Last week I discussed using Custom Fields for customers, vendors and employees. This week I’d like to discuss using Custom Fields with Items. Examples of Custom Fields for Items might be color, size, type of material, number in a pallet or case, expiration date, serial number, lot number, location, etc. . Custom Fields can be added to reports and transactional documents (sales receipts, invoices, purchase orders, and so on). This means you can search and run reports on your Custom Fields.
As with Custom Fields for customers/vendor/employees, Enterprise lets you have more Custom Fields, control over the type of data in that field, and the ability to designate a Custom Field as “required”. You can even have users select from a drop-down menu to make data entry even more uniform. While this might sound like a nice feature, it becomes very important when you have multiple users entering data. Different people will often enter the same data in different formats. For example, the date might be entered as June 15, 2010, june 15, 2010, or 6/15/10. Inconsistent data entry can make searching or filtering very cumbersome.
To create a Custom Field for an Item, edit the Item, click on Custom Fields, then Define Fields. Give it a name. If you’re in Enterprise, you can choose the type of data for this field, and where it’s to be used – in the actual Item record (list) or transaction, such as Purchase Order or Invoice.
Some comments on using the Custom Fields:
- If the data is entered in the item record, then when you add that Custom Field to an invoice, sales order or purchase order, the data will automatically fill in. If, however, you enter that information in the Custom Field in the document you are creating the document, it will not be stored with the Item. For instance, if you sell shirts, you might sell 3 red shirts and 4 blue ones. If you have only one item called “shirts”, then you will want to enter the color on the invoice. If you have multiple shirt Items on your list (red shirts, blue shirts, green shirts), then when you select the appropriate shirt, the color will automatically appear on the document.
- You can search on Custom Fields and filter on Custom Fields in reports. I mentioned using serial numbers as a possible custom field. While QuickBooks won’t let you keep a running list of serial numbers for an Item, if you enter the serial number on the invoice, then you can search on that serial number later if you need.
- When used in actual transactions, such as invoices and sales receipts, you can get additional sales data in reports. You won’t be able to get totals by custom field, (e.g. you could not get a total of blue shirts even if blue was a custom field). But, you can filter on a custom field or you can export the report to Excel and get your totals.
- Since you can’t control how users enter data in Custom Fields in Pro and Premier, here are a couple suggestions:
- In the label for the field, indicate how you want data entered (mm/dd/yyyy).
- Rather than filter the report, sort on that custom field.
Let me know if you have any problems using the Custom Fields.
So what information would be helpful for you to track? I’m always interested in hearing the different ways businesses use QuickBooks.