Warehouse 101 – Inventory Basics – Naming Conventions

Item Names – How To Describe Your Inventory Items

When setting up a warehouse it is important to give all items a descriptive name that is capable of uniquely identifying the specific item.

Item names should be distinct, with descriptive attributes that are added in descending order of importance.

There is a difference between how you talk about an item in everyday conversation and the way it should be named. Item names should be informed by how they are recorded, categorised and stored in your system. For example, a database of items will generally be sorted alphabetically. So while in conversation we might say the ‘small blue cup’ in an inventory database it makes more sense to name the item ‘cup small blue’. This way all ‘cups’ will be listed together, with an easy breakdown of sizes and colours, as opposed to all ‘small blue’ items listed together regardless of what they are.

At the same time, avoid unnecessary information or details in item names. Information such as vendor names, manufacturer, country of origin, expiry dates, etc. should be placed in the item description. They do not need to be incorporated into the item name.

Item Numbers – How To Number Your Inventory Items

Once you have your list of unique item names you can assign item identification numbers (item numbers). These might be called ‘part numbers’ model numbers’, ‘product codes’ or ‘SKUs’

If you can uniquely identify an item with an item number you can account for its whereabouts and activity within your system. These item numbers also serve as a shorthand for the longer item names and descriptions. This speeds up the process of data entry and inventory management.

Basic rules for generating item numbers:

  • Never start an item number with zero it will not transfer into a spreadsheet well
  • Use a mix of numbers and letters to increase the number of possible item numbers without making them too long.
  • Avoid using letters that can be easily confused with numbers such as O, I and L.
  • Do not reuse a manufacturer’s serial number as your item number, rather have your own internally consistent system.
  • Keep item numbers short, but not so short they can be confused with other indicators such as quantity (4-8 characters is generally good)
  • Do not use special characters that might confuse software or create formatting issues (e.g. < > * / etc.)

By creating a clear and consistent item numbering system you will be able to easily keep track of stock and any transactions they undergo. It will also make conducting a stock-take quicker, simpler and more effective.

Learn more about why you need to conduct a stock take in our next article: Warehouse 101 – Inventory Basics – Why Conduct a Stock Take?