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Old 05-10-2014, 05:37 PM   #1
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Keeping Track of Inventory

I need to find a better way to keep track of everything (especially consumables and spares) on board, ie what I have and where I have it. Ideally, I will find some well thought out software, but worst case I will develop some kind of excel spreadsheet, maybe in some kind of sortable matrix format, with columns being storage spaces and rows being the stuff. I will need categories and subcategories.

Even after it's set up, I will need to find a way to keep it up to date and accurate.

Any ideas and suggestions appreciated.
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Old 05-10-2014, 05:52 PM   #2
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While there are several commercial programs for "yacht management/maintenance" available I have used two Excel spreadsheets for years, the parts location one is key, showing: system (engine, water, elec etc, part and location. Then I have a long running spreadsheet for what I need to buy, if I use anything that should be replaced it goes on list, if I think of something new it goes on list, etc.
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Old 05-10-2014, 05:55 PM   #3
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I'm to that point as well, and like you I was thinking of a spreadsheet.

Something with enough information to know where the part is, what its for p/n cost, vendor, etc...

I don't see a need to do this for little stuff like screws and tye wraps, but actual part numbered spares would be nice.

I dont want software because then I have to keep it up to date with the software company. A spreadsheet is pretty backwards compatible.
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Old 05-10-2014, 06:22 PM   #4
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I'm using wheelhouse technologies software. They helped a lot in setting it up with parts numbers etc. did my own spread sheet but just couldn't get all their bells and whistles put together. Www.wheelhousetech.Com/. I think it runs around 380. Per year once set up.
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Old 05-10-2014, 06:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksanders View Post
I'm to that point as well, and like you I was thinking of a spreadsheet.

Something with enough information to know where the part is, what its for p/n cost, vendor, etc...

I don't see a need to do this for little stuff like screws and tye wraps, but actual part numbered spares would be nice.

I dont want software because then I have to keep it up to date with the software company. A spreadsheet is pretty backwards compatible.
Why not screws and tie wraps? And batteries? Yes, you buy them in bulk, but to me sometimes that tends to make me less likely to realize it's time to buy more.

Spreadsheet works, although you can get a cheap software program and never worry about updating it with the software company. Only time that can haunt you is years later when Microsoft updates to a Windows version it's not compatible with. Spreadsheet works fine though as long as one regularly reviews it and looks for things they're out of or what they have is dangerously old. Impellers are the first thing I think of in the latter group.
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:45 PM   #6
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I've just been using a spreadsheet. The real work is having the discipline to keep it up to date.
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Old 05-10-2014, 08:19 PM   #7
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Dang, you guys must have boats that are much bigger and much better stocked than ours is. I can do a food inventory in about 30 seconds and make a list with my pen and paper. Same with batteries, the liquor cabinet, condiments, etc. . I look in the drawers and cabinets to find out what we have left, then visit Costco.

I do have an Excel spreadsheet that shows spare parts part numbers and source. I don't track price because that changes too fast. I keep track of purchase dates of spare parts and can look back five years through the receipts to find where I bought it.

I guess I'm doing this wrong, but I go boating to have fun, not to become an overanxious bookkeeper.
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Old 05-10-2014, 08:32 PM   #8
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I only do it for parts. They are too scattered about for me to remember what and where. I typically know I have a certain thing, but can't find it for the life of me. It's part of getting older.
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Old 05-10-2014, 11:32 PM   #9
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Excel is a very versatile program. I used it to develop Learjet and King Air weight and balance programs that allowed inputs of pilot, passenger and cargo weights. The program used macros to determine the maximum fuel loads to remain within aircraft limits and would depict the location and weight of all loads in a graphic representation of the aircraft. The program knew weight limits of all compartments and seats and would not allow an out-of-tolerance entry to be made without prominently flagging the entry. The fuel burn was evaluated to watch for balance excedences as the flight would progress.

The same can be done with parts expiration dates and maintenance due dates. Any overdue part or service can be flagged with warning notations or colored fonts/backgrounds to draw your attention to the exceedence. Columns can be sorted by due date, alphabetically or numerically.

If you need help setting up these sorts of macros and internal programming equations, PM me.
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Old 05-11-2014, 12:07 AM   #10
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You need a simple version of the software I use to manage the inventory of my store.

