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Connecting the conversation on part numbering schemes

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Our recent series on intelligent vs. non-intelligent part numbering schemes prompted many of you to weigh in and share your own experiences on the topic. And we were pleasantly surprised to receive such a wide variety of opinions about intelligent vs. non-intelligent schemes.

Your feedback on intelligent vs. non-intelligent part numbering schemes

One reader, who was part of a merger between two companies with different part numbering schemes, decided that an intelligent part numbering scheme helped to ease the transition.

I want to relate an instance where a company with a non-intelligent scheme acquired a company with an intelligent scheme. Luckily, the database system was capable of utilizing both [schemes], but training became the key to being able to adapt workers, buyers, accounting, sales, etc…

As people in the organization were trained and worked with both systems in their respective areas, they began to see more advantages of the intelligent system. The ability to search, identify, expand, and build upon the foundation of the intelligent system allowed it to be more efficient.

The truth is, you never know what may happen in business, so choosing a nimble part numbering scheme is always a good idea. Here is one reader’s take on why it is important to think long-term when choosing a scheme.

Over many years, part numbers can be duplicated for other parts thus corrupting long term databases (and confusing long term customers) so master product naming systems must be aware of older but still live parts and their naming.  Sounds simple. Mix in the M&A activity, and part lists that are out-of-context with supplier or industry, and things get very messy.

Your thoughts on the intelligent part numbering rabbit hole

Despite the benefits of an intelligent part numbering scheme, several readers shared their frustrations with the downsides of intelligent schemes.

I have run into numbering intelligence that ended up being wrong for the part, but it had already been shared. Correcting the number would have [unwanted] rippling effects.

One reader believes that intelligent schemes are obsolete in today’s automated world.

Most part numbering methods grew from the need to interject more information in a small area or field, giving the user the ability to file and locate parts quickly in a non-computer based world. Not so much of a problem today.

And another reader is convinced that intelligent schemes are doomed to fail.

We have too much experience with intelligent numbering systems to think they are a good approach to part numbering. Don’t put intelligence in the number; use other fields to capture parameters to reflect the information you deem necessary regarding the item. Otherwise you WILL go down that rabbit hole.

Are hybrid numbering schemes the best way to go?

Because no one scheme can address all the issues that arise when managing part numbers, hybrid schemes have emerged in attempt to offer the best of both worlds.

One reader shared how he would set up a hybrid scheme.

I think the answer lies in semi-intelligent numbering. Have high-level categories to indicate commodity, and some basic technical tenets. The rest should be included in the description. It is still good look at a part number starting with 53- and know it’s a cable.

And another reader points out that the right solution depends on the company in question.

It all comes down to the enterprise itself—it’s size, market, suppliers, work process, accounting, and all others who touch this important and sometimes neglected part of business.

There’s no clear winner in this numbering scheme debate

The part numbering debate is so complex because both schemes offer valid merits and shortcomings.

One reader who describes his himself as “the bridge between the architectural cloud thinkers and the hardened manufacturing techs in the trenches” looks at the intelligent vs. non-intelligent numbering scheme standstill like this:

I know what this [debate] looks like from both perspectives. They are both right. That’s what makes it such an interesting problem.

I think the key is providing an absolute minimalist structure – just enough to make the part identifiable and unique among all other parts you might encounter. The life story of the part is unnecessary, but you need some fundamental understanding of whatever it is you are holding in your hand…literally at a glance.

Ultimately, as one reader points out, you have to take a look at your organization and determine the best solution for you and your team.

In our complex world of global design, manufacturing, and business coupled with the sometimes constant change in business acquisitions and mergers, no one system will be the final answer.  It’s a question of optimizing the system for what is known, some of the unknowns, but mostly for the situation at hand.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our conversation on part numbering creation. And it’s not too late to weigh in—what experiences have you had with part numbering?