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Track your products by serial and lot numbers

by Thomas | Last Updated: July 30th, 2021 | Inventory | 16 comments

Tracking inventory accurately can require more than just stock counts. Many products can have lot, batch, or serial numbers attached to them — and properly managing these is just as important as monitoring your inventory levels.

Lot and serial numbers are tracked through the manufacturing process, delivery to retail stores, and right through to the final sale. In this post, we’ll dig through what each of these numbers represent and how you can effectively track them.

What are batch and lot numbers?

All of these bottles contain the same product, but they were made at different times or places, so they have different lot numbers.

In this post we’ll mainly refer to lot numbers, but the terms “batch number”, “lot number”, and even “code number” can be used interchangeably. Lot numbers are used when you make a product in large quantities, with the same set of ingredients or raw materials, and at the same time. You’ll find lot or batch numbers commonly used in the food, automotive and pharmaceutical industries, and they can also help to track children’s products.

If there turns out to be a problem with a product, manufacturers can save a lot of money and effort to recall products based on lot number. For example, if a drug turns out to have a dangerous ingredient in it, a pharmaceutical company can examine which lots were affected and then recall them — instead of having to recall all of the bottles on all of the shelves.

If you end up having any issues with a product in your business, you’ll likely report it to a manufacturer with the lot number. The lot numbers are sometimes given a prefix (e.g., Lot 114321), but they may simply appear as numbers that are stamped or printed on the product.

Tracking batch or lot numbers

If you purchase products that have lot or batch numbers, record them as you receive them on each purchase order. Specifically, record how many units were received, as well as the lot number assigned to them. You’ll then want to store all units that share the same lot number in a single space for easy tracking.

It’s most convenient if your inventory system can record a lot number directly, but if there isn’t a dedicated space for recording one, you can also record the lot number as a sublocation. For example, if you’re storing a particular lot in Warehouse A, you can log its location as Warehouse A, Lot 345.

It may not be necessary to include the lot number on your invoices to customers, but you will want to track it on the pick list for each invoice. That way, if your customers process any returns due to defects, the pick list will help you quickly identify the lot number in question.

[inFlow Cloud tracks lot numbers using the sublocation field. For more details, see this sublocation article.]

What’s in a serial number?

Both of these laptops are the same model, but each one has a unique serial number.

While lot numbers refer to a group of identical products, serial numbers help to identify individual units of a product. In other words, they’re even more specific than batch or lot numbers. A lot number could be assigned to tens, hundreds, or thousands of identical products, but a serial number is only assigned to one unit. In other words, serial numbers make products unique so you can differentiate one unit from another.

If you take a look at the bottom of a laptop, you’ll likely find a serial number printed or engraved on it. If you don’t see it there, the number is often associated with your purchasing account at a retailer, and it will be printed on the original invoice.

Serial numbers can be used for recalls, but they’re also handy for service eligibility. Warranty and repair requests will often require a serial number submission before the services are approved, and the serial number will help to identify the date of purchase (because it’s usually included in the invoice).

Serial numbers can also contain more information about the product. The encoding can vary from company to company, but you can commonly use a product’s serial number to identify its model number, date of manufacture, and even a code for where that product was made.

Tracking serial numbers

If you sell serialized products, you’ll need an extra level of precision in your inventory tracking. When you receive your products, you’ll have to record how many units you received, as well as the serial number assigned to each individual unit.

This serial number will also be recorded on any stock transfers to other storage locations, and on any sales or returns. Entering long serial numbers after every product movement can be time consuming, so it can be helpful to have your serial numbers printed out as scannable barcodes. This way your staff can use a barcode scanner to scan how much of a particular product is being moved, and then scan a second set of barcodes to identify exactly which serials were included in that transaction.

We’ve heard from customers that they previously tracked serial numbers using complex spreadsheets, where each row would represent a product and its corresponding serial number. While these can work for smaller batches of serialized products, it can also be very easy to make mistakes and overwrite data.

We’ve designed inFlow Cloud to make this process easier. inFlow ensures that serial numbers follow serialized products through every stock transfer and transaction — from initial purchase to final sale. So you can rest easy knowing that your serial numbers are being tracked, but without having to resort to giant spreadsheets to manage them.

If you’d like to simplify serial number tracking, inFlow Cloud can help!

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Thomas is a 100% human being who divides his time between writing medium-sized articles with his keyboard and taking large photographs with his camera.


  1. Sophie Brossard

    The article is nice but does not tell me how to do that in Inflow. This is what I need to track inventory with a lot number then stored by shipper 1 2 3 4 5 with multiple serialized units 32 34 35 ….

  2. Robyn Cook

    I’d like to know a bit more about this product? Can you use warehouses as a different feature to say equipment is in storeroom, has been moved to staging and now it’s couriered to customer and finally closed Inventory?
    I’m trying to find something that can help with managing the tracking stages of customer equipment from when it is delivered to us through the stages and then received/closed by customer. Ideally I would require fields that are associated to PO or/and SO’s. Part number, serial number, customer name etc.

