So you’ve acquired Compass Technologies’ Matrix Inventory and are looking at the next task: planning your size and color grids known as style classes. The style classes save you from creating an individual grid for every single inventory item you’ve got. One style class applies to many items. However, just how generic should your style classes be? How many style classes do you need to create? Once you assign and use your style classes for live transactions, there will be a trail of records throughout the system. So you need to know the long-term effects of your early choices, ideally before you make them.
But here’s the good news: adhering to the following best practices takes the guesswork out of Matrix setup, leaving your company with the best possible long-term results.
Tailor the Style Classes to your inventory
Matrix Inventory style classes are intended to apply to multiple GP items. However, be careful not to try to make them one-size-fits-all. Instead, tailor the style classes to your inventory and/or vendors. While keeping in mind that every item may not use every size or color (or other dimension) in the style class, the more unused SKUs there are, the more scrolling and clicking there will be for cashiers or data-entry personnel later on as they actually handle the item on transactions. Try to create plenty of style classes to cover the variety of items you carry. Err on the side of more style classes for fewer Items rather than vice versa. Although it’s tempting to create large, generic style classes to use across hundreds or even thousands of items, it could cause your company a headache in the long run.
Here’s an example of a useful style class that can apply to multiple items, but is still sufficiently tailored:
Let’s imagine that the above style class could be assigned to all of the fleece apparel from a particular vendor—bathrobes, pajamas, nightgowns, leggings, pullovers and so forth. All of the items are available in all or most of the sizes and patterns. Thus each item will use all or most of the sizes and colors in the matrix, with possibly just a few missing SKUs—which can be left intentionally blank when they don’t apply. Most of the items should use all the colors and sizes in the style class, which is the easiest of all when it comes to actual use down the road.
Compare that to the following Generic Style Class ID, where there are 30 or 40 sizes and colors (many of them accessible by scrolling down).
Although the generic example looks efficient because it could apply to almost all apparel, it’s not. Looks are deceiving. A cashier actually using the resulting SKUs on a sale will be slowed-down by scroll-bars and arrows on the grid entry window, or hindered by a long list of colors and sizes in the single entry window. The number of unused SKU’s results in wasted mouse clicks and extra time sorting. In short, spending the time up front to create tailor-made style classes will pay off in the long run.
To take the pain out of creating numerous style classes, take advantage of style dimension templates. Notice that the Style Class window contains a Copy button. After you have created row and column templates for the typical groups of sizes and colors, or lengths, widths, diameters, materials or any other dimensions that fit your inventory, you can then use the Copy feature to pull in templates to the Style Class window for defining both the row and column values. You then delete any unwanted colors or sizes before saving the style class. The templates also help keep entry consistent across your style Classes.
Aim for consistency across the row and column IDs and descriptions in your style classes. If you do, you’ll thank yourself later. Both the dimension ID and description can be used in the item variation description or in the SKU number creation—all of which can end up customer-facing in various tags and receipts, not to mention that they appear in numerous reports. The dimension IDs and descriptions will also be easier to recognize across the system if the same value is always the same (not Small in one style class but SM in another). Knowing that customers end up seeing the resulting tags and receipts is key to knowing what standard to aim for. The variation description of “Small, Red Tshirt” looks better on a receipt than “small, RED tshirt,” for example. And again, using the Style Dimension Template makes it easier to be consistent and prevent mistakes like typos.
Plan the Style Classes
For data-integrity reasons, once a style class has been used on a GP item, it can’t be easily deleted (at least not without the complication of removing history). Therefore, you’ll want to create style classes that are as efficient as possible, and that will last for the long-term of your businesses’ inventory. Adding style classes along the way is no problem, but deleting cumbersome style classes that already exist on open or historical transactions is not as simple.
So what qualities would make a style class cumbersome? First, size. Anything more than 8 rows or 12 columns will mean the grid ends up with scroll bars and arrows (true for grid entry as well as inquiry windows). Although the system handles it easily enough, scrolling still adds extra time and mouse clicks for the humans involved. Secondly, missing SKUs make a matrix cumbersome. If there are more sizes and color combinations that ARE NOT in use than that are, the cashier is left searching for the right cell in a grid where most cells don’t have applicable items. Although the grid is set up with a visual cue (“SKU Not Available”) for cells that don’t apply to an item, it still takes more time to sort missing cells than in a grid where all cells apply.
Keep in mind that each time a vendor changes patterns or colors, you don’t need to abandon last season’s style class for that vendor. Instead, as long as you keep the dimension IDs, the descriptions can be changed at any time and you can keep the style class in use.
Plan the Dimensions
The other type of planning that is useful is knowing what order you want your dimension values to appear—such as the lists of sizes and colors—and then consistently entering them in that order for every style class. The more consistent and logical the order, the quicker an end-user will navigate through the matrices. If cashiers know that sizes always start with the smallest and increase to largest across all style classes, they will zero in on the correct SKU much faster when there’s a line of customers at the cash register. The Style Class Setup window does provide Up, Down, Top, and Bottom buttons for rearranging the values if necessary, however, more time spent planning means fewer mouse-click rearranging the dimensions in your style class after-the-fact.
In summary, knowing what to plan for helps. So create an adequate-to-abundant number of style classes for your inventory, make use of templates, and define consistent norms. This will create the smoothest-possible experience for end-users who handle your inventory. At the same time, your company records, inventory and sales reports and inquiries will also be as informative and easy to view or print as possible. Following these best practices will make the most of your Matrix Inventory system, require the fewest changes along the way, and make it easy for everyone involved to fluently use the system.