In one of my previous blogs, I have written about part numbering. Part numbers I would say are still relavent, but the question still remains, are they need to be intelligent? In my engagement with couple of Organizations, one of the biggest decisions is that of Part numbers. Not only for Engineering, but for downstream functions are also involved in this decision process.
For downstream functions like Purchase, Inventory Management, needs an unique number to identify a part. These functions would like to communicate using unique identified for a part. Now the question still remains, do we need part numbers to be intelligent?
One of the arguments, which came my way during the decision, is that they would like to understand what part it is by looking at a part number. I have few of arguments to counter that,
- I asked, how many times do you see a part number in isolation ( without looking at Part Name & Part Description)? The answer to this question was , NEVER. But if you don’t have systems & managing parts in EXCEL, then this won’t be a case
- For EX. If there are two part categories, say Batteries & Bumpers, then part numbers can have abbreviations as BA & BU respectively. But if we add “Bushes” as another category, then there is a need of 3 Characters to specify category in part number, and it can end up adding full name of some of the categories.
- Another point, user would like to list all parts in a category and even further filter it while searching by giving wild card characters. My question to people implementing ERP: why can’t you add similar classification in ERP or any other downstream application like in PLM? Most of them have never thought of it..
People, who are used to intelligent part numbers, will always keep arguing because of discomfort they have with just numeric part numbers. With advancements in ERPs, Parts can have a separate name and number thus giving lot of valuable information in combination of two. Part numbers should be only used as Unique Identifier, just to avoid confusion like what and relational database does with Primary Key. The solution I feel is around setting up good classification in downstream applications and a decent search mechanism. This should reduce the dependence on part numbers only to identify & search correct part. It is always better to capture as much metadata as possible, to maintain knowledge within organization than just making it dependent on people outside the system
Conclusion: Engineering & other Downstream functions will always want part numbers to be intelligent so that they can use similar to paper based system. But my view is, instead of capturing information as encrypted values in part number, capture them as full text in attributes. This should reduce the defects occurring both upstream and in downstream usage of parts. System can be configured to search parts more efficiently. Intelligent part numbers, I feel are good for manual system.. These are just my views….