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Serial Number Controls vs Batch Numbers: Which is Best for You?

Serial Number Controls vs Batch Numbers: Which is Best for You?

For inventory tracking, the two most common tracking options are; serial numbers and batch numbers. Both are effective in different areas, but understanding the differences will allow you to decide which is best for your business.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Serial Number?

Serial numbers are a unique set of identifiers that are assigned to individual items within a batch of products. Unlike batch numbers, serial numbers have a one-to-one relationship with each individual product so you can’t get two products with the same serial number.

How Do You Find a Serial Number?

These are often inconspicuously located on the back or bottom of electronic devices, as well as being printed on a label or engraved into the product. It’s usually listed as ‘Serial Number’, ‘Ser No’ or ‘SN’ to differentiate it from other product identification. Certain electronic items save their serial number on the device ROM so you can view it using the software. These can be located under ‘Settings’ or ‘About’ with ‘activation key’ another terminology for serial number.

What Are the Benefits of Serial Numbers?

In terms of inventory control, serial numbers provide you with a number of incredible benefits. Here’s a look at some of these.

1. Oversight and Stock Control

Serial number tracking allows the tracing of every individual item in your inventory from the time it’s delivered through to sale. Basically, it means that items can be identified down to individual components, so you don’t have to waste time searching through boxes or warehouses looking for parts. Serial numbers allow you to track what’s in stock at any time, prompting new orders and reassignment of stock where necessary.

2. Records and Regulation

Serial number tracking allows for necessary record-keeping and accuracy in case of external audits. Serial numbers also ensure compliance, which is particularly vital in highly regulated manufacturing industries with specific variants.

3. Product Details

Serial numbers provide you with specific information about the product such as colour, size, weight and configuration.

4. Identify Issues and Trends

Serial numbers allow you to pinpoint any particular item issues and address them quickly. They also allow you to identify which items are trending more than others. This guides you in stock for the future so that you’re not overspending.

5. Shipping

Serial numbers assist in reducing shipping errors which can be critical for certain industries such as pharmaceutical and medical.

6. Warranty

Having a serial number sequence helps with warranty claims as well as providing after-sales support. If an item is faulty and returned, you have all the information to provide your clients and customers with the necessary support. This is particularly true for complex products such as consumer electronics where the same parts are used in multiple makes and models before being phased out. Even for routine maintenance, being able to track the serial number allows for the matching of parts and products.

7. Product Recall

For manufacturers, it’s imperative to have serial numbers in case there’s any fault with the product and a recall is needed. Using serial numbers, you’re able to identify the faulty component and minimise the recall number, rather than having to recall all the stock from the factory. Serial numbers take it a step further and allow you to identify the actual production run, meaning you can isolate the production run with the fault.

8. Theft Protection

Another post-sale benefit of serial numbers is protecting your customers in the event of a theft. If a valuable item is stolen and recovered by the police, it can be linked back to its original owner and returned, provided the serial number is reported. The digital serial number, known as a Media Access Code, can also identify items and alert customers to stolen devices.

Which Products Use Serial Numbers?

The process of applying serial numbers can be very time-consuming as it’s required for each, individual product. For this reason, serial numbers are not used for certain fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) but rather technical merchandise. Here’s a look at some of the items.

– Appliances

The appliance industry relies heavily on serial number sequencing as this allows for easier location of parts. You simply have to input the number to find it on the manufacturer’s site. Everything from microwaves and stoves to washing machines and tumble dryers will come with a unique serial number.

– Automobiles

Cars, trucks and all other manner of automobiles will come with a serial number known as a vehicle identification number (VIN). These have a total of 17 numbers and letters that are used to distinguish each automobile and are incredibly helpful for warranties, car recalls, registration of the vehicle, insurance and theft.

– Electronics

Serial numbers are able to identify laptops, tablets, cellphones and all other electronic devices which is helpful for tracking warranties and dealing with after-sales service. Serial numbers also provide insight into product compatibility, with codes indicating whether products are compatible with updated versions.

What to Remember When Using Serial Numbers

When using serial numbers for your products, you need to take note of a few elements:

  • The serial numbers require durable and legible labels.
  • The inventory management system you use must support the tracking of serial numbers.
  • You will need to have the ability to read and record serial numbers with barcode scanners.
  • You will need to track serial numbers by location (warehouse) and via shipments post-sales.

What Is a Batch Number?

Batch numbers – also known as lot numbers, lot codes, or code numbers – are used for identifying a particular number of products with have common properties. So unlike serial numbers which are unique to each product, a number of similar products could have the same batch number. Batch numbers consist of a combination of numerical digits which are assigned to product groupings determined by the organiser. Companies might assign batch numbers based on location, manufacturing or expiration date.

What Are the Benefits of Batch Numbers?

1. Inventory Oversight

Batch numbers provide you with inventory tracking information on how the goods move in and out of your company.

2. Assist in Manufacture

Batch numbers allow for the categorisation of materials which helps with the manufacture of products. They also allow companies to classify finished goods for distributors or suppliers.

3. Spot Trends

Batch numbers allow you to note trends within specific groups that show if and why you’re generating a profit or a loss. You’ll also notice patterns such as repeat returns or defects from one batch.

4. Quality Assurance and Recall

Batch numbers allow for random batch testing as well as identifying defective items. In the event of a product recall, batch numbers mean you can easily track the products rather than recalling all manufactured items.

5. Compliance

Government organisations may require batch and tracking numbers for particular products, so it’s best to check you’re remaining compliant.

Which Products Use Batch Numbers?

Batch codes are especially helpful when you have batches of products or if you manufacture and receive items in large quantities. Batch numbers allow for ease of location as the products are stored together. Some of the products most suited to batch numbers include:

– Fabrics

Dye batch numbers are used to classify various types of fabric or clothing according to the colouration during the process. The reason being that, when mixing a new batch of dye, the colour will never be absolutely exact because factors such as dyeing time and temperature impact the shade of the colours.

– Fireworks

Most national regulators require manufacturers to keep records of all fireworks imported for distribution, which means batch tracking numbers will be of assistance.

– Food and Beverage

Food and beverage manufacturers require batch tracking numbers such as best-by dates. This gives retail outlets an idea of when they should stop selling items. It’s also important for any product recalls as it shows when batches were produced together.

– Medical, Chemical and Pharmaceuticals

Likewise, all pharmaceuticals, medicines and chemicals will require batch tracking numbers to indicate when they should be used by. This was evident with Covid-19 vaccinations which had to be urgently administered before expiring.

What Is the Difference Between Batch and Serial Numbers?

The main difference between batch and serial numbers is that batch numbers are used for a group of products manufactured at the same time. Serial numbers are unique numbers assigned to specific items. Software systems are available to help you monitor these codes for better inventory management and forecasting. Contact Omni Accounts today to find out more about the latest tracking software.