Intelligent Numbering: A Good Idea?

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Do product numbers with contextual meaning really add anything valuable to your master data?

For businesses selling products, how they set up that data in ERP systems matters quite a bit. Even something as straightforward as product numbers requires careful consideration.


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video intelligent numbers for product management in ERP



What is intelligent numbering?

Let’s get some definitions out of the way. Intelligent numbering is a practice in which product numbers contain meaningful information. For example, an apparel brand might have a shirt labeled MSS20J012-BLU-L. According to the label, “M” means Men, “S” means shirt, “S20” means Spring 2020, “J012” is a sequential style number, “BLU” is the color blue, and “L” is the size Large. Product numbers and codes like these are very common in the industries we work with.

Users rely on detailed product numbers to see important attributes at a glance. Especially with legacy systems, the extra information is important for reporting and analytics, and in some cases, may be the only way to link all the required attributes together.


Problems with intelligent numbering

Even though these kinds of context-laden numbers seem harmless, they can cause issues down the road. Over time, businesses and product offerings change. New employees must learn to remember what each component of a product number means, and mistakes can creep in during data entry. You may find the original schema for product numbers doesn’t make sense anymore, but changing it would require massive amounts of work on your product master data setup.


At Sunrise, we consider intelligent numbering an outdated practice. Take a look at the downsides:

  • Users need to learn and remember the meanings behind the product numbers.
  • Mistakes made when configuring new products take extra time and money to fix, or may not be noticed right away and create reporting inaccuracies.
  • Adding a new product category may mean you have to rethink the whole product data structure, depending on the business logic tied to the numbers.
  • Adding or modifying products is a time-consuming and manual process.


A better way to set up product numbers

Luckily, modern business applications can address all the above product woes. ERP systems like Dynamics 365 are built to handle multidimensional products in a way that is both user-friendly and data-reporting-friendly. Dimensions, hierarchies, attributes, categories, and assortments are all data entities that can be used out of the box to setup product data so it’s easy to maintain and modify.


Seven reasons multidimensional systems are better than smart numbering for product data management

  1. It’s faster and easier to add new products.
  2. Dimensions in the ERP system can be used for search and reporting, rather than remembering extra information about product numbers..
  3. Multiple users can work on product management without learning a numbering schema.
  4. Configuring new dimensions is easier and faster than rethinking your numbering schema for your entire product catalog.
  5. Improved part or product lifecycle management
  6. Adding new product catalogs (either due to expansion or acquisition) is easier and faster
  7. Simple product IDs are better for advanced reporting techniques like data mining and automated queries.


Using Dynamics 365 for multidimensional products

Like we discussed in our product attributes post, an ERP project is an opportunity for you to cleanse your data and setup a new master data structure that works for you. If you’re interested in learning more or seeing how Dynamics 365 can be a perfect fit for your business, contact Sunrise today.

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