Procurement 101

Purchase Order Tracking: 3 Ways to Track Purchase Orders

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10 minute read

Written by

Logan Price

Purchase Order Tracking: 3 Ways to Track Purchase Orders

Is your business implementing purchase order tracking? If not, it’s time to start, even if your company is still growing.

In fact—particularly if it’s growing.

Purchase order tracking is essential for successful procurement. What's more, research has shown that effective purchase order tracking increases overall organizational performance.

However, purchase order tracking, if not done correctly, can get messy. This is especially true if you are doing it the old fashioned way. This is why we want to share with you a couple of ways you can start implementing purchase order tracking in 2020.

If your company has yet to set up purchase order tracking, or is drowning in an administrative mess around its purchase orders, read on. We’re going to fill you in on the benefits of purchase order tracking as well as how to implement it.

purchase order

Why Purchase Orders Are Important

Before we get into how to track purchase orders, let's take a look at why purchase orders are important.

Many small businesses do not need to use purchase order forms, as their operations are simple and there are very few employees. However, as businesses start to scale, having a system in place to control and keep track of purchase orders is very important.

Purchase orders act as legal agreements between you as the buyer, and your supplier. They bind you to the order you are requesting, and protect you against sudden price increases and general procurement disagreements.

Internally, purchase orders also protect you from duplicated orders, unauthorized purchases, and order payment issues.

Thanks to these controls, purchase orders can save your company both money and time and can simplify the record-keeping process.

If you want to know more about why purchase orders are important for small businesses, read this post.

What is a Purchase Order Tracker

A purchase order tracker, often referred to as a purchase order tracking system, stands as a pivotal tool that enhances the control and visibility of the purchase order process. But what exactly is a purchase order tracker, and how does it revolutionize the way businesses handle their procurement operations?

Defining a Purchase Order Tracker

A purchase order tracker is a digital solution or software designed to monitor, manage, and streamline the entire lifecycle of purchase orders. It serves as the central control hub for overseeing and tracking purchase orders, providing real-time insights into the progress of each order, from initiation to fulfillment.

How Purchase Order Tracking Used to Be Done

Although purchase orders can simplify record keeping and procurement, they can also become complicated. Traditionally, purchase orders were all paper-based.

Two copies had to be created. One was sent to the supplier, usually via mail while another copy was kept on record internally. With all of these purchase order copies floating around, it was easy for businesses to get bogged down in PO record keeping.
Fortunately, there are new and improved ways to carry out purchase order tracking which involve much less work and which are relatively instant. Let's take a look.

purchasing process

How to Electronically Implement Purchase Order Tracking

There are a few ways you can track purchase orders electronically. These include Microsoft Excel-based systems, as well as dedicated applications for procurement and inventory management.

1. Using Excel for Purchase Order Tracking

How to Track Purchase Orders in Excel?

One of the most basic ways to set up a purchase order tracking system is through the use of Excel. You can buy or download purchase procurement tracking Excel templates for purchase order tracking.

The pros of using Excel for purchase order tracking are that you can be relatively sure there are few-to-no calculation errors in your purchase orders and that the documents will not get lost. Excel generated POs are sent via email, which can be tracked and retrieved. Excel generated POs are also stored digitally, which is more practical than housing them in filing cabinets, as was the case with paper-based POs.

Simultaneously, there are also a number of downsides to using Excel for purchase orders.

Firstly, Excel POs can be easily emailed to the wrong person. They could even be accidentally sent to someone outside the company. They are also relatively easy to tamper with, and there is no way of verifying if tampering occurred. POs in Excel form also need to be printed out for approval signatures.

Excel PO systems also lack the automation and organization that dedicated applications have.Despite these issues, many businesses still use Excel. However, studies are showing that its use is decreasing.

Thanks to the downsides of Excel for purchase orders, and to its slow decline in business use, you might want to opt for one of the following two electronic purchase order systems.

2. Procurement Systems

Procurement systems are capability rich applications that not only generate purchase orders and track them but also integrate with other systems (such as supplier systems) and handle the full gauntlet of procurement administration tasks.

For most businesses, this is the best way to track orders.

The overarching benefit of procurement systems is that they automate a large portion of the PO tracking process and streamline the workflows around POs.

Cloud-based systems also allow for real-time purchase order tracking, from any location and any device. Employees can look up purchase orders and instantly see at what stage they are.

Procurement Systems

As purchase orders are automatically linked with corresponding invoices, this also eliminates the danger of mixing up which payments to make on which purchase orders.

3. Inventory Management Systems

Inventory management systems are very similar to procurement systems. They are in essence paired down versions of procurement systems. Procurement systems will generally include inventory management, but not the other way around.

If you do not need a full-scale procurement system, you can use an inventory system to track both your inventory and your purchase orders.

Cloud-based inventory management applications boast the same advantages of automation, security, and real-time tracking that procurement systems do.

How to Track Orders for Small Business?

For small businesses, efficient order tracking plays a vital role in maintaining a streamlined and competitive edge in the marketplace. Implementing a robust order tracking system ensures transparency, accuracy, and overall efficiency in managing purchases. So, how can small businesses effectively track their orders? Let's explore some key strategies:

Leverage Online Tools and Applications

Take advantage of cloud-based applications or online tools designed for small businesses to manage and track orders. Many affordable or even free applications provide features for order tracking, allowing you to enter and monitor purchase orders digitally. These tools often offer user-friendly interfaces and customizable options tailored to small business needs.

Establish Clear Order Numbering and Filing Systems

Create a systematic method for numbering and filing orders. Clear, organized order numbers facilitate easy identification and tracking. Implement a consistent filing system for physical and digital orders, enabling quick access and reference. Categorize orders by date, supplier, or any method that best suits the business's workflow.

Regularly Update and Review Orders

Consistent and timely updates are essential. Regularly review the status of orders, update their progress, and mark milestones within the tracking system. This practice ensures accuracy and timely awareness of any delays or issues, allowing for prompt resolution.

Utilize Purchase Order Tracking Software

Consider investing in a small business-friendly purchase order tracking software. Numerous cost-effective software solutions cater specifically to the needs of small businesses, offering features for order creation, tracking, alerts, and reporting. These systems often provide user-friendly interfaces and efficient order management tools.

Which Is the Best Solution for You?

There are numerous procurement and inventory solutions available. To pick the right one for your business, you will have to match your needs against the capabilities of potential solutions.

If your business has only recently reached the stage that it needs purchase order tracking, one of the best bets is to go with a solution that is intuitive to use and that supports numerous integrations.

PO software

Are You Ready to Start Implementing Purchase Order Tracking?

Purchase order tracking is essential to implement if your business is growing and reaching the stage where purchase orders are beginning to get complicated.

If your business has reached this point, we encourage you to take a look at our configurable purchasing software solution. At merely $10 a month, your business can have access to a bevy of tools and systems that will not only track your purchase orders—but allow you to carry out all your business's procurement processes from one platform.

If you are hesitant to pay for a service that you haven't tried (or your needs are minimal) you can also take advantage of our free basic offering.

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