Whether you’re managing your order fulfilment yourself or outsourcing to a fulfilment partner, you’ll need a sophisticated way of managing inventory. This will help you to identify your fast moving products, fulfil orders in the fastest and cheapest way possible, and make sure you’re not running out of any stock.
No matter the size of your business, what you sell or who you sell to – taking the time to set up your inventory properly right from the start will save you a lot of headache down the track.
You might only have a few product lines now, but as you start to expand your range or add variations such as size or colour – keeping track of your inventory can start to feel a lot like this:
Where do I start?
The first step in being able to prepare and manage your inventory is to assign a SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) to all of your products.
It’s important to be able to identify your products quickly and easily, and you need a system to do this. The SKU should be consistent from the moment your product is manufactured, all the way through to the moment your order is picked and packed at the warehouse.
But SKUs aren’t one size fits all. They need to make sense for your business. So take that time to consider your business’ specific needs before you create your SKU system.
So what should my SKU look like?
A SKU should be a unique code consisting of letters and numbers that identify key characteristics about a product. Each unique product line must have a unique SKU code assigned to it.
It should be easy for someone anyone to read and understand your SKU code (without the need for a 5 page manual), so no need to make it overly complicated.
But there a few general rules. SKUs should provide details of the key characteristics of a product such as price, colour, style, brand, type. And you should order the information in a SKU from most general – to most specific.
For example if you’re selling a range of mens shirts, in 2 colours and 3 sizes, each variant should have a unique SKU (see below).
What do I need to remember for my SKU naming pattern?
– Stay between 8 and 12 characters
– Begin the code with a letter
– Never use a 0 at the end of the code as it can drop off when transferred between documents
– Keep the format easy to understand
– Ensure each letter and number has a meaning
– Use alphanumeric characters only
– Ensure your codes are unique for each product
Now you have the optimal system for managing your inventory!
As your volumes keep growing, the process of manually reading and recording a code each time you receive or send out a product is going to get very tiresome.
Barcodes improve the efficiency and accuracy of tracing the location of your products from your supplier, to your warehouse, to your customers. They also allows for accurate stock levels to be pushed through to your shopping cart in real time, so that your customers aren’t ordering a product that you’ve run out of stock for.
Most fulfilment centres, including Fulfilio, support GS1 compliant barcodes. GS1 is an international standard where each of your SKUs are issued a unique barcode that cannot be used by any other retailer.
Your GS1 barcode is made up of a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) which is generated into a barcode and printed on a white label (along with your GTIN and SKU code).
The label should be easily visible on all products and look a little something like this:
This seems like a lot of work, is it really worth it?
Taking the time to set up your SKUs and barcodes from early on in your journey will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. But it also means you need to have the infrastructure, technology and processes in place to support these systems.
Partnering with a fulfilment provider who’s investing in warehouse management systems and digital barcode scanners will ensure your business is at the forefront of eCommerce, and you can easily manage stockpile accuracy with confidence.
If you’re sending more than 400 orders per month, contact one of our friendly team members today and have a chat about how partnering with Fulfilio could help your business continue to grow.
If you’re not at the 400 mark just yet, check out our other content to help you along your growth journey!