All You Need To Know About Serial Number Tracking

Brahm Meka
November 8, 2022
10 min
Share this post
All You Need To Know About Serial Number Tracking - Complete Guide

Serial Numbers or SNs are everywhere in our modern lives: on our phones and in our software, engraved on our cars, and printed on packages sent to us (and also on packages that never arrive). They're also a valuable part of keeping track of inventory.

Serial Number Tracking of Inventory is a technique that can help businesses keep track of their inventory, but manual tracking of serial numbers can lead to mistakes.

So using a sophisticated inventory management system will empower you to meet your customers’ needs error-free better. The right system allows you to capture data at the receiving easily and track it again when products ship out the door.

In this article, we will discuss how serial number tracking works and how an inventory management system can help you. So let's get started!

What is a Serial Number?

Serial numbers are unique codes that identify a product. They can be only numbers or numbers with letters and symbols. They are one-of-a-kind codes that match only one product. Usually, serial numbers are made in order and have different information sections. This information can be about where the product was made when it was made, and other data that might be useful during the product's life cycle.

With a serial tracking system in place, it can be easier to keep an account of your inventory. Let’s see how serial number tracking of inventory works.

How Does Serial Number Tracking of Inventory Work?

The manufacturer of a product creates a serial number. The goal is to ensure that every item's history can be traced through the supply chain and between end users.

This process would be more straightforward if all manufacturers had control over all parts of the supply chain, such as distribution and retailing.

All divisions within a company would use the same systems, and the item’s serial number would be captured at each stage of production. However, most companies don’t choose to integrate vertically.

Vertical integration can be very beneficial, but it is also hard to do and change later. Most companies partner with other companies in their supply chain to get value from their products instead.

This means that your business partners, like the people who store your products and the people who sell them to customers, need a system to keep track of serial numbers accurately. This way, they can handle things like recalls without losing too much money.

What is the Difference Between Serial Number Tracking vs. Lot Numbers vs. SKUs vs. Barcodes?

Serial numbers, lot numbers, barcodes, and SKUs are all similar, but there are some critical differences between them. Let's go over what those differences are so that we can better understand each one.

Lot Numbers

Lot numbers are unique identification numbers to identify a specific batch or group of items.

Lot numbers help us to identify a group of items that were made together. The lot number can tell us things like when it was made, where it was made, and what ingredients were used. But it does not help us to identify individual items in the group.

Lot numbers can be assigned to items when they are purchased or when they are manufactured.

Further Reading: Everything you need to know about lot numbers

Serial Numbers

Serial numbers are permanently assigned to each item individually. This means that even if two items are identical and were made at the same time, their serial numbers will differ. 

It is helpful to have a serial numbers for phones and cars. This helps us keep track of them, especially if there are many different types of them. For example, IMEI codes are used for smartphones, and VIN codes are used for automobiles.

Most manufacturers have software that connects serial numbers with how the product is made. This way, every product can be traced back to when and how it was made. A sound manufacturing ERP system allows you to assign serial numbers, import them from other places, or create them automatically as part of the manufacturing process.

SKU - Stock Keeping Unit

A stock-keeping unit (SKU) is an identification number that helps store owners and manufacturers keep track of products. SKUs differ from serial and lot numbers because they help identify a specific product. Namely, an SKU is a code that tells you what kind of item or product it is, but not the individual item itself. Every product or component a company uses in manufacturing or produces has a specific SKU.

For example, all smartphones of the same model and variant have individual IMEI codes (serial numbers), but they all share the same SKU. Most businesses create their own SKUs for their inventory items using an internal code that helps identify them. 

Further Reading: How to create SKU numbers


A barcode is a machine-readable representation of numbers and letters. The stripes you see on packages of products in stores are called barcodes. They are made up of bars and spaces of different widths that a special scanner can read.

Barcodes can only be made up of numbers, and each type has a different number of digits. An EAN barcode contains 13 digits, while UPC barcodes consist of 12 numbers. You must use barcodes that follow these standards to trade domestically and internationally.

Further Reading: Barcoding Scanning Software

What is the importance of Serial Number Tracking? 

Although some companies are required by law to use serial numbers, such as vehicle part makers and medical devices manufacturers, other companies should still do this.

