Serial Number Tracking
Serial Number Inventory Management
Serial number inventory tracking involves the process of tracking the serial numbers of various products. Like lots and batches, serial numbers are properties that can be different for stock items of the same product. It is the practice of assigning a series of numbers, or numbers and letters, to each piece of merchandise, part or other material needed to produce a completed product. This approach to serial number inventory tracking gives you the ability to track and immediately recognize every individual piece of your inventory as a distinct item.
A product's serial number is distinct from its model number. If a medical device company is making spinal cages, for example, it may have a specific 30mm spinal cage part with product ID LC30-5. It may have 10 of these LC30-5 parts in stock, and each of the 10 stock items may have its own serial number. For medical devices in particular, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a serial number or another Unique Device Identifier. This label allows the manufacturer, doctors and patients to identify the individual devices after distribution.
While many industries use serial numbers to comply with regulations, they have a variety of purposes. Manufacturers can use a serial number to identify the date a product was purchased to verify an active warranty. Expensive items like automotive parts and jewelry often have serial numbers police officers can use to track down the owner in the case of theft.
For serial number inventory tracking systems, you typically wouldn't commit to the specific serial number of the product until you receive or ship it. So, when creating a purchase order or sales order for a product, you won't need to include the serial number. To continue with the medical device example, you may make a purchase order for five LC30-5 spinal cages, and won't specify the five serial numbers until you receive the shipment. Similarly, if you sold these devices, you wouldn't specify the serial numbers at the time of making a sales order. Instead, you would specify them when you make the shipment.
In many cases, the manufacturer will have already assigned the product a unique serial number to allow for complete end-to-end tracking. So, when it arrives in your possession, you can record the number provided by the manufacturer, and then again when it gets packed for shipment. In all other cases, you'll track the products as a group by their product IDs or model numbers.
Your inventory management software needs the flexibility to allow you to work generically with stock quantities of a product or specifically with specific serial numbered instances of the product, depending on the stage of the purchase or sales process.
What Is Serial Number Inventory Tracking and What Can It Provide?
Among the world's leading technology companies, 67% track their serial numbers for a variety of purposes. In the same way, you can track a serial number within your inventory. Often, a serial number follows an individual product from the moment it's shipped from the manufacturer for the rest of that product's life. No matter the stage of the supply chain, a serial number connects a product back to its original manufacturer. Suppose you're a manufacturer, or you want to improve your inventory tracking processes for products without serial numbers assigned. In that case, you can also assign serial numbers which then follow your products downstream through the rest of the supply chain.
Can serial numbers be traced? The answer is yes. In fact, that's their primary purpose. To see how end-to-end serial number tracking and inventory management works, let's explore how it might look in the automotive industry.
When the OEM assembles a car, many of the parts have their own serial numbers. This specification allows others to check the manufacture date of individual components. Since cars often come in many configurations, these unique numbers will let future owners determine which specific parts are compatible with their vehicles. Before the finished cars are shipped off to dealers, each one receives a unique 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is the industry term for the serial number of the fully assembled car.
When a dealership receives cars from the manufacturer and even used cars from trade-ins, they can record the serial number into their inventory management system.
An inventory management application with serial numbers and sublocation tracking can allow them to quickly find cars for customers, even on a busy lot. If a visitor asks for the same make and model in a different color or with some additional upgrades, salespeople can quickly check if they have one in stock and direct them to it. When a customer buys a car, the dealer records the serial number with the customer's information. This document marks the time of sale and ties the vehicle to its rightful owner.
When the car goes in for repairs, the mechanic will log all the services rendered, tied back to the VIN. Replaced parts can be registered with their new corresponding serial numbers. If the customer later returns the car or doesn't renew the lease, the dealer can view this service history based on the VIN to validate the car's warranty and calculate its new value.
Tracking and Managing Serialized Inventory
Assigning and tracking the serial numbers of products in your inventory can have many advantages. Serial numbers are useful tools for record-keeping, regulatory compliance and overall accuracy — particularly in highly regulated industries or with products that have many specific variants.
