How to design functional product SKUs

Posted in Inventory and warehousing.

It doesn’t matter if you have a handful or hundreds of products, giving each product a SKU code can help you find inventory more easily, as well as track how much inventory is in stock at any given time.

What is a SKU and what is its purpose?

SKU is short for stock-keeping unit. It is a unique code used for the identification and tracking of products. It also helps to distinguish one product from another based on attributes such as size, colour, material, packaging, and storage. SKUs are alphanumerical in nature and can be up to 40 characters long (the ideal length). SKUs should not be confused with model numbers, even though they do have the same qualities.

What information can be included in SKUs?

The information that you include in your SKUs depends entirely on you. Remember to only include information that is not likely to change any time soon to avoid unnecessary updates of your codes. Some of the most used information includes:

*  UPC (Universal Product Code or a type of barcode symbology)/ ISBN codes.

*  Date product was purchased, for instance, if the product was purchased on 9 September 2014 it will be displayed as 09092014.

*   Cost, if the price is $49.95 then you can enter the number 4995 in the SKU to represent that price.

*  Storage information like shelf and row numbers.

How to put together an SKU:

To create our example of an SKU we are going to be using a UPC code, the date of purchase and the cost of the product.

Example: The UPC code of the product is 188114771211. The date of purchase is 15 December 2014 and the cost is $15.90. Based on this information the SKU will then look something like this:

However, some people might prefer to give a description of the item within the SKU. For example, say the product is a green t-shirt in a size medium and it is from a brand called Murphy’s. The t-shirt costs $11.50. The sequence is, for example, the brand name, type of clothing item, colour, size and price. So the SKU will look like this:

If you create your SKU according to this formula, it will be entirely unique. Also remember to make sure that the meaning of the SKU is clear to those who will be reading the code while handling stock.

SKU dos and don’ts

*  Every SKU code must be unique and once one has been assigned to a product it cannot be reused.

*  Only use the necessary information needed to track and manage products.

*  Never start you SKU with a zero.

*  Refrain from using SKU codes to describe products as this will make the code unnecessarily complicated.

*  Avoid using letters that can be easily confused with one another or numbers, for example I, O and L.

*  SKUs must never be so short that they can be confused with quantities.

*  Take the software you are going to use into consideration and avoid using incompatible symbols.

*  The consensus is that SKUs can be up to 40 characters long.

*  Don’t include any spaces.

*  The only special characters you can include is dash (-) and underscore (_) because most software systems can recognise these, and it makes it easier for people to read.

Did you know? When uploading a product to the Onsight app you can add product information relating to description, price, taxes, stock on hand, product code/barcode/SKU, product dimension specifications, associated products and much more.

You can also create custom fields if there is a need for additional product information.