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4 Tips For Mastering Your Master Parts List

Circuit BoardProducts are the heart of a manufacturing firm and the value that keeps customers coming back for more. Parts are the heart of a product, and their influence on final product costs is huge. In many companies, though, parts are the most poorly controlled data in the organization.

To establish control over part data, you must understand your products and how you organize part data, communicate design intent, and acquire the parts that make up your products. A little housekeeping in your master parts list will prevent ordering mistakes and sourcing bottlenecks, enabling you to save money and ramp up operations quickly.

Master parts list definition

The master parts list (or item master) is more than a list of uniquely numbered and named parts. It encompasses everything you need to know to order, build, receive, and qualify your parts — drawings, specifications, the approved manufacturers list (AML), and the approved vendors list (AVL). Check out our Item Master PDF/Excel templates to learn more.

As this information is gathered and put in the centralized, revision-controlled master parts list, many different departments within a company will have a common reference point for part information.

With a centralized master parts list, it is easier to unearth, and then repair gaps in required data, which will reduce the risk of costly purchasing mistakes. Make sure to establish a list of currently acceptable parts to reduce the likelihood of incorporating obsolete components into new designs.

Four tips for mastering your master parts list:

Tip 1: Remove duplicate part numbers

Duplicate part numbers in your master parts list can lead to the purchase and inclusion of wrong parts in your products, causing scrap and cost overruns. Find and fix instances where you have a single component associated with more than one part number or a single part number referring to multiple components. Unique part numbers are a best practice in operations. (For more information, check out our article Part Numbering Schemes—Intelligent vs. Non-Intelligent.)

Tip 2: Reduce the noise of inactive parts

If your system has parts that no longer need attention, hide, mark, or remove them to make your active parts list more manageable. Junk parts cluttering your data include parts created for product ideas that never made it to production, parts no longer used, and parts available only on the discontinued or gray market. Deprecate parts that you are phasing out so they will not get included in new designs.

Tip 3: Document your parts well

Drawings, specifications, and artwork are among the many types of documentation required to purchase a part. You use this same documentation to build the part and verify that it was received and made correctly. But if you store part documentation on personal hard drives, in email, or in folders on servers, no one knows which documents are current or even where the latest document resides.

Collect your master parts list and product documentation in a controlled central system like Arena PLM. This will minimize the time wasted by groups searching for the latest revision of documents and the money misspent accidentally ordering the wrong parts.

Tip 4: Find alternates and multiple sources

Everyone knows that PEM fasteners and ZIF connectors exist, but does your purchasing person know where to buy them in production quantities? And do you have credit terms established with that vendor?

For each part on your master list, you should know who the acceptable manufacturers are as well as which vendors sell those parts. Having a single approved source for a given part will prevent people from guessing and ordering the wrong components. But make sure that you have an alternate manufacturer or a secondary vendor for critical parts. A backup can reduce delays in the event your primary vendor is sold out of the part or, worse, has disappeared.