Many businesses need a unique approach to serial number tracking. Within the supply chain, your manufacturer may or may not provide serial numbers. When using them for internal purposes, you need to assign serial numbers yourself. If your manufacturer assigns them upon shipment, you need to log external serial numbers. For a warehouse, an ideal serial number tracking system would assign or record the unique number on arrival. Then, it would log when the product leaves the warehouse.
Some warehouses with limited resources only track serial numbers during shipment. This workflow saves time and reduces complications while also opening your company up to risk. In the event of a massive product recall, you may deserve a refund from the manufacturer. If you have only recorded the items that have left your warehouse, you can only get reimbursed for those items. You'll then have to manually root out the serial numbers of the products still stored in your facility.
The drawback to serial number tracking is that it introduces another complication for your staff. Many inventory tracking systems — whether they're paper- or software-based — have difficulty processing serial numbers. This situation leads to lost time and productivity, as well as greater potential for inaccurate information entering into your records.
Finale Inventory is different. Our comprehensive inventory management platform contains a serial code tracker that will let you assign unique numbers for different products, sort and search them and create detailed audit trails. The process is easy and intuitive, especially when it's used with a Windows or Android-based mobile barcode scanner.
With Finale Inventory's barcode scanning, you don't have to worry about human error — a common occurrence when writing down long strings of numbers. Further, your team can track serial numbers with a simple flick of the wrist. It becomes much more feasible to track serial numbers both when they arrive and when they leave for complete visibility without additional complications.
Here is an example video of using Finale Inventory to keep track of stock items with serial numbers.
Stock items with serial numbers
Benefits of Serial Number Tracking With Finale Inventory
Tracking the serial numbers of items in your inventory provides a granular look at what you have in stock. It also tells you things about your products that an SKU can't. For example, with Finale Inventory's serial number tracking, you can:
- Identify the build of every item that leaves your warehouse: If you sell bicycles for example, a serial number may provide information about size, color and configuration that isn't available from tracking the model number alone.
- Get a better look at your most popular items: Serial number tracking can show you which configurations of your products are the best sellers — which, in turn, can inform your stocking decisions in the future and help you make better use of your space.
- Prevent fraud and simplify warranty returns: Serial number tracking will help you confirm that an item coming in for a return or warranty issue is the same one that went out. Looking up the product by serial number can reveal when the product was sold, letting you verify if the warranty period is still in effect. You can also prevent the sale of counterfeit products or patent infringements by spotting fake serial numbers or numbers that don't match the ones stored within the barcode.
- Reduce risk: In heavily regulated industries where specifics are critical — such as pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing — inventory serial number database software will help you minimize the risk of a shipping error.
- Improve your turnover rate tracking: Without serial number tracking, your turnover rate is a general estimate based on your current sales and reorder schedule. While this calculation is useful for many purposes, some companies need to dig further into their turnover rate. Serialized inventory tracking lets you find individual products throughout the supply chain. You can calculate exactly how long each product is in your warehouse before it ships to a customer. Our system can also help you prioritize shipping items that have been in storage for a long time, so they do not expire or deteriorate.
- View your after-sale service history: Some manufacturers cover warranty repairs that meet specific service history requirements. Consumers can also use serial numbers to check the repair history before buying a used car. Any electronics or equipment manufacturer can, therefore, benefit from using serial numbers.
- Ease the product recall process: A company may have to issue a recall occasionally to protect consumers from a faulty product. No company wants to face such an issue for many reasons. However, when they occur, they're much easier to handle when you have serial inventory.
- Provide a service for your customers: Serial numbers provide many advantages to your end users. A purchaser that rents out equipment, for example, can use serial numbers to ensure the items they rent out are the same that get returned. Consumers who get stolen from can report serial numbers to the police, allowing recovered items to be identified and returned to their rightful owners. In the event of a recall, a consumer can quickly check if their items are affected. While the average person often ignores serial numbers, when they become useful, your customers will be glad you provided them.
For these reasons and more, it may be worth it to start tracking your inventory by serial number. However, using the right app to keep track of serial numbers is essential, which is where Finale Inventory comes in.
