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The MacGyver-esque approach to using reorder points for multiple products

If you have clients on QuickBooks® Online (QBO) Plus, with inventory enabled, then note: having reorder points can help prevent you from being out of stock on crucial items.

What is a reorder point? It’s the minimum quantity of a particular inventory item that you need to have in stock at any given time. If you reach, or go below, that quantity, you’ll be told by QuickBooks that you’re low and should reorder. You’ll see how in the next section.

To set up a reorder point on an inventory item, simply enter the minimum quantity you want to have on hand in the Reorder Point field when you add or edit the product.

Now, here’s where that tiny effort comes back to repay you.

Low stock warning

At the top of the Products and Services list, you can see – staring you in the face – two huge icons. The one on the right is red for out of stock items. But, the one on the left is orange for a warning that you’re low on stock (because you’ve reached, or gone below, the reorder point), which actually includes out of stock items as well. So, yes, “out of stock” is a subset of “low on stock.” In the screen capture below, there is one item that is completely out of stock and four additional ones that are merely low on stock, adding up to the five that are listed as “low stock” in orange on the left. (If there was just one item out of stock and nothing else, you’d see the number 1 next to the orange icon and the number 1 next to the red icon. I think that’s odd, but whatever.)

By the way, you can collapse this warning area and see more of the Products and Services List by clicking on the upward-pointing caret in the bottom right of this section. It turns into a downward-pointing one when you want to expand this area.

Reordering more stock

Once you’ve discovered that you’re low on stock or, heaven forbid, out of stock, you’ll want to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’re risking lost sales and lost customers, perhaps forever. Joe and Jane Customer will buy their widgets from someone else who can manage their inventory levels more efficiently.

Filtering the products and services list

Once you see the warning icons at the top of the Products and Services list, just click on one of them to filter the list by that parameter. If you want to see only out of stock items, click on the red out of stock icon on the right. If you want to see all items that are out low/out of stock, click on the orange low stock icon on the left.

I’m clicking on the orange low stock icon (and, spoiler alert: I’ve removed their pre-assigned Product Categories for all the products).

Now, only those products that are low on stock or out of stock appear in the filtered list. I can reorder them all in a batch by checking the box at the top of the left checkbox column and then clicking on Batch actions > Recorder.

The issue with this workflow is that one single Purchase Order opens with all low/no stock items on it, even though the items have different Preferred Vendors.

(The Purchase Order, by the way, has no Vendor in the Vendor field.)

Let’s take the MacGyver approach

So, what if we edit each of these products to populate a new category, where each Product Category is consistent with the name of that product’s Preferred Vendor?

I’ve taken a very simple example. Three of the five items have a Preferred Vendor of Sprinkler Guy and two have a Preferred Vendor of Fountain Lady. So, I have created a Product Category with each of those names and assigned each of the low/no stock items to its appropriate Product Category.

Now, with this filtered list open, let’s check the boxes only in the Product Category Fountain Lady and click on Batch actions > Reorder. It’s easy enough to do because they’re together in one section:

The resulting Purchase Order has only the Fountain Lady products on it. The Vendor field is still vacant, which bothers me. However, the names of the items in the body of the Purchase Order prompt the user as to which vendor name to use:

A few notes and comments:

  • If, instead of a Batch Action, I choose to reorder just one item, the resulting Purchase Order is automatically populated with the name of the Preferred Vendor.
  • Regardless of how the reordering is done – individually or in a batch, and what the deficiency is to get above the reorder point – the quantity on the Purchase Order of each different item starts at 1 and is up to the user to edit.
  • However, when the user hovers their mouse over the Qty field in the PO, QuickBooks provides a pop-up window with an alert regarding the current quantity, quantity on order and the reorder point, prompting the user to enter an appropriate reorder quantity.
  • You can customize the Products and Services list to add a column for Quantity on PO so that you don’t end up opening up a PO to order more of a product that is already on order:
  • Nevertheless, if there is a quantity of a product already on one or more PO’s that will remedy its low/no stock status, there is no way of knowing that, unless you look at the QTY on PO number for that particular product. (Or, if you open a PO and start to order more of that product, as indicted in #3.) That product is still included in the orange total, undifferentiated from others that don’t have any quantity on PO. I feel that there should be perhaps a different color, signifying that its status is being remedied by a PO, or a flag or something.

Conclusion About Using Product Categories for Reordering Multiple Products

Clearly, if Product Categories for products and services are already being used for their intended purposes (quick form entry, subtotals and some easier manual filtering on reports), this workaround might not be for you. However, you should consider massaging your current use of Product Categories to incorporate Preferred Vendors (perhaps with Product Sub-Categories), and get the best of both worlds.

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