August 7, 2015

IDEA Dictionary: SKUs

When dealing with data, and all related terminology, you may feel like you’re trying to speak a foreign language. In the interest of keeping things clear and simple, we will introduce commonly used terms that will help you navigate the data shorthand and learn the lingo. This week, we bring you: SKUs.

IDEA recently announced that the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) has one million fully attributed SKUs. But, what are SKUs? SKUs, or stock keeping units, are individual products that are each assigned a unique catalog number and numeric product identifier code.

The catalog number, or part number, is “human readable,” and all other data fields for a SKU are populated with that item’s descriptive information. The product identifier code – e.g., UPC (Universal Product Codes), EAN (International Article Numbers), or GTIN (Global Trade Identification Numbers) – is assigned to each SKU for eCommerce and business system identification. These codes are used as the structure to create barcodes for each SKU, which help the SKUs to be easily tracked for inventory purposes, and to uniquely identify the product globally. 

In the IDW, individual SKUs are also required to have additional identification information to help distinguish them from other items and facilitate trade. For example, each SKU must have a stock indicator code, which references the current inventory status of a particular SKU. If a SKU, or an item, has a stock indicator code of S, Q, or N, the UPC must be provided. In an earlier IDEA Dictionary article, we reviewed each stock indicator code in detail. Below is a quick review of the stock indicator codes that are included in evaluation for compliance and excellence within IDEA’s Data Certification Program:

S = Stock: An item that is considered stock and/or published, or available to order or purchase, that does not require product or packaging configuration and is not produced to meet a customer’s unique specifications.

Q = Quick-Ship: A “stock” item that is always available to be shipped without delay

N = Non-Stock: An item that is not necessarily kept in inventory, and could have a longer lead time.

Each SKU is also assigned an item status code, which corresponds to where an item is within the product life cycle (e.g., active, obsolete, etc.). In the IDW Compliance Module, a tool for manufacturers to assess their progress toward achieving compliance in the Data Certification Program, users have the option of filtering to view only those SKUs marked with an item status code of “Active”. This refers to all SKUs that are active, or available for sale.

For more information on item status codes and the product life cycle, take a look at our product life cycle infographic, or reference the “Product Change Management Standard“ white paper by navigating through your IDW main menu: Advanced > Information > Documents > IDW Product Change Management v05 03 00 December 2014.

If you have any further questions about SKUs, stock indicator codes, or item status codes, please contact your Data Management Specialist, or reach us at