Inventory differences are troublesome in many ways. After determining differences, it is often necessary to do a recount just to find out that there are some goods in the corner of a warehouse corner somewhere that nobody had thought of. At least any direct impact on profit and loss will have been avoided however. Still, it is not always possible to be so lucky. Things can get particularly unpleasant when it comes to valuable or theft-sensitive goods. You can find out exactly what valuable or theft-sensitive goods are, how they are labeled in SAP and what an analysis relating to inventory differences may look like in this blog post.
How are valuable or theft-sensitive goods defined?
The search for a meaningful definition of valuable or theft-sensitive goods does not seem to be that much of a simple matter at first. Among other things, I found a definition in the "German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions" (Allgemeine Deutsche Spediteurbedingungen) of 2016, according to which valuable goods are defined as follows:
"Valuable goods are classified as those that, at the time and place of taking over, have an actual value of at least 50 Euro/kg or 10,000 Euro/per packed item."
This threshold can be reached very quickly for some goods. So far so good then. Now let's take a look at the definition of theft-sensitive goods:
"Theft-sensitive goods are those exposed to an increased risk of robbery and theft, such as money, precious metals, jewellery, watches, precious minerals, art, antiques, check books, credit cards and/or other payment means, stocks and security papers, documents, spirits, tobacco, entertainment electronic goods, telecommunications goods, IT equipment and accessories."
The possibility of certain combinations of these definitions cannot be ruled out in my view. For instance, I can easily imagine jewellery that might have a value of more than € 10,000 per package. Once again, so far so good: we have now clarified what valuable or theft-sensitive goods are. Regardless of the definition though, every company is of course still free to come up with its own idea and definition of what it considers valuable goods to be.
Where is the indicator for theft-sensitive goods located in SAP?
As usual, SAP has provided a special field for theft-sensitive goods in the general material data - master data (SAP table "MARA"). At first glance, there is no field in "MARA" for valuable goods. However, due to the close connection between goods which are "valuable" and "theft-sensitive", it is possible to consider handling them as one and the same. The corresponding field has the technical name "PILFERABLE", or in other words "theft-sensitive", and has a length of one character. This makes it clear that it is only a "flag" and that an item of goods is either theft-sensitive or not ("X" or null). If you weren't already, by now you will probably be asking yourself whether this field is even used in your company or not? I don't want to prolong your agony any longer. As always, there is more than one road that leads to Rome and so I can tell you that you have the option of using the transaction "SE16" or "SE16n" to first filter by the information entered in the aforementioned field with "Not equal to: empty", or to choose our favorite procedure of using the SQL editor (transaction "DBACOCKPIT" - Diagnosis - SQL Editor). The query you need is then as follows:
SELECT * FROM MARA WHERE PILFERABLE NOT LIKE ''
This is exactly the same query as described for SE16.
The basics of inventory in brief
Probably every one of you knows what an inventory is and could easily give a definition of it in your own words. Therefore, we will restrict ourselves to the technical terms to refresh the basics.
An inventory is basically an inventory of assets and liabilities on a certain key date. Among other things, it is a prerequisite for proper accounting and reporting, whereby the following principles apply:
- Completeness of the inventory (balance sheet accuracy),
- Correctness of the inventory (Section 246 Paragraph 1 of the German Commercial Code [Handelsgesetzbuch – HGB]),
- Consistency of the inventory (Section 252 of the German Commercial Code),
- Individual recording during stocktaking and
- Clarity and verifiability of the inventory (balance sheet clarity).
The inventory thus serves as proof that assets and debts actually exist. Depending on the type and scope of the physical inventory, three different procedures are available for carrying out the inventory:
- Physical inventory
- Book inventory
- Asset inventory
We will not go into the details of the procedure here. If you are in need of further definition, I recommend you take a look at this Wikipedia article.
Analysis of inventory differences for theft-sensitive goods
Once we have been able to make sure that the field "PILFERABLE" exists in the master data (here's a quick reminder of how to do this):
SELECT * FROM MARA WHERE PILFERABLE NOT LIKE ''
we can now take things one step further and analyze whether there were any differences in the goods identified during the last inventory. The corresponding inventory details are hidden in the transaction type (technical name: BWART) of the SAP table "MSEG". The information that can be specified in this field includes a wide range of information and number ranges for the identification of anything from receipts of goods for purchase orders to inventory differences. The range in the 700s is of particular importance for our purposes: the range for the identification of physical inventory differences runs from 701 (inventory difference in unrestricted-use stock) to 717 (inventory difference in blocked stock). If we now combine the theft-sensitive goods with the inventory differences, this results in the following query:
SELECT MSEG.MANDT, MSEG.MBLNR, MSEG.MJAHR, MSEG.WERKS, MSEG.MATNR, MSEG.BWART, PILFERABLE FROM MARA, MSEG WHERE MARA.MANDT = MSEG.MANDT AND MARA.MATNR = MSEG.MATNR AND PILFERABLE NOT LIKE '' AND MSEG.BWART LIKE '7%'
Be on the lookout for large differences or any extraordinarily valuable goods. However, before you start looking for measures to narrow down differences, you should first examine the processes concerned and identify any possible weak points. You will almost certainly notice one or two loopholes. Then clarify whether and to what extent measures can be taken to limit differences or possibly even instances of theft.
In the second case, if you are not using the field in SAP at all but are dealing with valuable or theft-sensitive goods, you should definitely initiate a discussion on whether you should not be maintaining the field in your company. I can hardly imagine an easier procedure for the evaluation of inventory discrepancies, or as a professor of mine once said: "It won't take 5 minutes".