Stock Keeping Unit's (SKUs) concept in 3D product configurator
This chapter will generally describe the concept of SKUs for the unfamiliar.
Stock Keeping Units are a way to maintain an inventory of items your manufacturing keeps in stock or items your factories produce. In order for a digital system like 3d product configurator, tell to the e-commerce platform what units the user selected, SKUs are used. You should think SKUs as units of production and also occasionally, units of price where you could have 3 parts or items which can be bought separately at certain price but when combined, the price is discounted. Below table depicts this scenario
|A001||Assembly 01 includes P001, P002, P003||004||€50|
As you can see from the table purchasing P001, P002 and P003 separately would cost you €55, but purchasing A001 which includes the 3 parts costs you only €50.
Why SKU definition is important?
It is vital to define SKUs to identify a particular item or combination exactly in the digital automated system like 3D product configurator as otherwise you as the seller will not be able to know exactly what they buyer is buying. Lets imagine we sell coffee grinder and you can buy it with red color metal details or blue color metal details. If we did not define these as 2 different SKUs, how would you know which one a buyer bought when the order is placed on your e-commerce platform?
Another example would be a modular sofa with many types of cover materials, for example leather and fabric. To make it simple, let's assume we have 2 colors in fabric, and 2 colors in leather. If we would define that the one-seater element with any fabric color would have a SKU of
seat1-fab, and any leather color would result in
seat1-leather, it would be impossible for the e-commerce system or other background systems to know which exact color was in fact chosen. In this case we would have defined the SKUs based on price groups but that is incorrect and will lead to issues. It is instead recommended to define SKUs so that they specify the color or whatever other options. In the context of this example the SKUs could be defined in the following way:
|1 seater||Fabric white||1 seater with white fabric||seat1-fawh|
|1 seater||Fabric blue||1 seater with blue fabric||seat1-fabl|
|1 seater||Leather black||1 seater with black leather||seat1-lebk|
|1 seater||Leather grey||1 seater with grey leather||seat1-legr|
Second, if you integrate your manufacturing or warehouse fulfillment processes to automate order-to-delivery process, the systems need to precicely know what items they need to manufacture. SKUs can be one universal identifier between systems to ensure all automation works well.
Challenges and solutions of large number of variants
There are few special reasons to consider when defining SKUs: they need to produce an uniquely identifiable item that you keep in stock. If you keep in stock 4 screws and bolts as a package, you do not need SKU code for the screw itself, but if you have a part of a modular sofa in 100 different colors, each variant needs to be identifiable uniquely. Very modular products with lots of options quickly generate so many permutations of choices that it might become unfeasible to manage all combinations in one. So making assemblies, like above where 3 parts together are identified as an assembly SKU might be a way to make managing SKUs easier. Additionally, making SKUs in parts would be another way of solving a large problem. This part SKU could be combined as aggregate to form a complete SKU, but one would be able to decode the full SKU into its sub elements to know exactly what is included or not. The above example of 3 items could also be formed into an SKU of xyz where x is either 0 or 1 depending on if Part_01 is ordered, y and z likewise so the A001 assembly with all 3 parts would become "111".
How to define SKUs in the 3D product configurator
You can refer to the operational chapter of configuring SKU logic for instructions how to define SKU logic in the 3D product configurator