Serial numbers are exceedingly unique and provide exceptional stock control. It’s important for companies to understand the nuances between a serial number and how it differentiates from other identifying codes or product numbers.
Serial numbers can be represented as both numeric and alphanumeric and differ from product identifiers such as barcodes, lot or batch numbers. Product identifiers indicate a batch, a lot or the specific production run in which the goods were manufactured or processed.
These product identifiers are applied to the entire quantity of items within each specific batch, whereas the serial number is a distinctive identifier assigned to individual products or components. Each item will therefore have a batch number the same as all components within the batch and a serial number that is unique to each individual item.
Serial Number Traceability
The primary benefit of product identifiers and serial numbers is the ability they provide to track and trace each item back through its supply chain. Once a product or component has been assigned a serial number it can be traced from point of origin, through distribution and wholesale channels and even to the customer or end user.
Nearly all components in manufacturing and production will have an individual serial number and the final finished good will also be assigned its own unique serial number. This traceability assists with tracking goods between warehouses, pipeline inventory and post-sale guarantees. Serial number tracking helps with the servicing of consumer warranties, where a serial number is recorded against an exact sale, and shown in a customer’s purchase record.
If, and when a product recall is required, the recall can be constrained by serial numbers. This is evidenced in a recent Samsung recall of a model of top-loader washing machine. Samsung could undertake the recall by allowing customers to register the serial number of their machine online. Utilising serial number traceability, customers could determine if the machine they had purchased contained the defective part that had initiated the recall.
Serial numbers improve tracking flexibility by recording the serial numbers as the product is received but also when a product is shipped. The integrated nature of serial number tracking helps to improve the accuracy of your stock control by removing the need for multiple databases that cause confusion and increase error rates.
Serial numbers also provide a record of expiration and best by dates that let you manage what stock is picked and shipped, reducing the occurrence of waste through perishability or obsolescence by shipping older stock first.
In addition, serial numbers help to maintain a level of service quality by providing the ability to monitor and assess each stage of production or delivery. They can be used to help track any service issues, faults and product defects as well as improving search and reporting functions.
Serial numbers and the tracking process they provide, have significant importance to stock control. They provide companies with the ability to maintain quality control through providing the means that assists in addressing warranty claims or, if necessary, to administer a product recall.
In addition, serial numbers help facilitate better stock control through integrated tracking with other business systems and applications. These include the capability of integrating ordering, stock control and billing software.