Part Numbering Schemes
By Anurag Batra on Jan 13, 2009
What's in a name?
Well, the answer depends on who you ask. There are a myriad ways of numbering parts out there, and all kinds of factors go into deciding how a company should go about this very basic of tasks in their day to day operations. There's really no right answer to the question, but let's look at what the options are, and what that means for your enterprise applications.
Let's just look at the various types of part numbering options that are out there. The following listing of numbering schemes represents an ascending level of intelligence in the part numbers - in other words, how much can you tell about the part by just reading the part number. It also often represents an ascending level of complexity in managing part numbers, as well as an ascending order of the length of the part number:
• Non-descriptive Numbers (aka Insignificant, Non-intelligent or Dumb numbers) - these are plain sequential numbers, generally with a fixed number of digits
• Alphanumerics - at one level of intelligence higher than Dumb Numbers, these are basically composed of an Alphabetical prefix (generally indicating a product type) followed by a dumb number
• Simple composite part numbers - the next level of intelligence consists of numbers in a hyphenated composite format where one part indicates a product family and the other part is a running sequence
• Intelligent part numbers - a multi-segment part number where each segment indicates some aspect of the part such as part family, sourcing type, storage location, etc.
Which part numbering scheme is right for a company depends on a number of factors. For example, for a hi-tech manufacturing organization, where a lot of parts are ordered via electronic purchase orders, and stocked and assembled by automated bots, nothing more than a dumb number is necessary. However, in the same industry, a company that manufactures a lot of consumer models and has to stock spares for many generations of products, a composite part number (that can indicate a revision etc) may be a lot more useful. At the other extreme is a job shop or industrial manufacturing organization (such as in aircraft engine or heavy machine manufacturing), where visual identification of parts on the shop floor is a part of the daily picking and assembly operations. In such a case, it is essential for the part numbering scheme to be somewhat or highly intelligent so that the shop floor worker can immediately spot if he has picked a slightly different or incompatible part.
Oracle Agile PLM Administrators need to configure the system to best align with their company's part numbering scheme(s). Fortunately, there is plenty of flexibility available in the system to do just that.
Dumb numbers, simple alphanumeric numbers and composite numbers can easily be set up using autonumbers in Agile, which allow a defined-length numeric sequence with a prefix and suffix to be set up for each subclass. Intelligent part numbers are often constructed using rules based on item attributes, so the most convenient way to allocate such numbers is to use a Process eXtension (PX) to generate the part number. In order to do that, the part will typically be created with a dummy number, and then a PX fired to generate the part number once the requisite attributes have been specified.
Another common practice is to use a master data management system (such as Oracle's Product Information Management Data Hub, or PIM) to be the system of record for all part numbers within the enterprise. Such systems can often accommodate multiple part numbers for the same part - such as Internal Part Number, Marketing SKU, Warehouse SKU, etc - and can also contain complex functions for allocating part numbers. An AIA based integration can accommodate an automated synchronous process whereby a new part number request is sent from Agile to PIM, and is returned a part number generated using a function written leveraging one or more item attributes.
In a follow on post, we’ll explore some of the common challenges that our customers face with their part numbering strategy in today’s ever-evolving corporations, and how simplifying the part numbering scheme can help address those issues.