7 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets for Managing Inventory

Relying solely on spreadsheets to track inventory is a common practice for many warehouses and distribution centers. However, spreadsheets have limitations that can actually undermine an efficient supply chain. Here are 7 key disadvantages to using them for inventory management:
Error-prone data entry - Manually entering numbers into spreadsheets means mistakes are easily made. Over time, minor errors accumulate which skew the real inventory picture. Scenario: Jane enters 10 units received instead of 100 due to a missed keystroke. For months, product reports were overstocked and valuable warehouse space was blocked from more profitable SKUs.
No centralized data source - Data exists independently across multiple spreadsheets with different updates. Employees can't quickly access consistent, real-time data. Scenario: A manager needs the current inventory at a remote site, but only has an outdated spreadsheet. An urgent order can't be fulfilled until data is sent via email and manually updated, delaying the customer by days.
Lack of integration - Spreadsheets operate independently from other critical systems in the tech stack. Data can't flow seamlessly between processes, creating silos. Scenario: An order is placed but can't be located in the warehouse as spreadsheets aren't linked to bin/location data. Multiple employees waste hours searching before realizing the order was wrongly marked as fulfilled in a standalone spreadsheet.
Limited reporting - Basic spreadsheets provide only basic reporting on inventory levels and usage over time. Advanced analytics on costs, forecasting, trends are inaccessible without additional resources or tools. Scenario: During the busy season, management notices increasing costs to fill orders, but without analytics, they can't pinpoint where the root cause of the problems are.
Version control issues - With multiple users updating independent files, spreadsheets don’t reference the same data and information gets mixed or outdated. Scenario: Two employees update different spreadsheets at the same time without version control. The next physical inventory count shows 10 of the same items logged twice as received based on the data from conflicting spreadsheets.
No mobility - Access is limited to desktops alone. Warehouse employees need real-time access to inventory from any location using mobile devices to quickly resolve issues. Scenario: A forklift operator needs to locate a needed item urgently but can only access inventory data back at the desktop. Time is wasted walking items while the production line sits idle, impacting operations.
Manual processes - Tasks like cycle counting, receiving, short picking can’t fully utilize barcode scanning or automation because spreadsheets require keyboard inputs. Scenario: Each morning, receiving involves manually re-keying packing slips into spreadsheets between unloading. With just 2-3 items per minute processed, lines rapidly back up without barcode scanning automation integrated with inventory.
A better solution is an integrated warehouse inventory management app. Dynamics Mobile provides a fully-featured app with real-time updates, analytics, scanning and track-and-trace capabilities optimized for life in the warehouse. Our seamless ERP integrations ensure accurate data flows smoothly across systems. Contact us to learn how you can elevate your operations at!