As a retailer, knowing how to create your SKU is important knowledge for the successful running of your store. A unique string of letters and numbers, the SKU is a product’s fingerprint, helping you to identify every product in your inventory and its specific details, like manufacturer, brand, price, style, colour and size.
An online pet food store in Europe, like Croquette Land for example, might have 5,000 SKUs. Whereas a retail giant like Carrefour could have millions. Often, it’s the manufacturer that creates the SKU of an item that is then used throughout the supply chain. However, sometimes it’s better for you to create your SKU.
Why? Because when you compile product SKUs yourself, you can adjust them, add the data that’s most important to your business, or even enter your own brand name.
Remember: what is important for your company and item is not necessarily so for another retailer; the key is to include your critical product identifiers. For clothing, for example, the size and colour will probably be included, but for fruit, the country of origin should be included.
Accurate weights and dimensions when you create your SKU
For many items, it is useful to state the dimensions and weight of the article in the SKU. This information can be useful further into the supply chain for storage, packaging and shipping.
There are plenty of free online tools that can generate your product SKUs based on fields of master data that you enter. This automatically creates a unique SKU per product. However, it’s important that you input the correct master data.
Especially when it comes to dimensions and weight, accurate measurements are essential but they’re often subject to human error. The good news is, there is a tool that allows you to take accurate measurements in an instant and automatically input the data without risk of mistakes.
CubeTape is a mobile dimensioning tool that allows you to quickly scan the correct length, width and height of each item.
You can then supplement that data with other details like colour, description and packaging information. This way, you create a unique item master card that can be available in the WMS or ERP. From that item master card, you can determine which items you want to use when you create your SKU.
How CubeTape helps this large e-commerce store handle SKUs
Here is an example of how this works in practice. In 2015, a large American home store was searching for a dimensioning system to capture the measurements of stock items and returns. Their requirements were:
- The dimensioning system must be able to measure very large items like sofas, tables and desks.
- The system must also measure smaller, parcel-sized products.
- Because each of the retailer’s distribution centres has 10 to 15 dock doors, the cost “per door” had to be justifiable.
- To reduce the high labour costs of “travel time”, the system should not require that staff members transport products more than a few feet to the closest dimensioning unit.
After researching parcel and pallet dimensioning systems, this retailer realised that CubeTape was the only dimensioning system that met all their needs and it just happened to be the least costly by a wide margin.
How CubeTape works
CubeTape is a smart barcode scanner that measures via accurate and efficient measuring system called Barcodes on Tape (BoT).
All barcode scans and measurements made by CubeTape are automatically recorded without the time and errors of manual data entry. The accurate measurement is sent automatically via Bluetooth to whatever host computing device with which Cubetape is teamed.
This particular retailer, syncs CubeTape with mobile, consumer-grade, Android tablets. WiFi connected, those tablets run a browser-based software application suite that works with their High Jump WMS.
CubeTape Helping Improve SKU Masterdata
When product measurements are required, CubeTape scans the stock number barcode. The SKU is received instantly by the Android application and applied correctly. The Android app then displays an image of the product and other known information about the SKU.
CubeTape’s measuring tape is then used to read the corresponding barcode. The correct measurement is sent to the app, where it instantly appears in the Length field.
The user then measures the other two dimensions (width and height), completing the process by accepting the automatic entries. The app automatically re-sorts the dimensions so the longest is the length, before sending both the SKU and dimensions to the WMS system.
Further down the supply chain, the WMS applies the dimensions so the SKU is allocated to the appropriate storage location or directed for cross-docking needs. The SKU dimensions are also used by the retailer’s TMS (Transport Management System) to determine the lowest transportation costs and carrier for subsequent shipments of that SKU.
With total hardware costs of under $900 per user, including the tablet, CubeTape allows this retailer to measure their products quickly, accurately and immediately upon receipt, without losing any time in transportation to and from a centralised dimensioning system.
With CubeTape, you install a barcode scanner but effectively you receive a dimensioning system for free. If you’re a retailer that wants an effective and affordable way to create your SKU’s, consider how CubeTape can integrate with your shipping systems and processes to save you time and money.
Gabrielle is director of Parceltools Europe BV and supports the sales and after sales of Parceltools customers.