Look for Point of Sale and Inventory Management software. You shouldn't need to invent something. I think at the heart of them they are all data base management software rather than spread sheet software.

Even the most basic will allow you to keep track of Part Number, Description, Cost, Location, Quantity on Hand, and Quantity on Order, Vendor and a bunch of stuff you'll probably never use. They will make suggested shopping lists (Purchase Orders) for you. They'll keep a history of how many you use over a period of time.

There are hundreds of programs out there that will do this. They range from free to expensive. What you need is an Inventory / Point of Sale (POS) system for a small single location retail store.
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Old 05-11-2014, 01:02 AM   #11
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We use Vessel Vanguard which is pretty easy to use and reasonably priced, at least for us. But, as Hopcar said, it is all DB management software. If you are at all proficient with MS Access, you can set the same up yourself fairly simply. If not, you should be able to find a local Access guy that can set it up for you fairly cheaply. At heart, it is a pretty simple DB.
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Old 05-11-2014, 01:16 AM   #12
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Functionality vs. Ease of Use.

There are many inventory management software programs out there, the most popular entry level being probably Quickbooks. As said, you could build one in any database software as well. However, they all require more effort to build and maintain than Excel. Excel allows you just to key without setting anything up in advance, just to change numbers at will. Any true inventory program will require you to set the item up initially and will require you to make inventory changes by going through all the steps, reporting receipts, usage, etc. at a minimum. Can't just go in and change 2 to 1. Have to enter usage of 1. Can't change 2 to 3. Have to enter received 1. Can't receive one without setting the item up first.

Now, these systems can be more accurate and provide more information, but the question is will you go through the effort to set it up and maintain it. I've seen many give up before they ever got the initial inventory entered. Also, although minor, there is a learning curve to a new way of doing things. You know Excel already I'm sure.

Now if I wanted a database inventory program, I'd never have someone write it. Too many exist to spend the time or money on what might not be as good as any of them.
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Old 05-11-2014, 05:46 AM   #13
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Keeping data base up to date. I have found discipline is necessary but it is not time consuming. In fact it is likely I have saved time because I know where the part I bought five years ago is, and also that I have one. I have been "surprised" a couple of times that I actually had the part I desperately needed.

As far as part numbers are concerned I keep that information on a separate spread sheet that is less frequently used. After all the part number doesn't change whenever you use/replace it.

An additional complication for me is that I spend 7-8 months a year 3,000 miles/5,000 kilometers from the boat and frequently need information on what I need or have. Excel has been very useful. 80% of my buying is done off season and shipped from the US in one batch.
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Old 05-11-2014, 09:28 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Functionality vs. Ease of Use.

There are many inventory management software programs out there, the most popular entry level being probably Quickbooks. As said, you could build one in any database software as well. However, they all require more effort to build and maintain than Excel. Excel allows you just to key without setting anything up in advance, just to change numbers at will. Any true inventory program will require you to set the item up initially and will require you to make inventory changes by going through all the steps, reporting receipts, usage, etc. at a minimum. Can't just go in and change 2 to 1. Have to enter usage of 1. Can't change 2 to 3. Have to enter received 1. Can't receive one without setting the item up first.

Now, these systems can be more accurate and provide more information, but the question is will you go through the effort to set it up and maintain it. I've seen many give up before they ever got the initial inventory entered. Also, although minor, there is a learning curve to a new way of doing things. You know Excel already I'm sure.

Now if I wanted a database inventory program, I'd never have someone write it. Too many exist to spend the time or money on what might not be as good as any of them.
I work with the inventory portion of quickbooks every day. When someone mentioned a database earlier I thought of using quickbooks, just creating a new company file for my boat spares. It could be done, and it wouldn't be difficult.

Then (like you) I thought how quickly I can create an excel spreadsheet with a separate part for each row, and the columns representing the things I need to know about that part such as location, age, etc...

As I indicated earlier I do not want to count tye wraps or screws. I want to know about things like "where did I stash the vaccuflush head water valve?" and stuff like that.

We boat in some of the remotest areas of North America and have to keep a pretty extensive supply of spares onboard to support that cruising. Much like I suppose the bahamas, in Alaska you dont just go to the local store and buy specialized parts. I have parts in many nooks and cranneys on the boat and am always wondering...

