Inventory is one of the largest assets that many businesses own. Keeping a close eye on a large inventory can be a challenging task, so it is important to have an appropriate strategy to keep track of all the “loose ends”. Implementing an inventory management system with serial number tracking capabilities is a good way to maintain control over inventory by assigning a serial number to each product, part or material that your business produces or holds in stock.
Once a serial number inventory system is in play, your team can track any given item throughout the production process. Let’s take a look at what exactly serial numbers are, how they can be implemented and why they benefit businesses with a large inventory function.
Serial numbers are a unique and individual-item-specific number
A serial number is specifically assigned to a particular item of inventory. They differ from other types of identifying numbers such as product codes and batch and lot numbers. By way of example, a motorbike manufacturer might assign one product code to a particular model of motorcycle, which may be produced at number of the company’s factories. Every unit of that model will share the same product code.
Motorbikes produced during a given period of time at a given production location will then get a lot number that represents this information. Every unit produced at that time and place will share that same lot or batch number.
But the serial number is different – each and every motorbike will be assigned a serial number that uniquely identifies that motorbike. A common, everyday life example of this is the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. While the first part of a VIN is a lot number (and thus common to many units), the second part is a serial number that identifies the exact car among others of the same model.
Not every type of product will need to be identified down to the very unit. Expensive items such as IT equipment, electronics, automobiles and jewelry often bear a serial number, while for inexpensive or basic products, a part or model number might suffice.
Implementing serial numbers
Some items will come marked with manufacturer serial numbers already; generally, it will be perfectly appropriate to use the supplier’s serial number. Not every supplier will provide items with serial numbers, but is a relatively simple matter to generate a serial number and mark it on to each item.
The information gift of serialized inventory
A serial number inventory system can unlock a wealth of information about inventory items. Businesses with serialized inventory can see a part or product as it moves through the supply chain. Useful data become available, such as the inventory turnover rate, allowing your business to make better, more informed decisions when purchasing inventory in the future.
Moreover, a serial number can be listed against a particular sale that then appears in a customer’s record. This means that you are able to view the after-sales service history of a particular item as well as track other aspects of its history such as the item’s warranty status.
Inventory numbers also make the stressful process of a product recall much easier for both suppliers and customers. Unleashed supports serial number tracking for products, making it easier than ever to implement a serialized inventory system.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.