I'm trying to explain two different ways of doing something and can't remember the correct words.

I have a stock room full of items

Way 1:

Every week count how many of each item there are, write this down.

Way 2:

When items come in/leave; add or take from the current stock level.

I want to call these transitional and non-transitional but am certain there are correct words to describe these two different approaches. What are they?

  • 1
    You're taking an inventory.
    – user21497
    Dec 7, 2012 at 12:46
  • 1
    The second method could be called transactional as in the question title (where you make a note of the result of each transaction). Not sure about a similar word for the first method.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 7, 2012 at 12:57
  • @Robusto Well transactional was in the question title until it was edited out.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 7, 2012 at 13:33
  • @AndrewLeach: The OP had "non-transitional" in the text, and it seemed to make more sense when paired with "transitional," so ...
    – Robusto
    Dec 7, 2012 at 14:03
  • Whoever edited transactional into transitional has (1) not checked what these terms could imply in the context (2) definitely done an edit that is invalid because it changes the import of the original asker's. Editing I believe should be limited to improving readability and such. When the basic complexion of the question is lost, the asker may no longer be interested in it and may not come back to check the answers, as they may not serve his purpose any more.
    – Kris
    Dec 8, 2012 at 6:42

3 Answers 3


According to Wikipedia:

Periodic inventory is a system of inventory in which updates are made on a periodic basis. This differs from perpetual inventory systems, where updates are made as seen fit.

Perpetual inventory or continuous inventory describes systems of inventory where information on inventory quantity and availability is updated on a continuous basis as a function of doing business. Generally this is accomplished by connecting the inventory system with order entry and in retail the point of sale system.

The term transactional inventory has also been advanced as an alternative to perpetual inventory. accountingtermsdictionary.com says that a “Perpetual inventory system ... records purchases ... each time transaction occurs”, and Googling will show you many more instances where perpetual inventory is explicitly associated with transaction-based updating; so the two terms are essentially equivalent. This NGram suggests that perpetual inventory is the prevailing term of art.

  • While periodic inventory is correct, perpetual/ continuous inventory is not what is referenced in the question. It's the pair periodic -- transactional that correctly identifies the case in hand.
    – Kris
    Dec 8, 2012 at 6:47
  • @Kris accountingtermsdictionary.com says that a "Perpetual inventory system ... records purchases ... each time transaction occurs." And see NGram. Dec 8, 2012 at 9:00
  • accountingtermsdictionary.com That looks more relevant and useful. To benefit everyone, you may edit it into the answer.
    – Kris
    Dec 9, 2012 at 4:54

The first way might be called intermittent or snapshot inventory. In some places I've worked they called this physical inventory since the product was physically counted.

The second way would generally be called transactional or continuous inventory.

  • Perhaps there are national/regional differences. In the UK, all the places I've had first-hand experience of in this area call the physical checking stocktaking. The inventory is assumed to be current and correct most of the time, since it's automatically updated by transactions generated from the sales and purchase ledgers. Dec 9, 2012 at 5:23

Batch and real-time.

When recording takes place as the events occur, it is usually called real-time recording, Real-Time Inventory.

As in the example, if you are waiting for a designated time (once-a-week) to record, then you are accumulating the data of the period and taking the inventory of the entire week at a time. In other words, you are creating a batch of data before you record it. That would be batch-wise recording, or Batch Inventory.

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