There are lots of good reasons to use a serial number system. It will help your business run more smoothly and efficiently. Your employees will be able to do their job better with fewer mistakes.

Tracking serial numbers makes stocking and shipping easier and faster. This also means that you will always be able to find the right product quickly. So, you can ship more products without the risk of sending the wrong product.

Keeping a clear record of your products with inventory tracking software will help everyone involved. With a system that can be easily accessed on a computer or phone, you can stay up-to-date no matter where you are. That detailed record will also provide a complete history that is always accurate. You'll be able to see patterns and forecast future sales, which will help your company stay ahead of the competition.

With serial number software, you can change when your workers work and how long they work. This will help them do their jobs better. Ask for the serial number if a customer needs help with their device. This will allow you to see what they ordered and give details.

If you ever need to give someone a refund or recall something you sold, you will have all the information you need. This ranges from when the item was made to when it was shipped. In a busy warehouse, mistakes can easily be made. However, if you use serial numbers to keep track of your inventory, everyone will be more efficient and confident.

Five Reasons To Have a Serial Number Tracking System

Here are a few reasons why you should have a serial number tracking system in place:

Serial Numbers for Product Recall

If products and parts have serial numbers, it can help a lot when there is a product recall. Imagine you make products in different factories around the world. But then you get some products back because a part is not working and causes fires. You look into it and find that six different companies supplied that part. Only one of those companies sent you the bad parts.

If you do not use a system to track serial numbers, you may have to recall all your products, which would be very costly. Having a system to track serial numbers can help avoid this problem.

Even though all of your products look the same, you can tell which ones are bad because they have different numbers. The numbers also show that the bad products were made simultaneously. This means you only have to recall some of the products instead of all of them.

Serial Numbers for Compliance

Sometimes, companies use serial numbers because they are required by law. All cars have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which shows where and when the car was made and has a code that identifies the particular vehicle.

Perhaps one of the hottest topics is surrounding guns. Every firearm sold must be stamped with a serial number.

Serial Numbers for Better Service

If you keep track of serial numbers, you can improve after-sales service, warranties, and repairs. This is especially important for complex products with multiple components, such as cars or consumer electronics.This means that some products are sold with the same name and model, even though the internal parts are being changed and improved. 

For example, a 2020 car model may have different window seals, airbags, and stereo ports than the 2019 version, but it is still called the same car. Or, the same parts may be used in multiple models before they are not used anymore.

With products like these, serial number tracking allows you to match the correct replacement part to the right product when things go wrong or during routine maintenance.

 after-sales service using serial numbers

The last time you replaced the toner cartridge on a home printer, you might have noticed how important it is to keep track of serial numbers. Just like for your personal needs, it also helps businesses know which replacement parts and products match each other.

Serial Numbers for Theft Protection

Another good reason to use serial number tracking is that it can help your customers if their things get stolen. If the police find a stolen item with a serial number, they can give it back to the person to whom it belongs.

A digital version of a serial number called a Media Access Code can be used to identify items. This can help customer support know when a stolen device is turned on and connected to the internet.

Serial Numbers for Inventory Control

Serial number tracking can help make stock management much more manageable. If you track inventory down to the individual component level, you will save time and be able to manage quality more effectively. This is especially true for products with multiple high-value components.

What are the Benefits of Serial Number Tracking of Inventory?

Complete and Accurate History

Serial numbers help us keep track of every individual part or product. This is an excellent advantage for any business that uses historical data for forecasting or needs to enact product recalls. The leading inventory management software providers make this a simple and user-friendly task.

Reduced Data Entry and Errors

Serial number tracking is an excellent way to reduce data entry mistakes. When every product or item has a number, it is easier to track what is happening with each one. This is especially useful for businesses that make things or have a lot of inventory.

Goods in Process

For companies making clothes or furniture, serial number tracking is essential. It helps us keep track of everything from the beginning of the manufacturing process to the end. This way, we can be sure that we are making and shipping the right products. Serial number tracking also lets us use other techniques, like Just-In-Time, which rely on the ability to move or order items required for production at precisely the right time.

