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How to Fix Your Problems With Serial Numbers

How to Fix Your Problems With Serial Numbers


Why Serial Numbers?

Serial numbers are a source of great efficiency improvements for folks in all industries that require serialization. Here are some issues and  common requirements across industries.

What are problems with Serial Numbers:

1. Cradle to Grave

Each serial number has its own life-cycle, comes to life in either manufacturing or procurement or conversion. Most people benefit greatly from knowing about their serial numbers:

  • Where they are located
    • At the warehouse
    • En-route during shipping
    • At a customer site
    • In repair
  • S/N service history, what has been done to it in the past, what kind of calls were received
  • What the warranty status is
  • Contract coverage

2. Warranty and extended warranty contracts

When a customer calls the service hot-line with their s/n, SAP knows whether that s/n is under warranty or not and what type of service is covered for that part and customer. Is it under warranty or contract? What service product is covered and what can be offered as an up-charge? I.e. “Repair” is covered and customer can pay up for other services, for example 24 hour spare part delivery versus the usual 3 days. Or they can buy an extended warranty contract during the call.

3. Allow RMA returns, seamless and easy to execute.

Easier said than done. Whether the issue occurred after order taking, while the unit is being picked and packed, during shipping,  immediately after receipt, DOA, issues with the material, or at a later time: Make the customer whole again and happy. Think Amazon Returns. Industry trend: service contracts allow for better RMA services.

4. Equipment Records, really?

In SAP, the serial number record is expanded to an equipment record.

That is where a lot of the additional serial specific data lives. The equipment record has a system-wide unique ID, the Equipment Number, tied to the material and serial number. A great concept to leverage within your company. Many times the serial number is unique and sufficient to identify a part. In case same serial numbers exist between two or more parts,  the part and serial number combination will yield the unique record. In addition to that, the equipment number which can be thought of as a company internal record locator ID is surprisingly useful:

The equipment number is that one ID that immediately finds the record. 100% match. Folks take advantage of that, by printing the equipment number on the equipment tag. Or, load the equipment number to the RFID tag, or 3-D bar code. Technicians embrace the equipment number in short order, utilizing it during their work. Rather than the serial number,- which may not yield an immediate hit.

The equipment record then is the home of all things serialized. 
May sound trivial, however untapped improvements can be realized in Serialization. This is huge!

5. Serial Number Itself

S/N width and template itself is an important discussion: how wide are your serial numbers? Up to 18 chars? How do existing serial numbers look like, what are your current naming rules? Current and future naming standards are important, is it a speaking serial number? What are the recommendations in SAP? Up for a conversation.

6. Integrating with other functions

Often times, for example in Aerospace and Defense, part and serial numbers are controlled via engineering orders (USAF calls it TCTO or Time Compliance Technical Order) which requires that we do something to the item in question. Which in turn, makes it a new part or serial number.

And your rules around s/n may differ between organizations, business rules can be set up that way in SAP.

Serial number management integration areas that come to mind:

  • Engineering Change Management
  • Document Management
  • Inventory Management, Supply Chain
  • MDM
  • Procurement, PO, Receiving – goods-receiving of serials
    • if s/n recording at time of GR is not an option (may be buried on a palette or too many) there are other ways to create s/n
  • Sales, and, Service
If you’d like to read more about serial number management in SAP, click the button below to download the free SAP Serial Number PDF presentation document.

About the Author: Soren Detering

Soren is a SAP Senior Solution Architect , Founder and Owner at Detering Consulting, a niche SAP consulting firm focusing on SAP Sales, Service, and Warranty Management Solutions

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