Modern Inventory Management: QR Codes + NFC + Mobile Technology

Inventory Serialization: Tracking By SKU, Lot Number / Batch Number, Or Serial Number.

When do you need to track inventory by SKU, when do you need to track inventory by lot number or batch number, and when by serial number. How to set up QR Inventory to track assets and inventory the way you need, and how to achieve traceability.
QR Inventory gives you an option to track inventory the way you need: by SKU number / line item number, by lot number / batch number or by serial number. This article will help you understand what would be the better way to track inventory for your business scenario, how to set up QR Inventory to do what you need, and how to achieve traceability.

How Should I Track Inventory: By SKU, By Lot Number Or By Serial Number?

When to track inventory by SKU number / line item number?

If your main concern is inventory stock in different locations and you do not need inventory traceability - use SKU / line item number to track inventory. All inventory items that are exactly the same will have the same SKU / line item number. For example, you may have a box of Hex bolts, Stainless steel 18-8, 1/4" - all bolts of these type will have the same SKU. Normally you would not care which specific bolt from this box you are using - you just want to know how many you have in stock and when is it time to re-order. Most of the supply items / consumables like this (bolts, nuts, office paper, toner, etc.) are usually tracked by line number / SKU.

When to track inventory by lot number / batch number, and what is the purpose of the lot number?

If you want to implement inventory traceability, tracking inventory by the line item number / SKU is not enough. You will need to divide inventory items that are the same and have the same SKU into lots / batches that were produced under similar conditions (usually on the same date / shift plus there may be additional parameters by which inventory is combined in the lots / batches). Each batch gets its unique lot number. Under this scenario you may have two Stainless steel 18-8, 1/4" bolts that were produced under different conditions and have different lot numbers. For inventory traceability you should be able to tell them apart. You should know lot numbers of all components that you were using to assemble the finished product, and where / when each batch was distributed. Then, if it turns out that a specific batch was defective, you can quickly locate all affected items. This is the purpose of inventory traceability, and the purpose of tracking inventory by lot number.

When to track inventory by serial number?

Serial number uniquely identifies the item, and there can only be one item with a specific serial number. If you want to track each item individually, you need to track it using serial number. For example, if you are tracking IT assets (computers, routers, hard drives), as a rule you want to know where each individual computer is, what is installed, its life-time history and transactions. You may have multiple computers which are exactly the same, but in order to track each computer individually you need to track them by serial number.
Any electronics, equipment, and other valuable items are usually tracked by serial number.

How Do I Set Up QR Inventory To Track By SKU, By Lot Number And By Serial Number

How to set up inventory tracked by line item number / SKU?

Enter each line item into the system as inventory, and set its line item number / SKU as item ID. If you use an example with the Stainless steel 18-8, 1/4" bolt, you will have one entry for this item. You will then be able to track stock of this item in each location, know all transactions for this item (how many where purchased when, how many where used for each project, etc.), and receive alert when you need to order more.

How to set up inventory tracked by lot number / batch number?

Enter each batch into the system separetely as inventory, and use lot number as item ID. As a rule, you will do it on a smartphone when receiving each new batch in the warehouse, or on a factory floor as each new batch is produced. You will also be able to enter all batch details (production date, shift, etc.). You can do this using web interface as well if it is better fit for your situation.
Use the same name for the items with the same SKU (e.g. all batches of Stainless steel 18-8, 1/4" bolt will have a name Stainless steel 18-8, 1/4" bolt, but different item ID numbers). With this setup, you will be able to track inventory by lot number, check all batch transactions, and locate all products where this batch was used as a component / ingredient. You also will be able to check stock and location of all Stainless steel 18-8, 1/4" bolts, regardless of their lot number.

How to set up inventory tracked by serial number?

Enter all serialized items as assets (unique items tracked individually). Enter serial number as item ID. Use the same name for the assets that are the same in everything except for serial number - this way you will be able to track each asset individually by serial number, but also be able to review stock and location of each asset type. For example, if you track compressors, thermostats or other similar equipment by serial number, you still will be able to see how many compressors you have in each location.
You do not have to enter all data for each single asset. Instead, you can bulk enter assets that are the same into QR Inventory: enter all information once, then scan in or paste all serial numbers. Use Bulk Add Assets link to do this.

Inventory Traceability

How do I achieve traceability using QR Inventory?

To achieve traceability, you need to track inventory either by lot number or serial number.
If you are building assemblies or create a product from multiple ingredients, be sure to record lot number or serial number of components that you are using. When you ship finished goods to the retailer / distributor, make sure you record where the item was shipped.
If you need to find out where all items with a specific lot number are, check item details report for this lot number - you will see all relevant transactions in one place: in what finished products the item was used, what was already distributed and where, what do you still have in storage and in what locations.
More information on achieving traceability with QR Inventory is available in this blog article.

What is the best way to track lot number of the components of an assembly, or lot numbers of ingredients going into the food items?

You can track lot numbers of components / ingredients in two different ways:
  • Scan lot numbers or serial numbers against a generic composition list. You can create a generic list of ingredients for the type of an assembly or product, then apply this list to all serialized assemblies or food product batches. The list will already contain the amounts needed for the assembly or product batch. When physically building an assembly or creating a new product batch, employees will scan lot numbers of the components used agains a generic list. For example, generic list may include 3 bolts, while an employee will scan lot number PO12345 for the bolts he is using.
    If you need to track serialized components, include each component as a separate line item. For example, your generic list may have right engine and left engine. When building actual assembly, an employee will scan in serial number for the right engine, and serial number for the left engine.
  • Build serialized assembly on the fly. Scan items used for building an assembly as they are added, and enter quantity without using a list.
Regardless of which method you choose, all inventory will be automatically accounted for (used components subtracted from the stock), and you will be able to restore what components / ingredients where used for each assembly / product batch.

For the food production, I need to use asset-type assembly for each product batch, but then I need to send items from this batch to different customers. How do I do that?

For the food items, it is convenient to use an asset-type assembly to record amount of ingredients used for an entire batch. For example, instead of recording how much butter, sugar and flour you used for each cookie tray, you will want to record how much was used to produce the current batch. However, when you start distributing this batch of cookies, you will want to track them by units (for example trays), which can go to separate locations.
QR Inventory accommodates this situation by allowing you to split product batch into units after the batch is produced. This way, you can create each product batch as an asset type assembly, and record lot numbers and amount of ingredients used for the entire batch once.
When the batch is produced, go to the batch details page and click Split Into Units button to split produced batch into multiple units. From this point, you can track each unit separately.