Short & sweet: Stock Keeping Unit


A Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) refers to a clearly identifiable stored product or “stock unit”.

Each design variant of an item type that is managed separately from other design variants of an item type in warehousing because it must be uniquely identified either for inventory, by materials planning or by the customer is a separate SKU. Ostensibly identical items can represent different SKUs if they differ in physical characteristics such as manufacturer, material, packaging, packaging imprint, size, color or, in exceptional cases, in service features such as warranty conditions.

The Stock Keeping Unit is therefore the most detailed differentiation of article variants.

In many industries, terms such as material number or article number differentiate the article variants just as finely. There may also be a difference in that SKUs are sometimes only understood to be stocked materials (make-to-stock items) and usually only finished items, while item or material numbers also include non-stocked, customer-order-related materials as well as purchased materials and semi-finished products (make-to-order items).

Our tip:

In some sectors, such as the textile industry, the article is the basic product, which is further differentiated in terms of size, color and, if necessary, shape. In such cases, an item can be stocked in different SKU variants and reordered by customers.

Even within companies, different departments sometimes have a different understanding of what constitutes an article or a material number. Therefore, when discussing articles, it always makes sense to ensure that everyone involved has a common understanding of the term.

Picture of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner