The item file is seemingly a simple file. Use the item number the same way as on sales orders along with the human readable description and maybe a few other fields such as color, weight, and so on. Throw in a few department or categories, too, to make summarizing easier and more meaningful to businesspeople.
Unfortunately, different industries have different ways of identifying, classifying, and describing items. There is no easy way of generalizing a single structure for covering all items that will satisfy reporting needs in all industries. Indeed, even within a single company different departments have different ways of looking at items individually and in groups.
The term "item" covers services, too. Think about the chargemaster in healthcare — basically an item master file used to bill for specific services provided. Other companies in services usually have a list of standard offerings. These are essentially item master files just like a distributor would have in its ERP as far as sales reporting is concerned.
An important point about creating an item file in a data base geared for reporting sales data is flexibility. Inevitably, the industry will change, additional divisions and departments will use the reporting, new ideas on management and sales process will be implemented, and a wide variety of other changes could occur in the company to add to the different ways items are viewed.
Additionally, item numbers will change over time. The same product coming from different vendors may have the same item number now, but will be different in the future.
There are the usual ways around this problem, such as adding additional columns or writing some logic that looks at the invoice date to find the appropriate item description. It seems like everyone can create a system that fits their company’s need if they emphasize flexibility for the future rather than perfection in the present.
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