Multiple Part Numbers for the same QuickBooks Item

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.

Custom Fields

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.

Sub Items

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.

Group Items

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.

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  • Thank you! I have been beating on this for years, and never thought of using Groups. Working well so far, will report back with any issues.

  • Is there any way to have multiple item descriptions? we buy items by the case, and sell them in both the case and individual box ( 10 boxes to a case)…I have set the U/M properly so inventory is reflected properly however the customers would like to see case vs. box on the invoices.

    • Sorry, no. Just one sales description. You could use the “UOM” column to show the UOM used in the order, and then just have one description that explains what you might see based on the UOM. But you can’t have a different description show up.

      • this seems strange…for example if a case=10 boxes and 1 box= 1000 items.

        when a customer buys 1 box…the description should say box of 1000 items

        when they buy a case they should see the description of 1 case of 10 boxes…

        I mean customers want to know whats in the box! lol are you sure there is no way?

        • David, QuickBooks doesn’t give you different descriptions based on UOM. You can add the UOM column, so that if you are selling “boxes” it will say “boxes” – you can change your UOM name to say “box of 1000 items” if you wish. That is the way that it works…

  • To clarify the customers like to see on the invoice the contents of the case… If set the item description to ” one case of widgets…10 widgets per case” it doesn’t make sense when they purchase 1. Widget with that description

  • I have an inventory part in my QuickBooks item list that I want to refer to by a different ID in the Sales Order, such as a customer part number. I attempted to use the method suggested by Charlie Russell, founder of CCRSoftware. Charlie said there is no good work around in QuickBooks, but the use of group classification helps. I tried it, I liked it except…

    When I put the quantity on the same line as the group item number on the Sales Order, the value (cost) of the product is shown as “0”. If I put the quantity on the same line as my item number the quantity does not show up but the total value does. Does anyone have a solution for this?

    Note: I liked the explanation by Charlie Russell that the inventory would be controlled by his method and therefore the user would not have to manually adjust inventory.

    If Charlie’s method cannot be adapted, does anyone else have a work around for having an item number and customer part number used in invoices and sales orders?

    • If all of the items in the sales order are going to have alternate ID’s, you could add a “custom field” as the ID column, and manually type in the value into that field, rather than using the actual item ID. Hide the item ID column. A bit tedious, as you have to type in the value each time (unless you have just one alternate ID and you enter that into the alternate field in the item record, which is probably unlikely). In this situation you would NOT be using a group item, just the real item, since you can’t use custom fields with group items.

      You can create a template with CCRQInvoice, which is an add-on product I’ve created that can print invoices from QB, and we can print the actual group item rate in the rate column without trouble. The hassle there is that you have to create a template with CCRQInvoice, and that is somewhat complicated (I can create a template for you, for a fee).

      Let me know if that is clear or not…

  • Quickbooks 2013 Accountant Premier:

    As a small manufacturing company I still have not yet converted to Quickbooks because of the one inventory item multiple customer ID’s, multiple price points required. My customers order items with their ID Nos. and usually only specify those ID’s on the PO. I like the Group Items solution but still have one problem with that solution; namely I cannot ‘link’ a specific price for each item to a unique customer. Only the original price of the Group item is available. Price levels ‘sort of’ get me there but in reality I need a separate price level for each customer, not elegant solution considering Quickbooks Premier (and even Enterprise at 750) puts a limit of 100 on the number of price levels available (different prices for different items are negotiated for each customer and do not follow a strict discount from the posted prices).

    Any other ideas? This was so easy to program in my Filemaker Pro database I use, and while it works OK for invoicing and such, I have no where near the stability and capability that Quickbooks can offer me as a whole accounting package.

    • Ultimately this is a lousy solution, a workaround becaues there isn’t anything better. But, if you are using groups to make “item ID’s” for specific customers, you can modify the price for the group item by adding a discount item (for example) as a part of the Group item

      • OK, great idea. I was hoping I could use a numeric (say .08 per item vs. percentage discount) per item discount but that doesn’t seem possible as discounts are apparently only applied to subtotals and totals and not each item (OR CAN I??).

        If I want to sell an item ‘list priced’ at .30 (such widget group named Widget-ACM to customer ACME products) for .22, I add a discount of 26.66667% (that’s enough significant digits, maybe less would do…) to the group and it works! The screen S/O and invoice are ‘ugly’ but the printed one is good with only the .22 showing for the Widget-ACM.

        Yes, a little clunky (only for initial setup of the inventory group item) but it works and I can now keep track of the single inventory item properly that represents many customers and their specific ID’s using your original group item idea along with the discount.

        It still seems odd that Quickbooks still does not have a feature (linking specific customers to their item Nos.) that could do the above in a more elegant fashion. Customers (at least mine) typically bicker about every item they order which makes assigning price levels across the board rather useless.

        I assume I will have a large ‘discount from list’ (I created that as an expense account for the percentage discounts from list price) file account to deal with but my accountant should be able to work around that. Is their a better way to deal with this discount account??

        Being a machinist and manufacturer (not an accountant, that’s for sure) if you see any fatal flaws (such as changing pricing in the future for the item, etc.) let me know.

        • A discount item will apply the discount to whatever is just above it. That can be a subtotal, or it could be an individual item. You can also just use a service or other-charge item, to add a specific charge

          • But the numeric (not percent) discount only works if one item is ordered. Say the item is .30 and the specific customers price is .20. A discount for one item ordered of .10 would work, but if the line item is for 500 items (my customer always order 100’s if not 1,000’s of quantity for each item), it would only discount the entire line by .10, not $50.00. Correct yes??

            The percent discount does work but I end up having a few hundred crazy discounts of 32.67865%, 4.56342%, etc. which are assigned to each group item.

  • I know this is an old tip, but curious how the Group Item # works in regards to the vendor. I need my purchase order to show the Vendor Item #. How can that work?

    I’ve tried the sub-item # trick, with customizing my invoices to show the MPN instead of the Item #, however that doesn’t really work for me since I need to supply my customers with Sales Reports each month & I can’t run a report on the MPN. My report then looks really messy in regards to the Item #’s


    • QuickBooks doesn’t have a good way to handle this. MPN’s can be used, but you would have to use an outside report product like QQube to generate your reports, which isn’t cheap. In some cases you can use custom fields, but that only works if there is one alternative part number for each item that all customers would use.