    • Thomas Wong

      Hi Robyn,

      Thanks for getting in touch!

      The quick answer is that inFlow can handle workflows where you just need to keep track of local inventory, and it can also help you record the process of sending products to customers and properly removing them from inventory. The thing we do not currently track is when the products are received by the customers; currently they would have to tell you that themselves or you’d have to check based on tracking numbers.

      Since you left your email address with us, I’ve forwarded your questions to our support team and they’ll be in touch via email with followup!

  3. Caleb

    What is this the serial number of?

    • Thomas Wong

      Sorry Caleb, serial numbers are pretty specialized with prefixes and suffixes, so without having more context like the manufacturer and type of product, it’s not usually possible to tell from the serial number alone what product it would belong to. Sorry we can’t help more here!

  4. Renee

    How can I trace a serial number to a camcorder to see if it was stolen

    • Thomas Wong

      Hi Renee,

      If it was a camera sold at your store, then you’d be able to investigate and see if that serial number was ever on any sales orders (if it wasn’t, then it may have been stolen).

  5. averie lindao

    hi! is it possible to create a lot number with serial number? if possible, how? for breads and cakes having 2 or more commissary. hope to here from you the soonest. thank you!

    • Thomas Wong

      Hi Averie,

      Our software doesn’t currently explicitly support lot numbers, but we do offer a workaround where you use a sublocation to represent lot numbers.
      So you could create a serialized product in inFlow and then store it in a sublocation that reflects its lot number.

  6. Tommy Tutsoon

    We manufacture architectural stone veneer.

    We sell the stone “per square foot”. But it’s packaged on individual pallets. One pallet might have 150 sq ft…..the next pallet might be 200 sq ft of same stone. All inventory eventually leaves the warehouse on a pallet.At any given time there might be 100 pallets of stone in the warehouse with different quantities of stone…

    My question: Would giving each pallet a serialized number be my best option?

    • Thomas

      Hi Tommy, yes, serializing each pallet could work. We also support prefixes for serial numbers, so you could have different prefixes to denote different sizes of pallet.

      The other way to work around this would be to make a sublocation out of each pallet and receive pallets to their own unique sublocations.

  7. Jan Dion

    We are just starting our business of manufacturing of metal parts, wherein we have to record the certificates of each metal used. I am having trouble giving a unique identifier to the Lot Number to be used to trace the parts made from the metal supplied from each supplier. Could the lot number be the same as the Sales Order from the supplier only with “LTN” in front of it, and the part number of the product following, with the storage location following that, as example (Warehouse ) WH1. Then when a part is made from this metal, should that lot number be on our sales order to the customer? Having a problem (in my head ) as to how to marry up all the numbers ( SO, PO, WO and Lot number ) and easily trace them all back to the original order. Thank you for your input!

    • Thomas

      Hi Jan,

      Hrmm, this might be better as a support ticket with our team, but I’ll give it a quick try in comments.

      Assuming you’re using inFlow, if you’re trying to keep a consistent lot number, you could try using a sublocation to represent the lot numbers and the locations to represent the warehouse as a whole. If your supplier doesn’t provide a lot number, I think your idea of basing it on a PO or SO number works, since those must be unique in inFlow (no duplicates).

      So if you bought metal from a supplier on PO-0001 and you stored it in WH1, the location would be WH1 and the sublocation would be called PO-0001.
      When you use that metal on a work order in inFlow, the Pick tab in your work order would serve as a permanent record of which lots were sourced in the work order.

      The Put Away tab of the work order could also use that same PO-0001 sublocation.
      This would mean that raw materials and finished materials would both occupy that PO-0001 sublocation, but if the items have very different names and descriptions, that could be OK.
      The idea would be that the location represents the raw materials from that lot number, and final products made from that lot.

      When you sell that metal, you’d pick from the PO-0001 sublocation and that would also be permanently recorded in inFlow.
      If you needed to, you could print out the pick list and crop it to show the customer where those products were taken from. That would basically show the lots to them. It wouldn’t be on the invoice, but it could be a document accompanying the invoice — all generated by inFlow.

      I hope that helps with some direction. If you have other questions, you can reach us through our support channels ( and live chat on

      – Thomas

  8. Grzegorz

    You describe LOT numbers, but without a single information on where to find it in the Dear system. And I cannot find it in the system neither, why? Because it doesn’t exist. You are describing a feature (that is like a basic feature for inventory management) and then you only add an sentence “inflow doesn’t offer it, but a workaround”. Such a waste of my time, both for reading this article and for trying inflow.

    • Thomas

      Sorry we disappointed you, Grzegorz. This article is mostly about how people go about tracking lot and serial numbers—a kind of general overview. But we do mention that inFlow can help with these use cases, too. (We don’t mention Dear Systems because that’s not our software.)

      However, since we wrote this article a few years ago we have added new features that improve lot number tracking within inFlow.
      It was a workaround before, but you can now use sublocations in inFlow to represent lot numbers. There’s a setting in Cloud to help you automatically pick products based on lot numbers. If you’d like any help trying out this feature, please get in touch with and we’d be happy to assist.


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