Exploring Item Tracking Functionality in Business Central

Keeping tabs on where your items go after sale can be of great importance dependant on what type of business you have. If you have a fault with a product, you want to know where that product has been shipped to, whether other products have been affected and from that work out the appropriate solution. Serial tracking, lot tracking and item tracing are ways to help you manage this.

Take for example, faulty batteries in a phone. We want to know the serial numbers of the phones in question and, based on that, work out which batches of batteries were used in them. From there we could see which manufacturer supplied those batches and in which other products they had been used.

At this stage we don’t know whether the issue is exclusive to one supplier, a batch or whether it is more widespread and indicates a possible design fault. But enough detective work, we can see why it’s useful to track items, let’s define the available types in Business Central.

The two types of tracking available

Items can be tracked in two different ways in Business Central. There’s ‘lot’ tracking and ‘serial’ tracking.

Serial tracking

Serial tracking relates to identifying products at an individual level. If I have 10 identical phones in front of me, from a physical perspective, there’s nothing to distinguish them. But the unique serial number each has separates them from one another. And so you can use this to monitor their production and sales movements.

Lot tracking

Lot tracking groups together a selection of products. For example, one single delivery could be grouped together with a singular lot tracking number. This is less specific than serial tracking, but Business Central will allow you to lot and serially track the same item.

Item tracking in Business Central

To incorporate tracking details to an item, we first need to edit or create a new one.

The ‘Item Tracking’ tab near the bottom of the page contains several necessary fields. The Item Tracking Code field will have to be filled in. If you have it set up already, select the relevant entry. Where the relevant entry hasn’t been setup, If you drill into it to view the options, ‘select from full list’ and then either ‘edit’ or ‘new’, you will get a page like this:

Now note the above image shows the setup for an Item Tracking Code Card for both lot and serial tracking. In instances where you only want one, click the tick box for either ‘SN Specific Tracking’ or ‘Lot Specific Tracking’. This will automatically turn on a handful of fields, including tracking for both purchases and sales.

If you scroll down further, this is where you can set up warranty requirements, namely the ‘Warranty Date Formula’.

Returning to the Item Card, in the ‘Item Tracking’ tab, establish the number series used in either the ‘Serial Nos.’, the ‘Lot Nos.’ fields, or both.

Drilling into either field and clicking ‘select from full list’ will show you the options you have with number series’.

If you would like to manually enter serial or lot numbers, you have the option to by turning on the ‘Manual Nos.’ option. This gives you the flexibility to define these tracking numbers, perhaps where you are matching your serial number with the number provided by the vendor for an item you are reselling.

Bringing tracked items into your system

Now you have defined what type of tracking your item will use and a number series, we need to bring goods into the system. Whether you are using an Item Journal or a Purchase Order to get tracked items into the system, the process is nearly identical. We will use an Item Journal to demonstrate. On the Item Journal, specify the ‘Entry Type’, ‘Item No.’, ‘Location Code’ and ‘Quantity’. As I have specified that this Item is to be both serially and lot tracked, I can’t post this without having these numbers attached.

Please be aware the error message for the absence of a lot number (where relevant) will only show once the serial number has been added. Both errors don’t appear at the same time.

Assigning or creating custom serial numbers

Let’s attach a serial and lot number to our item.

On the relevant Journal line, click ‘Line’ and then ‘Item Tracking Lines’. In here, click ‘Actions’, ‘Functions’ and then you can choose to assign serial or create custom tracking numbers.

For custom serial numbers, click into that button and then you can elect what to call this custom serial number. When you are using a custom serial number and want a lot number, tick the field below.

Item Tracking Line headers

One thing to note is that on the Item Tracking Lines, you can see three headers and some related numbers. It’s just worth keeping in mind these don’t match up perfectly. Let’s look at what the figures tell us:

The ‘Quantity’ is the first number you come across, from left to right. This is the quantity of Items on the Item Journal. The ‘Item Tracking’ header relates to the number of those items on the journal line you have tracked. And lastly, the ‘Undefined’ part relates to number of items you have without assigned tracking values. The calculation for what is ‘Undefined’ is simply the ‘Quantity’ minus the ‘Item Tracking’ value. The example in the image above shows this.

It can give minus numbers for the Undefined section too. If I had 10 items on the Item Journal and in my Item Tracking Lines I’d used 12 Lines, I would have an Undefined value of -2. The important thing to note here is you want the Undefined value to disappear, as that means it is at 0 and you have relevant tracking values attached to each item.

Selling our tracked item

Now we have our tracked items in the system, let’s designate which of our newly obtained tracked items to sell. On a sales order, enter the relevant information like the ‘Item No.’, ‘Quantity’ and any relevant ‘Location’ so the system knows where to take the goods from. To specify which of the tracked items you wish to sell, click ‘Line’, ‘Related Information’ and then ‘Item Tracking Lines’.

From this point onwards, it’s familiar. By clicking ‘Actions’ and ‘Functions’, you’re able to select which tracked items you’re using. The key difference here is that you have the option to ‘Select Entries’, meaning you don’t have to click ‘Assign’ (serial or lot) and simply use the tracking numbers given to you. Now simply post and sell like usual.

An important thing to remember is that you can’t begin serially or lot tracking an item after it has been transacted previously. So make sure for any items you wish to track and sell, make sure to get the setup correct initially.

Item tracing

When it comes to seeing where your tracked items have gone, tracing is fundamental. For each serial or lot tracked item, you can go onto the Item Tracing page and use the relevant serial and lot filters to see where they went. The Item Tracing page can either be reached by the Item Card and then clicking ‘Actions’, ‘Item Tracing’. Alternatively, use the search bar. Once you have input the relevant filters, click ‘Actions’ and ‘Trace’. This will generate one or more lines, mapping out the stages this specific item or group of items have undergone.

Notice in the example above, it’s all one item with the same lot number but different serial numbers and varying Sales Shipment Header numbers. This is just to show how items with the same lot number can be sold in different sales orders but all still show at once within this page.

Closing remarks

In a blog not so long ago, we covered stocktaking and cycle counting which included reference to serially tracked items. Now you’ve got some serially tracked items in your system, feel free to check it out!

We’d love to hear your questions and queries related to anything Business Central. Contact us here!