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Use single and multiple units of measure for items

Unit of measure (U/M) allows you to show quantities, prices, rates, and costs for an item. There are two ways to assign a unit of measure in QuickBooks - single unit or multiple units of measure.

QuickBooks products and editions that support single and multiple units of measure per item

  • QuickBooks Accountant
  • QuickBooks Premier Contractor
  • QuickBooks Premier Manufacturing & Wholesale
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions: Contractor
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions: Manufacturing & Wholesale
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions: Nonprofit
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions: Professional Services

QuickBooks products and editions that support single unit of measure per item

Single unit of measure allows you to assign only one unit of measure for each item while multiple units of measure lets you purchase items in one unit and then sell. This means that you need to purchase and sell the item using the same U/M. Single unit of measure is available in:

  • QuickBooks Premier
  • QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit
  • QuickBooks Premier Professional Services

Definition of terms

Base unit

The first unit defined in a unit of measure set. The base unit is usually the smallest unit of measure used for an item when purchasing, tracking in or out of inventory, and selling. In QuickBooks, the base units of items are used to count inventory, generate most inventory reports, and perform quantity-related calculations. When an inventory item is created, the cost, sales price, and quantity on hand you enter are all for the base unit.

Related unit

A unit defined by the number of base units it contains. For example, if the base unit is inch, a related unit might be foot, which is defined as containing 12 inches. Another related unit might be yard, which is defined as containing 36 inches.

Related units make it possible to show quantities of the same item in different measurements in different places in QuickBooks. For example, you might purchase an item called cable in spools, count that item in inventory by the foot, and sell it by the yard. By creating a unit of measure set with a base unit of foot and related units of spool (containing 500 feet) and yard, you can enter a quantity of spools on a purchase order, show the item in feet on inventory reports, and enter a quantity of yards on an invoice.

Unit of measure set

Unit of measure sets are available only when Multiple U/M Per Item is selected as the unit of measure mode. A unit of measure set consists of a base unit and any number of related units. When you create a unit of measure set, you can specify which unit of measure appears by default when adding an item to a purchase form, a sales form, and a shipping pick list. You also give the set a name, such as Length by the foot. Once a unit of measure set has been created and assigned to an item, it can easily be converted to other units of measure within the set as the item is added to a transaction. Using the previous example, adding cable as an item to an invoice with a quantity of 10 yards, that quantity could be converted to 30 feet or 0.06 spools.

Use unit of measure

Turn on U/M

  1. Go to the Edit menu, then select Preferences. 
  2. Select Items & Inventory, then go to the Company Preferences tab.
  3. In the Unit of Measure section, select Enable. Note that if you don't see the Enable button, unit of measure is already turned on.
  4. Select which unit of measure mode is right for your business.

    Single U/M per item

    Select this mode only if you buy, stock, and sell each item using the same unit of measure. For example, you should select Single U/M Per Item if you buy an item by the foot, keep track of it in inventory by the foot, and sell it by the foot. Important: If you have even one item that you buy, stock, or sell in more than one unit of measure, you must select Multiple U/M Per Item.

    Multiple U/M per item

    Select this mode if you buy, stock, or sell any item in more than one unit of measure. For example, you should select Multiple U/M Per Item if you buy an inventory item by the gallon and sell it by the ounce, or if you buy an item that comes from a vendor 24 to a box or case but you sell each of the 24 items separately.

  5. (Optional) If you don't want to define a unit of measure right now and assign it to the current item, mark Begin defining units of measure.Note: This checkbox only available if you are in the New Item or Edit Item window when you click the Enable button. If you started in the Preferences window, you can assign a unit of measure when you create or edit an item, or when you add an item to a transaction.
  6. If the Begin defining units of measure checkbox is selected, complete the wizard, then select Finish.
  7. Select OK.

Add a unit of measure set

  1. Go to the Lists menu, then select U/M Set List.Note: Unit of measure sets are only used if it is set to Multiple U/M Per Item mode. If you don't see U/M Set List on the Lists menu, then unit of measure is either set to Single U/M Per Item mode or is turned off.
  2. From the U/M Set drop-down, select New.
  3. Complete the Unit of Measure wizard. If you need help at any point, select Help.

Important: After a Unit of Measure is added, it can no longer be deleted.

Change a unit of measure definition set

There are two unit of measure modes in QuickBooks; Single U/M Per Item and Multiple U/M Per Item. The way to change a unit of measure depends on which of these modes is currently selected. To see which unit of measure mode is currently selected:

  1. Go to the Edit menu, then select Preferences. 
  2. Select Items & Inventory, then go to the Company Preferences tab.
  3. Check the Unit of Measure section.

If you see the Enable button instead of Single U/M Per Item or Multiple U/M Per Item, unit of measure is currently turned off. Select Enable to turn unit of measure on, then select a unit of measure mode.

What you should know before changing an item's unit of measure set

When changing an item's unit of measure set, under certain circumstances you should only change to another set with the same base unit. You can change the base unit of measure of a service, non-inventory part, or group item without affecting the accuracy of any information stored in QuickBooks. However, changing the base unit of an inventory part or inventory assembly can make the quantity on hand and cost information for that item inaccurate.

