Lot vs. Serial Numbers: What’s the Difference?

a collage of barcodes

Controlling inventory can be challenging, with thousands of products entering and leaving your production facility daily. How do you keep track of what’s coming and going?

With tracking indicators, like lot and serial numbers, weight, creation date, batch numbers, and expiration date. This post will focus on two of the most common--lot and serial numbers.

Read on to learn what they are, how they’re different, and how they can help with inventory management.

What is a lot number?

Lot numbers are a combination of digits that a manufacturer assigns to a group of products manufactured using the same materials, equipment, and processes. You can find these digits on the product’s packaging.

When to use: For products created in specific batches or groups through a process known as batch processing.

What is a serial number?

Serial numbers are identification numbers that a manufacturer assigns to a single product. No two items, even if they were manufactured at the same time, will have the same serial number.

When to use: For products requiring after-sales service or support, like smartphones, fridges, and washing machines. They allow manufacturers and service centers to easily identify products for warranty claims.

Take note: Many manufacturers will use manufacturing management software to track lot and serial numbers.

How do lot and serial numbers help with inventory management?

Lot and serial numbers help with inventory management in several ways:

Inventory identification and tracking
Lot numbers allow you to trace products back to specific batches, providing information about materials used and other important details. Serial numbers allow you to track products through their entire lifecycle, from manufacture to sale to after-sales support.

Quality control
Because a lot number lets you trace products back to a specific lot, you can more easily identify the cause of any defect (.e.g., the production process) and determine what control measures to implement to maintain product quality.

Legal compliance
Some industries require that you provide serial and lot numbers for all manufactured products to help identify products, keep customers safe, and assist with product recall. These include companies that sell medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, fireworks, and other highly regulated products.

Recall management
If the need for product recalls arise, lot and serial numbers help identify which products must be recalled. Lot numbers, for instance, allow you to isolate defective batches and identify the responsible components. You can then let consumers know so they can check if their products need to be returned.

After-sales support
Serial numbers allow you to accurately track and manage warranty information and service history to help streamline after-sales support. Simply pull up the serial number to identify the warranty status and full repair history.

Start tracking inventory with lot and serial numbers

Lot numbers help pinpoint products manufactured in the same batch, where serial numbers are unique to a single product.

While both are different, these two tracking indicators are equally valuable in helping you manage inventory, from easy product identification and quality control to legal compliance and after-sales support.

Want to learn how to track inventory by just about any tracking indicator? Book a demo with Fishbowl today.