1. Do I even have a vaccuflush water valve on board?
2. Where exactly is it?
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Old 05-11-2014, 10:46 AM   #15
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When it comes down to it, you can do this with a sheet of paper and a pencil. Before computers, we kept track of our inventory on 3 X 5 cards, more than 15000 of them.

How many different parts are you trying to keep track of? I bet a typical boater has fewer than a hundred different spares on his boat. Just make a list of what you've got and where it is and count everything once in a while to see if you need anything.

Honey, I'm going down to Hopkins-Carter to buy a new Widget. Check the list and see if we need anything else.
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Old 05-11-2014, 11:03 AM   #16
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Old 05-11-2014, 11:12 AM   #17
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I use an Excel spreadsheet for spares inventory and something similar for shopping lists. I store the files on Google-Drive (free storage on Google server) so I can access the files from anywhere with an internet connection. I have an Android cellphone with an Excel view/edit app, so my inventory and other lists are right there in my pocket.

FWIW:
I have a terrible memory and rely greatly on lists. IMHO the best list software is ListPro (link below). Any number of lists, formatted any way you like and displayed logically for easy access. I have it on my pc and versions are available for Mac and iphone. Prices vary from $5 to $20 depending on platform. Unfortunately the developers have yet to issue a version for Android - strange bearing in mind how many gazillion Android phones there are.

Ilium Software :: ListPro

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Old 05-11-2014, 01:39 PM   #18
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Lot's of good ideas. Until now, I have relied on paper and pencil. The limitations are that I only get one copy that way, and don't consistently take it home when I leave the boat. Since the boat is often in a foreign port, that can be very frustrating when I forget the inventory (either at home, thinking I left it on the boat, or vice versa). I recognize that the fault is my own, but when I go electronic, I can always have a copy (including on my iphone). Several years ago I collected pdfs of the owners manuals for all of my important equipment and it is very convenient to always have that available.

The other limitation is that it is hard to search a paper record. Excel will be perfect for that.

Lastly, it isn't very easy to incorporate pictures into written records (certainly doable, just not easy), but I intend to take pictures of misc. categories of stuff. A picture is worth 1,000 words. So, for example, instead of inventorying all of the cleaning supplies, I can call up a few pics and look to see if I have, say, dinghy cleaner.

I have started to write my spreadsheet. Rows for items, columns for information. Some of the columns are restricted to drop down lists. For example, one column will be the area of the boat in which something is stored, and within each area are drop down lists for the specific places unique to that area. Similarly, each item will fit into a category -- such as mechanical spares, consumables (non-food), etc., including food. Although I don't intend to inventory all of the food on board, we do have a bunch of frozen stuff (in large tupperware containers) in a chest freezer. At this point, I have no idea what is at the bottom of that freezer or how old it is. It will be nice to get that inventoried and used before expiration or thrown out after.

More advice is certainly welcome and appreciated. I will check out that iphone app.
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Old 05-11-2014, 02:17 PM   #19
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Now when you talk food, that's where my system may be of use. I do not write down what I have, because the boat is fully stocked most of the time. What I do is write down each item as I use it. Thus I know that right now I'm down peanut butter, pie crust mix, popcorn, oh, and 3x5 cards.

If your boat is fully stocked, why not simply right down what you use and call that your shopping list? I'm simple: I use 3x5 index cards. For me, it works.
Janice142 article 3x5 Cards

As for your boat parts inventory, I have lockers where I store stuff as needed -- and within some generalities I know that anything electrical is in the forward bench of the dinette. But I'm fairly well organized by nature.

However if I had a big boat like yours I'd dedicate one of the cabins as the Chandlery. All boat related tools/spares and equipment rebuild parts would go there. The hanging locker would no doubt be turned into storage shelves. Scattering stuff here and there is a recipe for lost items. Find one place and everything goes there.

Free advice. The most dangerous sort!
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Old 05-11-2014, 02:18 PM   #20
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I also have CRS. I blue tape my tupperware or use a Sharpie on the FoodSaver bags with contents and date.

Like Shoalwaters, I save my boat work to-do list, parts requirements, vessel fluid capacities and other useful documents on Google Drive so I can access it anywhere at anytime. It's come in handy very often.
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