues, whether these fall under the umbrella of legal requirements, quality minimums, or social and environmental responsibility. It can help you plan the minimum supply to keep on hand, and make smart decisions about order quantities and delivery times.
Because of their nature, a good deal of supply chain management software is bundled with other similar software, such as customer relationship managers and enterprise resource planning tools. So when making a decision about what tool is best for your organization, you may wish to consider integration with other tools as a part of your decision making criteria.
Apache OFBiz is actually a suite of related tools for helping you manage a variety of business processes. While it can manage a variety of related issues like catalogs, e-commerce sites, accounting, and point of sale, its primary supply chain functions focus on warehouse management, fulfillment, order, and manufacturing management. It is very customizable, but the flip side of that is that it requires a good deal of careful planning to set up and integrate with your existing processes, and is probably the best fit for a medium to large scale operation. The project's functionality is built across three layers: presentation, business, and data, making it a scalable solution, but again, a complex one.
OpenBoxes is a supply chain management and inventory control project, primarily and originally designed for keeping track of pharmaceuticals in a healthcare environment, but it can be modified to track any type of stock and the flows associated with it. It has tools for demand forecasting based on historical order quantities, tracking of stock, support of multiple facilities, expiration date tracking, kiosk support, and many other features which make it ideal for healthcare situations but which could also be useful for other industries.
The last tool in our supply chain management roundup is Odoo, which you might recognize from our previous top ERP projects article. In fact, a full ERP may be good fit for you, depending on your needs. Odoo's supply chain management tools mostly revolve around inventory and purchase management, and connectivity with e-commerce and point of sale, but it can also connect to other tools like frePPLe for open source production planning.
Odoo is available both as a software as a service solution, as well as an open source community edition. The open source edition is released under an LGPL version 3, and the source is available on GitHub. Odoo is primarily written in Python.
There are, of course, other open source tools which can provide help with supply chain management. Know of a good one that we left off here? Let us know in the comments below.