Plan Your Inventory SKUs to Minimize Confusion

Rnadom Characters PictureWhen a co-worker’s PC needed repair, the vendor provided amazing service by promptly sending a technician who quickly replaced a part. After the part was replaced, a serial number had to be registered, and when it was completed, the new part did not work. Again, the vendor provided amazing service. A new part was immediately sent, the technician coordinated his arrival with delivery of the part, installed it the next day, and the serial number was registered. Again, the part did not work. This was repeated once more before it was finally realized that the culprit might be the serial number, which contained ambiguous characters. Not only that, but the font used made upper-case and lower-case of some letters look so similar that it was difficult to tell them apart. If the serial number had not been so problematic, the vendor might have saved significant expense in parts, shipping, and labor.

This also holds true when designing item numbers and SKUs for your inventory. Knowledge and planning means you’re using your preferred numbering design without causing problems for yourself (and possibly your customers). Here are some guidelines to consider when designing your inventory numbering system:

  • Special Characters – While using special characters might be a good practice for passwords, it’s not the case for inventory numbers. Some characters can be mistaken for programming functions and might not be interpreted correctly, and others can cause problems with searches. Examples include /, &, <, >, *, etc.
  • Vendor Numbers – Don’t use the same numbers that your vendors use. Using this as a standard inventory numbering system risks high inventory item turnover, loss of item performance history, and an inconsistent numbering system when you change vendors or if you have multiple vendors for one part.
  • Length – Make sure the length is not too long or too short. Stay within the length restrictions of your ERP system, but don’t make the numbers so short that the might be mistaken for a quantity. Using a mix of letters and numbers increases your item numbers while maintaining reasonable length and helping to identify them as item numbers.
  • Empty Spaces –10+ spaces may cause problems with search results.
  • Ambiguous Characters – Avoid characters that can be confused with each other. These include characters such as capital eye, lower-case L, zero, and capital oh. Depending on fonts, add Cc, Kk, Pp, Ss, t+, Ww, t+, Uu, Vv, Xx, Zz, and number one to the list of characters to mistrust.

Simply omitting certain characters from your numbering scheme can prevent frustration for you, your employees, and your customers. In some cases, it can even save you money.

Contact us for more information about getting your inventory InOrder.

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