I posted this almost 4 years ago, but a post on Eng-Tips.com riled me up again. It deals with “smart” part numbers, so if you don’t care you can stop reading now. For those of you who are still reading, and have read the original post, I’ve added on a bit more.
A warning: This post will have absolutely nothing to do with SolidWorks, or CAD for that matter.
Why do people feel that part numbers need to represent anything? Too often I’ve seen “smart” part numbers end up being so convoluted that you need a PhD in cryptography to understand anything. What’s bringing this on? I’m ashamed to admit it, but there is such a part numbering system here. It’s not as ugly as some I’ve seen, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. Naturally, I tried to get the powers-that-be to see the error of their ways but, in the end, I had to concede. (Today is only my third day, I don’t want it to be my last.)
What so many people fail to realize is that a part number is just a placeholder in the MRP system (or whatever inventory control system you’re using). The part description is the important part. Yes, I know there are those who are screaming “blasphemer” at me, I don’t care. The minute you implement a “smart” part numbering system, you’re setting up for future failure. At some point you’re going to have a new part that is really similar to an existing part so you’ll add some sort of suffix or prefix to its number so you can differentiate between the two. Next thing you know, you’ve got a third one that’s similar to the other two. Another suffix, perhaps? Oops, look, here’s a fourth one. Ok, we’ll just create another classification, slide the first three over and now we’re good. Right? Crap, what to do with the old numbers? Hey look, this part is sort of like the first four, but it’s also sort of like these ones over here…
It’s enough for me to want to pull my hair out.
Everyone, for the most part, has heard of the KISS principle, right? Keep it simple stupid. A part number should be just that, a stupid number. Whether it’s 4-, 5- or 6-digits really depends on your company’s needs. How many parts are you dealing with? Let the description take care of telling you what it is: Screw, HHC, 1/4-20 x 1, GR5; Cable, Red, 4 GA; Number, Part, Stupid.
Think about it, no more having to train newbies on how your part numbering system is deciphered. No more having to come up with new codes. Need a new part number, just take the next available one. The world is already confusing enough. Let’s not make it worse with “smart” part numbers, ok?
Update: So I re-posted this because of a question that was posted in the SolidWorks forum on Eng-tips.com. Here’s the link, but I’ll try to sum it up. The poster was asking about “non-significant” part numbers, then had a list of part numbers and what types of parts/assemblies they were assigned to which made them significant. On top that, he was asking what he should do if he ran out of numbers. He had things set up so that he had upwards of 200,000 numbers per type! Perhaps I’m naive, but I can’t think of a company where they have 200,000 unique upper level assemblies. Hell, I’m thinking 200,000 unique part numbers would be hard to reach for the vast majority of companies but I’m not about to say it’s impossible. However, were he not trying to set up his system in 5 groups, he’d have a pool of 1,000,000 unique numbers that I seriously doubt would be exhausted. This goes to strengthen my point. If you used part numbers as strictly place holders, your life will be much more simple.