SKU numbers are found below bar codes or are identified on computerized sheets with the letters "SKU." While an SKU number can be confused with the UPC code on a bar code, a SKU number is used for inventory purposes instead. The UPC is a manufacturer's ID while the SKU, which stands for "stock keeping unit," is assigned by a company to track inventory.
SKU numbers are also referred to as item numbers, model numbers, product codes and parts numbers. Without a SKU, a company cannot efficiently account for an item's activity. SKU numbers are also used to support longer item descriptions. Instead of inserting the complete name for a product, the SKU can be entered instead to speed up the inventory process.
SKU or item numbers should be kept short, containing between four and eight letters and numbers. Items that begin with letters are usually easier to locate. For example, an item such as chocolate sauce can be found easily if it its SKU is listed as SAU1234.
Inventory professionals advise businesses not to use characters in a SKU that might be confusing technologically. For example, the use of symbols might cause problems in data scanning. SKU numbers should be alpha-numeric and easy to decipher and read. Experts also suggest not using letters such as "O," "L" or "I" in SKUs because they can be easily confused with numbers.