For example, suppose one of your inventory part items is rope and you currently have 600 feet of rope in inventory. If you change the item's unit of measure set to a base unit of yard, your quantity on hand will still be 600 but should be changed to 200 to be accurate (600 feet = 200 yards). Also, if the current cost of the rope item is 0.25 per foot, you would need to change the cost to 0.75 after changing the base unit to yard.

To prevent confusion and possible inaccuracies, if you need to change to a unit of measure set with a different base unit we recommend creating a new item with the quantity on hand and cost that are right for the new base unit and then hide the old item by making it inactive.

Note: If you change to a unit of measure set with different units, all old units will appear in brackets (such as [ft]) in the line items of all previously saved transactions to show that those units of measure are obsolete.

Change a unit of measure assignment in Single U/M per item mode

When Single U/M Per Item is selected as the unit of measure mode, you can assign only one unit of measure for each item. That single unit is then used for that item everywhere in QuickBooks. For example, if you have an inventory item called "rope" and you assign it a unit of measure called "foot," then that item must be purchased by the foot, counted in inventory by the foot, and sold by the foot.

  1. Go to the Lists menu, then select Item List.
  2. Double-click the item you want to edit.
  3. In the Unit of Measure section, select Edit.
  4. Do any of the following:
    • Change the unit of measure name and abbreviation. Note that If this unit of measure is assigned to other items, changing the unit's name or abbreviation will also affect those other items.
    • Hide the unit of measure by making it inactive. Making this unit of measure inactive hides it in the list of units that can be assigned to an item. However, the inactive unit will continue to be used for the current item and any other items currently assigned this unit of measure. Making this unit inactive also doesn't affect saved transactions in any way. Mark U/M Set is inactive, then select OK.
    • Show the unit of measure again by making it active. Making this unit of measure active will show it again on the list of units that can be assigned to items.Unmark U/M Set is inactive, then select OK.
  5. Select OK.

Change a unit of measure assignment in multiple U/M per item mode

  1. Go to the Lists menu, then select Item List.
  2. Double-click the item you want to edit.
  3. In the Unit of Measure section, click the U/M Set drop-down arrow, then do one of the following:
    • Select an existing unit of measure set.
    • Add a new unit of measure set.
  4. Select OK.

Change the base unit name or abbreviation

Important: You should only rename the base unit or give it a new abbreviation to correct a spelling error or to clarify what the current base unit is. We recommend that you never change the base unit to an entirely different unit of measure that would require a conversion of quantities and rates, such as changing from inch to foot. Such a change would require that you redefine all related units in the set, manually adjust inventory quantities, and change quantities and rates in every saved transaction that includes items with the current base unit. If you need to use a new base unit, we recommend that you create a new unit of measure set with the different base unit and then assign the new set only to the appropriate items for use from that point forward.

  1. Enter a new name or abbreviation.
  2. Select OK.

Note: If you're changing a time-based unit of measure for a service item used with QuickBooks time tracking, be aware that assigning any base unit besides hours will cause rate calculations to be inaccurate when tracking time for this item. In weekly time sheets and timed single activities, time is always tracked in hours. Add additional lines if necessary.

Add, change or delete a related unit of measure

Add a related unit

  1. Click an empty line in the Related Units table.
  2. Enter a name and abbreviation.
  3. In the field, enter the number of base units the new related unit contains.
  4. Select OK.

Change a related unit

  1. In the Related Units table, click anywhere in the line with the related unit you want to change.
  2. Enter a different name, abbreviation, or number of base units contained in this related unit.
  3. Select OK.

Delete a related unit

  1. In the Related Units table, click anywhere in the line with the related unit you want to delete.
  2. Press Ctrl+Del.
  3. Select OK.Note: The abbreviation for the deleted related unit appears in brackets in all saved transactions. For example, if you delete a related unit named box with the abbreviation bx, then [bx] would appear in the U/M column of line items in transactions saved before the box unit was deleted.

Change the default unit of measure for purchases, sales or shipping units

The units of measure you select for Purchases and Sales are what will be shown by default whenever you add the current item to a purchase form or sales form. You can change these default units when filling out the form. The unit of measure you select for Shipping is what will always be shown on pick lists, regardless of what unit is shown on the purchase order. The person printing a pick list cannot change this unit of measure.

  1. From the Purchases drop-down, select a default unit of measure for purchase forms.
  2. From the Sales drop-down, select a default unit of measure for sales forms.
  3. (Optional) From the Shipping drop-down, select a default unit of measure for pick lists.
  4. Select OK.

The units of measure you select for Purchases and Sales are what will be shown by default whenever the current item is added to a purchase form or sales form. You can change these default units when filling out the form. The unit of measure selected for Shipping is what will always be shown on pick lists, regardless of what unit is shown on the purchase order. The person printing a pick list cannot change this unit of measure.

Print the unit of measure set list

  1. Go to the Lists menu, then select U/M Set List. Note: Unit of measure sets are used only if unit of measure is set to Multiple U/M Per Item mode. If you don't see U/M Set List on the Lists menu, then unit of measure is either set to Single U/M Per Item mode or is turned off.
  2. From the U/M Set drop-down, select Print List.
  3. (Optional) Change the print settings as needed.
  4. Select Print.

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