How serial numbers work and why you should use them

How serial numbers work and why you should use them

Appearing on everything from electronics to software, serial numbers are attached to everything. They’re like the fingerprint of the product world, making each item unique and traceable.

But do you understand what a serial number is and how you can use it to your advantage? If not, here’s what you need to know:

1. What is a serial number?
2. Different types of serial numbers
3. Why do we use serial numbers?
4. Benefits of serial numbers
5. Use serial numbers for equipment management


What is a serial number?

At its core, a serial number (also known as SN or S/N) is a unique set of numbers and letters assigned to an individual item or software. So, for example, if you buy 20 extension cords from the same brand, each will have its own serial number.

A serial number can be any length, from six to twenty or more characters, this depends on the country of production, your company, and multiple other factors.

It’s worth noting that a serial number is not the same as a model number which will be the same for all items that fit the model characteristics of a brand.

Why is this important? Because it can be used for identification and inventory control purposes. By inputting the number into your system or scanning it, you’ll see an item’s origin, batch number, and validity.


The different types of serial numbers

There are many different types of serial numbers such as ladder to binary and birthday serial numbers. You don’t need to know them all. However, there are also three different categories of serial numbers. These are:

  • Sequential serial numbers: These are numbers assigned in a consecutive order, typically going up by one digit for each new item produced.
  • Random serial numbers: Think of these like a lucky draw. Numbers are assigned without any particular order, often using computer algorithms.
  • Alphanumeric serial numbers: Involves using a mix of letters and numbers, making each serial number unique and more versatile for identification.
Serial numbers are important when you have lots of equipment
Serial numbers are important when you have lots of similar gear


Why do we use serial numbers?

Serial numbers identify a specific item. Much like how a fingerprint identifies a specific person. So one of the main roles of serial numbers is to keep track of items. By assigning a unique identifier to each product, companies can streamline tracking, organize stock, and quickly locate specific items in their warehouse.

Because of its tracking capabilities, serial numbers are also crucial for warranty services and recalls. If an item needs to be recalled, manufacturers use serial numbers to identify the affected items. They can then easily contact the clients with an affected piece of gear.

Lastly, a serial number helps buyers spot a counterfeit. How? Serial numbers can’t be faked. When a company registers a specific item to a serial number, no other company can take that same number. So, you can search the product you are about to buy by its serial number to check its authenticity. Doing so will give you detailed information about a producer, production date, and more.


The benefits of using serial numbers

The main benefit of serial numbers is its traceability. With serial numbers, every step of a product's lifecycle can be monitored. Such as manufacturing to distribution and even post-purchase usage. This traceability not only aids in quality control but also contributes to a more transparent and accountable supply chain.

You can also use serial numbers to track your inventory, also known as serialized inventory. This is particularly useful for high-value items. Use their serial numbers to manage your inventory from the moment you receive an item and all of its movements every time it's outside of your warehouse until you dispose of it.


Why use serial numbers for equipment management?

Serial numbers act as unique identifiers for each piece of gear in your warehouse. And thanks to its traceability, you can use serial numbers to plan your gear, trace an item's movements throughout an event, know where it was last seen if you lose it and easily retrieve it.

To make this a reality, you need to connect all your products to inventory management software that supports serial number tracking. Then you can use RFID or barcodes to track your equipment and access instant reports on usage statistics.


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