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MPN vs SKU: What’s the Difference in 2024?

1.5 minutes

In this MPN vs SKU article, we will explore the unique characteristics of SKUs and MPNs and uncover the key differences between the two.


What is an MPN (Manufacturer Part Number)?

A Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) is a unique code assigned by manufacturers to identify specific products. MPNs are commonly found on product labels, packaging, and in product documentation.

Unique Characteristics of an MPN:

Uniqueness: Each product typically has a distinct MPN, allowing for precise identification.

Manufacturer Specific: MPNs are assigned by the manufacturer, ensuring consistency across their products.

Not Customer-Friendly: MPNs are primarily used for internal purposes and may not be easily understood by customers.

Used in Inventory Management: MPNs are crucial for tracking inventory levels and reorder processes.


What is an SKU (Stock Keeping Unit)?

A Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is a code used by retailers to manage their inventory and track products in their system. SKUs can be found on price tags, receipts, and inventory management software.

Unique Characteristics of an SKU:

Retailer-Centric: SKUs are created and managed by retailers to streamline inventory control.

Can Differ Across Retailers: The same product may have different SKUs at different retailers.

User-Friendly: SKUs are often designed to be easily understandable by both staff and customers.

Flexible Formatting: Retailers have the flexibility to structure SKUs to suit their needs.

are mpn and sku the same?

Manufacturer Part Number vs Stock Keeping Unit

MPNs and SKUs are alphanumeric codes utilized for product identification and inventory management, yet they possess unique attributes. We will explore these below:


MPN: Manufacturers assign MPNs to their products to maintain internal consistency and traceability.

SKU: Retailers create SKUs to manage inventory and streamline sales operations within their specific retail environment.

Purpose of Use

MPN: MPNs primarily serve manufacturers, aiding in product identification and supply chain management.

SKU: SKUs are retailer-centric, aiding in inventory control, stock replenishment, and sales tracking.


MPN: Each MPN is unique across products from the same manufacturer, ensuring precise identification.

SKU: SKUs can vary between different retailers and may not be unique for the same product across various vendors.

Visibility to Customers

MPN: MPNs are typically not visible to customers and are used for internal purposes within the manufacturing and distribution process.

SKU: SKUs are often visible to customers, appearing on price tags and receipts for easy identification and purchase.


MPN: MPNs remain consistent across all retailers for a specific manufacturer's product.

SKU: SKUs can differ for the same product when sold by different retailers, allowing them to customize their inventory management.

Usage Examples

MPN: MPNs are critical for manufacturers and supply chain management, ensuring the accurate tracking and distribution of products.

SKU: SKUs are vital for retailers, helping them efficiently manage inventory, optimize stocking levels, and track sales for improved customer service.

We hope our SKU vs Manufacturer Part Number article has now left you with a better understanding of the key differences between Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) and Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) codes.

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