What’s In A Name?

There is a wide array of methods out there to number parts. Almost all kind of factors you can think of go into deciding exactly how a company should execute this basic task in their daily operations and activities. This is a really debatable topic and there are a variety of methods which companies adapt to number parts.

Following are some methods companies use to number their parts. These methods are arranged in an ascending level of intelligence, meaning how much the part number tells you about the product by just reading it. It also shows the level of complexity in managing and assigning part numbers as well as the number length.

Methods To Numbering Parts

  • Non-descriptive numbers (dumb numbers) – these are simple, sequence-wise numbers, usually with a fixed number of digits
  • Alphanumeric – these usually represent a higher intelligence than dumb numbers and they are composed of a prefix (an alphabet generally indicating a category or type) followed by a digit or numbers
  • Simple composite – this is more intelligent than alphanumeric numbering and it usually consists of a hyphenated composite format where one part indicates the category and the other indicates a running sequence
  • Intelligent numbering – this is the most intelligent numbering technique (in terms of information in the number), in this each segment represents some aspect, like the category, sourcing type and the storage location etc.

A dumb numbering system is adequate where a company takes a lot of orders online through electronic purchase orders. However, for an organization in the same industry that manufactures a number of consumer models and needs to stock spare parts for a generation of products, composite numbers are a better option.

A highly intelligent numbering system is suitable for organizations where parts are assembled daily and visual identification of the parts is needed. An organization in an aircraft manufacturing industry can use this numbering system which allows the personnel to immediately spot if they pick up a wrong or incompatible part.

Are Dumb Part Numbers Smarter?

In product line management, dumb numbers can easily be generated using an  database that controls the sequential release of new numbers. For modern product design utilizing outsourced engineering and collaborative teams, dumb part numbers are far superior to any other method. They are simple and allow for an endless stream of part recording with a database that insures that duplicate part numbers are not released.

Benefits Of Dumb Numbers

Using dumb numbers is a good approach towards numbering parts in your organization. This will help save you time upfront. You can bring in new employees and expect them to get the hang of everything quickly and maintain the system of your organization much more easily.

Time Saving – It takes little to no time at all to assign a sequential number to a part. You can do it fast because you don’t need to worry about the part number to represent any sort of product or part related information.

Minimum Training Required – If your organization frequently hires new employees or plans to, then dumb part numbering will be the best option. This way they will get acquainted with your system rapidly and will not require extensive instruction or details. They will also be able to assign new part numbers almost instantly.

No Point Of Failure – Relying on a single person to intelligently number parts might require you to wait a substantial amount of time if you are looking forward to new part numbers. Using dumb numbering scheme allows any user to retrieve a new number from the database instantly.  In this way, the company is not reliant on any one employ to issue part new part numbers.

Why Smart Numbering Schemes Are Dumb!

While some organizations might find intelligent part numbering beneficial, it has a number of shortcomings and issues. For this type of scheme to work adequately in an organization,   employees must be familiar with parts and numbering schemes which aren’t even relevant to them. Such a scheme also requires continuous attention and  will likely cause delays.

Training Required – Intelligent part numbers have specific meanings and the risks are high while using these schemes. Even the slightest numbering error can prove fatal. The person assigning part numbers should be educated and trained on how to place the part numbers in the right group. An erroneously categorized part is prone to being misused because of the information implied by the number.

Maintenance – If introducing a new part that is not currently part of your current scheme will require you to evaluate the entire scheme and define a new part category/type. The rationality behind the part number must be clarified and explained to the employees and group sizes need to be planned in advance. You will need to pre-plan your method of handling new part additions and how you wish to address challenges which come with it.

Inefficiencies – If you wish to use a significant or intelligent numbering scheme you will also need a specialist to handle the majority of the part numbering. In case a person is unfamiliar with the scheme you use, training and guidance can take up a substantial amount of your time which consequently slows down the design process.

Designer Errors – Part numbering scheme designers may be tempted to apply the numbering rules to their own fully significant part numbers as a shortcut, instead of relying on the organizationally approved numbering scheme.

With intelligent numbering schemes there is a point where it sometimes falls short. People who do a large amount of data migration work might find themselves scratching their heads as they come across the different intelligent part numbers.

Having said that, an intelligent numbering scheme has a lot of problems attached to it, as compared to a dumb numbering system which is therefore, preferable.