Transform Your Inventory Item Management with Variant Items

 In Best Practices, Business Intelligence, Inventory Management

Variant items aid in inventory management.

Item entry is one of those tasks at a product-centric distribution company that carries a pretty wide range of stress levels for the employees saddled with it. If your business deals primarily with pretty standardized items, or a limited amount of items, item entry is likely a quick, easy, painless process. 

If you’re dealing with a large number of items, though, or items that can be customized or otherwise differentiated (some examples are computers with various tech specs, produce seeds harvested at different times, or cabinet hardware with assorted finishes), item entry might very well make you want to pull your hair out. 

Variant items save you time when creating new inventory items by allowing you to create a large number of related items at once. 

Fortunately, what is potentially a tedious, error-ridden process can be simplified by utilizing a must-have ERP feature known as variant items, product variants, variant groups, or something similar. At SalesPad, we call them variant items. 

What are variant items?

A variant item is a parent item comprised of multiple attribute combinations. These combinations (the variant items) represent each of the inventory-tracked items that further represent every possible combination of the parent item and variants. Variant items save you time when creating new inventory items by allowing you to create a large number of related items at once, and when paired with a tool such as SalesPad’s item matrix, they simplify order entry as well. 

How do I use variant items?

Let’s say that you sell water bottles, and that you sell three sizes (small, medium, and large). Each size has four lid options (screw-top, hinged lid, folding straw, or spout), and five colors (red, green, blue, black, and, just to make things fun, rainbow). 

Each individual instance of this water bottle (so, a rainbow-colored size medium with a spout-style cap) needs its own dataset in your ERP solution. That’s 60 separate virtual items that need to be maintained, 60 different SKUs that might need to be queried for any given order, 60 different possibilities for error. And our water bottle example, here, is a pretty simplified example with a relatively low number of possible combinations. It’s not hard to imagine how the number of variations can quickly grow to a number even more exhausting than a mere 60.

Colorful water bottles

Variant items trim the fat and make creating, managing, and selling all of the variations of your water bottle much simpler. Rather than creating 60 separate items for each iteration of your water bottle, you only have to create one “parent” water bottle, list out the different attributes (size, lid type, and color) and the options for those attributes in a grid format within your ERP solution, and let the software do the work for you. Your ERP system will generate a variant item for each combination of attributes possible under your parent item, and each variant item will then be available to edit individually, if need be, or treated as its own unique item (it will have a unique SKU and be accessible within your system just like any other inventory item). 

Item Matrix

Once you’ve established your parent item, any changes that need to be made to the parent and its variant items can be made within the grid you used to create the variant items. So, if there’s a change in vendor, there’s no need to go through each of the 60 variant items and update that information — simply update the parent item, make sure that your settings indicate that this change applies to the variant items, and voilà! Use your extra time to go get a fresh cup of coffee, and rest easy knowing that your 60 water bottles all have consistent updates in your system.

Manage your inventory.

Variant items are incredibly useful for businesses dealing with inventory that can benefit from them. They’re simply one facet, though, in your ongoing quest to effectively manage your inventory. 

A lot of companies make the mistake of confusing tracking inventory for managing it. While tracking really just entails knowing where your inventory is, managing inventory is a much more complex, and more valuable, method of doing business. It can be tough to know the difference, though, when you’re down in the trenches busily trying to keep the ship afloat. 

To help you understand the differences between tracking and managing inventory, we’ve created a quiz to point you in the right direction. Check it out, and reach out to us with any questions you have, or to learn more about how the right ERP solution makes all the difference in managing your inventory.

Take the Quiz

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