Repair and Manage Warranties

Many products, like cell phones, laptops, PCs, and medical devices like oxygen machines and ECG equipment, come with warranties. If something goes wrong with the product, the company will fix it or give you a new one. Once a serial number is assigned to each product, you can know all the product's serial number information.

The serial number is essential because it tells you when the product was sold. This is helpful because if there are any issues with the product, you can see if it is still under warranty. This makes it easier to maintain your devices because you can always check the history of the product before you repair it.

Preserve Proof of Ownership and Prevent Thefts

Serial numbers are unique and can show someone owns something, especially if it is lost or stolen. This helps companies feel more secure when they use serial numbers.

When a product like a laptop is stolen, the store uses the serial number to keep track of it. The serial number contains information about where the product came from, which helps return the stolen product to its rightful owner or company.

Legal compliance

Providing serial and lot numbers may be required for specific industries for legal compliance reasons. This is often the case for things like drugs and medical supplies, guns, food (lot numbers that include information on when it will go bad and where it came from), etc. Many stores also only accept items with serial numbers for customer safety.

Improved Accuracy

Serial numbers help us keep track of products. We can use them to know when a product was made and shipped. This helps us keep our inventory more accurate.

Serial numbers also allow you to track when things expire or need to be shipped. This helps reduce the amount of wasted food because it goes bad before it is eaten or is too old.

In addition, serial numbers help us keep track of each product's quality. We can use them to discover service issues, faults, or product defects. They also allow us to improve our search and reporting functions.

Which Industries Benefit Best from Serial Inventory Tracking?

There are some businesses where it is more important to keep track of the serial numbers of products than others. For these companies, it is essential to be able to tell the difference between products based on their histories. This is important for providing good customer service and maintaining the value of the business.

Warehouses that can keep track of serial numbers not just at one stage but throughout the whole process can become specialist warehouses. This might attract companies from these industries as customers.

Inventory Serial Number Tracking in the Electronics Industry

Serial numbers are significant in the electronics industry. They help companies that make and sell electronics track down products that need to be fixed and identify which part is not working. This allows electronic companies to fix the problem so people can buy good-quality products.

For example, if a flat-screen TV is not working right, it might not be the television manufacturer’s fault. It could be because of a broken part from its LED screen supplier.

Inventory serial numbers help businesses keep track of warranty information. If companies don't have a way to track serial numbers, they could lose money by providing free services on products with expired warranties. Or, they might make customers angry by refusing to assist with products with a valid warranty.

Inventory Serial Number Tracking in the Automotive Industry

Traceability is essential in the automotive supply chain. It allows everyone downstream to find out where a car's parts came from and how they were put together.

People in the automotive industry think it is important to put a serial number on the tens of thousands of possible parts. Even though the automotive sector usually makes its own parts, it does not always do this. Sometimes other businesses make parts for the automotive industry. These businesses need to focus on ways to keep track of all their inventory with serial numbers so they can get new customers from the automotive industry.

Serial Number Tracking Software in Manufacturing

It is important to have a system that can tell you how much inventory you have and what is happening with it. This is so you can avoid running out of things or having too much of something. If you try to do this without an inventory system, it will be tough to keep track of, and things will get confusing.

Now, many ERPs are more affordable and cater to small and medium manufacturing businesses. This means that end-to-end traceability, including tracking serial numbers, is possible for manufacturers of any size. For example, Brahmin Solutions includes comprehensive serial tracking functionalities that improve and automate many facets of inventory management.

Brahmin Solutions' built-in tracking features let you keep tabs on individual parts and products. You can track their complete histories and current statuses. For example, you can see if a serialized item is on its way (planned), received, consumed in manufacturing, booked to a work order, close to expiring, shipped, or written off. It is possible to assign serial numbers individually, in bulk, or by importing them from CSV files. Brahmin Solutions also includes RMA, quality control, and version control functionalities that enhance traceability and greatly simplify meeting quality standards and regulatory compliance. The built-in barcode system helps Brahmin Solutions users keep track of inventory and ensure that serialized items are always easy to find. This system allows them to stay organized.

ERP systems like Brahmin Solutions make it possible for small businesses to keep track of serial numbers and have end-to-end traceability.

Brahm Meka
Founder & CEO

Related Blogs