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Inventory in QuickBooks Online Plus vs. QuickBooks Desktop Pro/Premier/Enterprise

With the incredible proliferation of QuickBooks Online users; I find myself now quite often helping my clients navigate the differences between QuickBooks Online (QBO) and QuickBooks Desktop functionalities; especially when it comes to Inventory related features!


Let me start with QuickBooks Online, it comes in 3 flavors: Simple Start, Essentials, and Plus.  The last one, PLUS, is the one you would need if you are going to manage inventory in QuickBooks Online.   QuickBooks Online Plus is $80 (30% off with my discount) and it comes with 5 users.  There is one good thing about QuickBooks Online Plus regarding inventory; it does FIFO* inventory costing!  Compared to QuickBooks Desktop which only does Avg. Cost (unless you upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise Platinum; which is not an apples to apples comparison when it comes to pricing).

Now onto QuickBooks Pro for Windows (and all higher versions: Premier, Accountant, and Enterprise), the following are features that you get with QuickBooks Desktop that you do not get with QBO Plus related to inventory:

  • Progress Invoicing: the ability to create an invoice based on a percentage or specific item originating from an Estimate, and the system keeping track of what I have invoiced so far.  This is not really so innately used on Inventory transactions; but I have seen it used in many occasions.
  • Partially Received Purchase Orders:  in QBO Plus, you either receive a PO or not receive a PO; yes you can partially receive it, but it will not track the PO as being still open.  These vendor backorder tracking are VERY important.
  • Item Receipts:  in QBO, to receive the inventory you must use a BILL only.  In QuickBooks Desktop, you can use Item Receipt to receive the Inventory and later on when the bill arrives, you can convert the item receipt to Accounts Payable… this is a nice workflow for many companies that want to separate receiving inventory from creating accounts payables.
  • Fixed % Price Levels: this feature allows you to create different levels of pricing that reduces the sales price of an item based on predetermined percentages, like 10%, 25%, 30%, etc.. which makes it much easier for the user to apply a specific price level to an item.
  • Reorder Points (Min): this is a way to track how many of these items do you want to have in the warehouse as a Minimum at all points, to make sure when the amount falls bellow this number, that replenishment is ordered.
  • Manufacturer’s Part Number (MPN): is an additional field that allows to also put the part number from the manufacturer or vendor to use a reference in Purchase Orders
  • Custom Fields: you can add up to 5 custom fields on each item that allows you to record information like weight, color, lead time, category, etc…
  • Item Groups: allows you to sell “kits” of multiple items that are sold together as a package, for example: selling 4 tires.

Then, when we move to QuickBooks Premier (and all higher versions: Accountant and Enterprise), all of the above features plus the following are features that you get with QuickBooks Premier that you do not get with QBO Plus or QuickBooks Pro related to inventory:

  • Sales Orders: Allows you to enter sales without affecting inventory, this is crucial for backorders of customer orders and creating a differentiation with Estimates and Sales Orders.  You can also create a Purchase Order (or multiple if more than one vendor is involved) from a Sales Order, which allows you better tracking or PO’s to SO’s
  • Max Reorder Point:  you can also track the max quantities you would like to have per item to serve as a guide to reorder in the future
  • Multiple Units of Measure:  you can track inventory in more than one unit of measure, for example you can buy in pounds (lbs) and sell in ounces (oz)… Or purchase by the roll and sell by the sheet, etc…
  • Item-Level Price Levels:  you can setup multiple price tables for all items that allows the users to easily choose the appropriate price for the customer or the occasion.
  • Inventory Assemblies:  manufacture or assemble multiple inventory parts and other raw materials into one single new item that carried the accumulated cost of all its components (Bill of Materials)
  • Inventory Center: a fully functional screen like Customer Center or Vendor Center that allows you to see all related transaction and attributes per inventory item
  • Sales Order Fulfillment Worksheet: a great tool that monitors all open sales orders, indicating which ones are partially fulfillable or fully fulfillable and batch print pick list to send to the warehouse to get the items ready to ship

And when we move to QuickBooks Enterprise Bronze, Silver or Gold… you get all the features above plus:

  • Custom Fields: you can have up to 10 custom fields for item in QuickBooks Enterprise
  • Auto Purchase Orders: This feature allows QuickBooks to use the Min Reorder point to determine how many items we need to order to get up to the Max Reorder point, and it will even create the Purchase Order based on the preferred vendor.
  • Where Used in Assemblies: allows you to replace a specific component across all assembly Bill of Materials when a new item is replacing a item not used any more… to all assemblies in a single click.
  • Enhanced Inventory Receiving: fully separating the inventory receiving and bill functions as two separate accounting events which allows for item receipts to have different dates as the related bills.
  • Disallow Negative Quantities: GREAT new feature for 2015, that prevents the user from creating a transaction that could lead to brining inventory to a negative quantity… which is a huge and common problem for QuickBooks users.
  • Find and Search: very neat feature that allows you to search the item list by name, description, or custom field which is very necessary with large item lists
  • Item picture in Inventory Center: you can attach a picture of each item to make it easier for the user to identify the correct item.  Unfortunately, that picture cannot be added to the sales transactions such as estimates, invoices or sales orders.

And Finally, onto QuickBooks Enterprise Platinum; this is the highest featured version of QuickBooks Desktop that contains all the features mentioned above, plus these Advanced Inventory related features are only available in this version:

  • Price Rules: this is part of Advanced Pricing feature that supersedes the Price Level features discussed above, and it allows for multiple conditions that affect item pricing, for example, you can have a price change based on temporary promotions, customer type, and/or class; so it allows for very sophisticated price planning
  • FIFO Inventory Valuation: instead of using Avg. Cost… *QBO has this feature natively
  • Bar code scanning:  you can use Bar Codes to receive inventory on item receipts and/or bill window.  And also use bar code scanning when creating an invoice or sales receipt.   Unfortunately is not so useful for inventory cycle counts or adjustments.
  • Serial Numbers: allows you to add a serial number to each inventory item, and only be able to sell an item based on a serial number.  Or Lot Number Tracking: which allows you to group inventory items by lot number to track things like manufactured date or expiration date, etc…
  • Multiple Inventory Locations:  You can have more than one warehouse where inventory is stored and the inventory will be properly tracked on each location.  Bin Location tracking: you can also track inventory within one location using bin numbers

But, if you still want to work with QuickBooks Online and want some advanced Inventory features, look into either one of these two 3rd party apps that integrate beautifully with QuickBooks Online: SOS Inventory or Exact Online.

Hector Garcia

Hector Garcia

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