Choosing A Relatively Low-Tech Inventory System For A Small Workshop

For do-it-yourself enthusiasts and small workshop owners like yourself, staying organized generally isn't that difficult. However, ensuring you are always aware of which parts and tools you have can be a bit confusing unless you have a good inventory system. It's very easy to let parts sit or to mentally say to yourself that you're running out of X part, only to forget to go to the store for more. However, the phrase inventory system can sound relatively complicated. There are low-tech options you can use, and with a good inventory system, you can be sure you have the parts you need for whatever project you're working on.

Low-Tech or No-Tech

First decide if you want to have a low-tech system or a no-tech system. A low-tech system might be a computer spreadsheet. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does require software and a computer, especially one that you can keep in or near the workshop. If you don't want to rely on a computerized system, go no-tech with index cards or even just a weekly cleaning schedule when you look at all of the parts you have and make a list of what to order or buy.

Cleaning Up, Anyways?

If you already clean up your whole workshop frequently, and you're more concerned with knowing you have a general amount of something (e.g., some, a lot) instead of knowing the specific number of items you have, your inventory system can be as simple as having rows of bins that you can see into easily. Each time you clean up, check inside each bin to see whether the supply appears to be getting low or if it's still looking good. The drawbacks to this system are a) you'll have only vague knowledge, and b) you have to do this often to ensure you always have some idea of what's there. You won't be able to skip this step that often.


Computer spreadsheets are good options if you want to centralize your inventory. Bins can be spread out around the workshop due to space limitations, but the computer is in one spot. If you prefer a non-computerized system, use -- and this is a serious suggestion -- a photo or shoebox with index cards. The advantage here is that the cards are simple to update and can be moved around or modified easily with no worries about how a change might affect the other cards (unlike software, which can change the formatting of an entire document unexpectedly). The disadvantage is that you have to remember to manually update the cards for the supplies you use.

The more work you do, the more organized you should be, though that doesn't mean you absolutely have to get a top-of-the-line computer inventory system. However, you should have something in place to save yourself the frustration of going to get a part and finding it's not there. Talk to the hardware stores and industrial suppliers you buy from and see if they have heard of low-key inventory solutions that you can take a look at.