What is a SKU? Everything you need to know about stock keeping units


Working with many companies delivering their fulfilment requirements, we need to operate a fool-proof stock control system that ensures that we are always on top of every item of stock we store in our warehouse. As part of this system, we use individual codes for each piece of stock, known as a stock keeping unit (SKU).  Here we answer some of the most asked questions about SKUs.


An SKU is a unique number that helps businesses to keep track of their inventory. It is a key process for order fulfilment companies where they keep a range of stock belonging to different customers.

An SKU is attributed to each product on its arrival in the warehouse, and that product is then placed on the appropriate shelf/storage box etc. On receipt of an order, the pick and pack operatives can identity the correct product prior to packing and despatching.

It is important to link your SKU system with your order system – in the case of an order fulfilment company such as Adstral, this would be linked with the 3PL Manager® software. The system then automatically keeps track of each item as it is picked, packed and despatched, which provides a clear view of current stock levels.

Keeping track of stock/inventory in this manner enables companies to accurately forecast sales and can help them work out when they need to re-order products ensuring they never run out.

A SKU and a barcode are two different systems. An SKU can be easily read and understood by a human operator, however, a barcode requires a barcode reader and software to identify the inventory. Some order fulfilment companies operate both systems to ensure complete order accuracy.

A SKU is normally alphanumeric and can be between 8 and 12 characters long (i.e. ABC-DEF-1234). When choosing your alphanumeric code, ensure that it has a meaning and not some randomly selected bunch of numbers and letters.

An SKU enables order fulfilment companies to keep accurate and precise tracking of all inventory under their roof. In the case of large fulfilment houses such as ourselves, we keep millions of items of stock belonging to multiple customers all under one roof. An SKU system enables us to know exactly how much of each product we have at any given time.

In theory, as long as your chosen alphanumeric code system enables you to issue millions of codes, no. Order fulfilment companies handle thousands - even millions - of products at any given time, and we have made sure that our SKU system enables us to issue unique codes for every single item.

When you place your inventory with us, you can rest assured that each item is individually tracked and accounted for, giving you peace of mind that when you are outsourcing your fulfilment, it is in incredibly safe hands.


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