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Item Substitution


If you are a company selling goods, you might have several similar inventory items that can be substituted with one another. With NetSuite, you can set up your items to link them to their substitutes, which will allow you to replace backordered items on your sales orders

with other similar items that you have on hand.

The Item Substitution feature comes handy to avoid delays and provide improved services to your partners and customers. Here’s a quick look into this helpful NetSuite functionality.



In order to use the Item Substitution feature in NetSuite, you will have to install the Supply Chain Management bundle (bundle ID : 47193) or be sure that you have properly updated your bundle.

As Item Substitution is an inventory-related feature, you have to enable the Multi-Location Inventory feature, as well as Advanced Shipping and Advanced Receiving.

Then you will have to activate the actual feature in your NetSuite account – this can be accessed by navigating to Transactions>Management>Supply Chain Management>Preferences:

Feature Overview:

The Item Substitution feature’s intent is to provide the ability to recommend an alternative Item when creating a sales order. Note that this feature does not cover item substitution at the time of picking for manufacturing or shipping : this feature only works if the Sales Order is on Pending Fulfillment status.

Moreover, let’s point out once again that this feature is essentially suitable for companies that sell goods and for users who are part of the Sales process or the Order management system.

Use the Item Substitution Feature:

Once the item substitution feature is activated, an Item Substitution tab becomes available on the Item record, wherein a user will be able to enter the corresponding substitutes that can be used for this item.

Note, this feature only caters for Inventory and Assembly items – including lot and serial-numbered items.

From the Item Record, you will be able to see the new Item Substitution subtab – in this tab, the button New Item Substitute will appear:

Once you click on this button, you will be redirected to the Item Substitute page. 

From this page you will be able to select the substitute item for your current item (parent item field):

Then, when you are creating your Sales Order, you can select an item that can be substituted:

Under the Item Substitution Column, you will see an icon appearing – it means that you are able to substitute the Item that you have selected. 

When you click on the icon, for example in case of a shortage of your original item, the Item Substitution page will appear – you will be able to select the item that will replace your original item : 

Once you are clicking on the Submit Button, it will automatically replace your original item by the substitute that you have chosen.

On your Item line, you will see the original item and the newly selected item:

If you do not have a sufficient quantity of the substitute item on hand, an error message will appear and will indicate the current item’s available quantity :


With the Item Substitution feature, NetSuite allows a better service to the customer by making alternative items available in case of inventory shortage and identifying items that should fit to be used as substitutes in order to meet the end customer’s needs.

Above all, this capability allows you to address situations of inventory shortage during the sales process.

In short

  • Included in the Supply Chain Management bundle
  • Works for Inventory and Assembly items (lot and serial-numbered included)
  • Applies to Sales Order that are Pending Fulfillment
  • Allows to find an alternative item and avoid sacrificing a sale or incurring significant delays in case of a shortage

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