How Can an Inventory Management System Help?
Finale Inventory is a scalable, cloud-based inventory management system that supports serial code tracking and other features. We've engineered our product to be extremely flexible and accommodate different serial code schemes — including internal, external and user-assigned numbers. This setup supports a wide range of use cases. With perishable items, for example, our users will often assign the expiry date as a serial number to ensure that the oldest products get sent out first.
We offer several ways to import serial numbers — manually, on a unit-by-unit basis, through a bulk import from an Excel document or, for externally generated numbers, using our barcode scanner. Once a number is in your database, you can search it, track it through the system or print it on shipping manifests and other customer documentation, among other actions.
Some products, like fireworks, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, have regulations requiring you to maintain accurate records of the serial numbers for all items sold. If your business falls into this category, Finale Inventory is all you need for documentation and legislative compliance. Finale Inventory will accurately track each individual item delivered, sold or returned and generates an extensive audit log of stock changes by serial number.
Check out the video to see a demonstration of the integrated barcode scanning solution, or read more about receiving shipments with Finale Inventory's barcoding solution and app to track serial numbers.
What Is the Difference Between Lot IDs and Serial Numbers?
Lot tracking is used to track groups or batches of particular products. Lots and serialized inventory work very similarly, except a lot ID belongs to a group of merchandise instead of one unique item. A lot ID number is assigned to each batch of items and stays with the same batch during inventory tracking and throughout the supply chain.
Lot IDs let you know when a specific group of products was manufactured, even down to the shift. This information is useful for products that expire and for tracking turnover rates. They are helpful when you need to track products in groups, and don't want to over-complicate your process with individualized serial numbers. Fabric producers, fireworks distributors and food and beverage processors all use lot tracking for many purposes.
Serializing your inventory lets you trace particular units of the same model, rather than by subgroups only. A serial number is assigned to each unit and stays with it as it moves through the supply chain. Serial numbers typically refer to individual items, such as a bicycle, which itself may be fabricated from parts, such as gears and wheels, with their own serial numbers. Products that often require inventory tracking at the individual product level include appliances, cars and electronics.
Check out our guide to the differences between lots and serial numbers to learn more.
Trust Finale Inventory for Your Serial Number Tracking Needs
Finale Inventory is a fully scalable inventory and serial number tracker app with barcoding capabilities and a host of advanced tracking features. With solutions for e-commerce, manufacturing and warehousing, we can help you gain control over your merchandise and insights into your serialized inventory. As a highly adaptable inventory tracking and serial number software, we can support any length and number configuration. You can choose any combination of numbers and letters, encoded with your own meaning. Track internal, external and user-generated serial numbers with ease.
To learn more about the benefits of setting up an inventory serial number tracking system, sign up for a trial of Finale Inventory today. You can also schedule a real-time demo for a convenient time. Be sure to check off "Serial & Lot Number Tracking" to get a full tour of the serialized tracking features.
Love the practicality and ease of use, access, and usefulness of all features
”Finale Inventory Software is so accurate that we no longer have the overstock of unused products or dead skus. Purchasing accuracy is 100% and if there is an error we no longer have to question if it is user error or software. ”
March 12, 2018
My inventory experience with Finale was and is amazing!!! They have a solution for EVERYTHING!
"I like everything about it. It tracks my inventory, it allocates my inventory for my orders. It helps me tell in my Shipstation integration what I am able to ship and not ship saving me hours and hours of man time. Its tells me what I have at all times, so I know what I need to fulfill the rest of my orders.
Oh and on top of all that the Service I get from the team is amazing! They are able to answer any questions I have very thoroughly and give me direction and solutions to any and all issues that I am facing.”
Aug 3, 2018
Excellent product, Very Professional staff
”Finale is easy to use, Convenient and always growing to meet your needs. They have a family-like customer service that will help you with any questions you might have. I would highly recommend this software to any company handling any type of inventory, from Explosives to Pencils. This software will work for anything and everything and the staff will meet any request you have in a timely manner ”
Aug 17, 2018