There are times when you have an inventory part in your QuickBooks item list that you want to refer to by different ID’s in an invoice. Sometimes the customer wants THEIR part number on the invoice, for example. How can you handle that with QuickBooks? If you have a “Widget” but one customer wants to see their ID on the invoice, “Wid001”, what can you do? And what if you have several customers who each have their own ID’s?
Manufacturer’s Part Number
QuickBooks provides a Manufacturer’s Part Number field that is intended to be used in a purchase order. However, this doesn’t work well with invoices. You don’t have the ability to specify multiple alternate numbers, just one, so if you have several different customers who require their own numbers you are out of luck. In any case, this field doesn’t help in invoices because QuickBooks doesn’t provide this as an available field in the additional customization window.
You can define up to five custom fields in the item list where you can store information such as an alternate part number. This works with invoices because the custom fields are available in the additional customization window. I don’t like this approach because you still are limited to the number of alternate numbers (up to five) and you would have to create a different template for each of the custom fields if you are using multiple fields for these ID’s. In addition – you are very limited here (only five fields) and I hate to waste this limited resource on this kind of task.
I’ve seen some businesses use the sub item feature in QuickBooks. You have your part “Widget”, create another part “Wid001” and make it a sub item of “Widget”. There are several advantages of this approach over the prior options. You are not limited to the number of alternate parts you have for each item. You don’t have to create special invoice templates, as this is an item ID instead of an alternate field. QuickBooks will show you the fully qualified name on the invoice screen (“Widget:Wid001”) but the printed version will only show the customer’s alternate name (“Wid001”) – a feature that is sometimes annoying but actually helps in this case. Also, you have the ability to set up a separate item description for this particular customer, if that is needed.
The problem with this approach is that each of these items are separate items, with their own balances. If you have 10 “Widget” items on hand, and you invoice one “Widget:Wid001”, none are available. You have to make an inventory adjustment to move one “Widget” over to “Widget:Wid001”. This can be a hassle, particularly in multi-user systems where you have to go to single user mode to make the adjustment. It also is potentially a problem – if you forget to make the move then you will have a negative inventory balance for “Widget:Wid001”, which can create some significant problems with your COGS accounts (QuickBooks doesn’t handle negative inventory balances very nicely). This can add a significant burden to your workload, and anything that is this complicated is a prime area for mistakes and difficult to audit.
My preferred method, in most cases, is to use group items. Create a group item “Wid001” and assign it a component part “Widget” with quantity 1. Un-check the “print items in group” box so that you don’t see the details on the invoice. Just this one part, only with quantity 1.
You have the same advantages as you do with sub items. No limit to the number of alternate parts (other than the limit to the total number of items in your item list). No special columns to set up in the invoice. Only the alternate item ID shows in the printed invoice.
In addition, you don’t have the major drawback of the sub item. You don’t have to perform any inventory adjustments. A group item is not a separate item, it essentially is a shortcut to the original item. There is only one inventory balance, for the “Widget” itself. If you sell a “Wid001” to somebody it will draw on the balance of the “Widget” item. Your sales reports will show sales of “Widget” and not “Wid001”.
This is not a perfect solution, but it is as close as we can get in QuickBooks. It does take time to set up if you have a large number of items, you don’t have a simple way to classify these items by customer (you can use a custom field for this, though), and if you are using Pro or Premier you have the limit of 14,500 items in your item list.