Is Your Part Numbering Scheme Costing You Millions?

Best Practices for Part Numbering

Intelligent Part Numbering

Intelligent Part Numbering

The Advantages

Because intelligent part numbers impart meaning about the category, source, or intended use of the part, it’s easy for manufacturers to see the efficiencies that come with adopting this approach.

Some benefits to an intelligent numbering scheme include:

Better search efficiency. With intelligent numbering, you can group similar parts in your design documentation or spreadsheets to search or filter by part number. You can also locate physical parts on the stockroom floor more efficiently, since it’s easy to see where all the resistors are when they’re all labeled with a part number starting with “RES.”

Easier identification. Because intelligent numbers specify part details, they provide a frame of reference for each part and make it easier to find parts when a team member doesn’t have any information other than the part number. For example, an engineer/technician can quickly verify whether a part meets general functional requirements by referencing the intelligent part number.

The Disadvantages

While there are many benefits to using an intelligent part numbering scheme, there are also shortcomings. For this type of system to work well in an organization, employees must be familiar with all of the different kinds of parts. Such a scheme also demands ongoing attention and can introduce delays in your processes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Intelligent Part NumberingTraining and reuse. Because each intelligent part number has meaning, ill-defined or incorrectly assigned parts can have costly consequences. Whoever assigns part numbers must be well-trained in issuing parts from the part numbering log or sequence. When parts are incorrectly assigned, companies often have to create change orders (ECOs) just to correct the part number. In other cases, companies that issue part numbers referring to specific product lines must change part numbers later when additional product lines reuse the same part to show the part is common to more than one product line.

Tribal knowledge required. Often, those working on the manufacturing shop floor don’t have enough knowledge of the part numbering schemes to be able to correctly decipher the intelligent number. So, most users outside of engineering and document control will treat the intelligent number as non-intelligent—which negates the benefits of having intelligent part numbers in the first place.

Difficult to maintain schemes. If you introduce a new part that doesn’t fit into your current part numbering scheme, you may need to reevaluate your entire scheme and define a new part type or category. All employees who use the system must understand and maintain the logic of the part numbering system, and part group number ranges must be planned in advance. For example, if all the significant digits in a string (0-9) have been used and you need to introduce an 11th part category into that group, what do you do?

Bottleneck to issuing new parts. Because assigning an intelligent part number may require time and discussion, a single person or group is sometimes given responsibility for part issuing and they can become a bottleneck. And each time you need to add a new parameter to your numbering scheme, you will have to go back and update the numbers for all affiliated parts, dramatically decreasing the sustainability and effectiveness of your part numbering system.