inventory management

How to properly label your materials

It's important to ensure that you have a consistent labelling strategy for your handmade materials - we show you how.

As a handmade seller, it is really important to know exactly where your materials are at any point in time. After all, rummaging around in boxes trying to find misplaced stock wastes precious time that you could be better using to create more of your products!

To do this, you’ll need to create a good system for labelling each of your materials. The key here as with most inventory systems is consistency: you’ll want to make sure that you apply the same naming and labelling techniques to all of your materials equally.

For starters, you’ll want to think about creating a series of cards about the size of an average shipping label that identifies each of your materials. Black and white is best for readability - you’ll want to avoid colors unless you are also employing a color coding system.

You can create your material labels by hand using index cards and attach with sticky tape, or alternatively for a faster and more polished look you might like to use something like a DYMO LabelWriter for this purpose as this will allow you to create a series of self-adhesive labels quickly and efficiently.

Example of a material tracking label for handmade sellers

Once you have found a way of making your identity cards, you’ll need to decide what information should be displayed. We recommend ensuring that you have a short unique code for each of your materials and making this the most prominant feature of your card - you should be able to read this without difficulty from at least 2 meters away.

Creating a unique short code for each of your materials is really handy at all different stages of the manufacturing process: it allows you to quickly identify stock for reordering, and also reduces manual errors when picking out materials to use in your manufactures. This code should be around 5-6 characters in length and be ideally something that you learn to recognise over time.

For example, giving your clasps a CL- prefix may be a better approach than assigning a random string of numbers to the material as it will allow you to be able to “decode” the code somewhat to determine what it is without needing to look it up each time.

Another key piece of information to add to your material is a short description - this is another error prevention measure as it allows you to double-check that you are looking at the right material. Only use as much info as is relevant - you shouldn’t need to add vendor or brand details here as this should already be contained within your craft inventory management system.

QR codes are also a great addition to a tracking label. As most smart phones contain the capability for scanning these codes, you can then use these codes to provide you with instant access to more details about the material: a perfect use of this would be to create a QR code to your material page within your stock management system so that you can get a full summary of the material instantly while still standing in your storeroom. Craftybase generates tracking labels, including QR codes that display material detail pages automatically.

Finally, if you are also using a bin location system (which you might as well introduce at the same time!) then you’ll also want to include the bin number on the label here too. This is great when returning materials to their locations - you’ll just match the code on the label to the one on the shelf and bingo! that’s where it goes.

Nicole Pascoe Nicole Pascoe - Profile

Written by Nicole Pascoe

Nicole is the co-founder of Craftybase, an inventory and bookkeeping software product designed specifically for handmade sellers. She has been working with, and writing articles for, Etsy sellers for the last 12 years. Her passion is to help handmade sellers to become more successful with their online endeavors by empowering them with the knowledge they need to take their business to the next level.