Are Smart Part Numbers Still Smart?

Are Smart Part Numbers Still Smart?

By Randy Goldbeck, Fullscope Director of Servicessmartparts_jpg

During a recent visit to an active Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP system implementation workshop, I got involved in a debate about part numbers and the numbering nomenclature. It is a common occurrence with ERP projects for a debate to come up about how parts (raw materials, sub-components, finished goods, etc.) should be numbered and named. At the heart of the debate are the cryptic part number identifiers created long before ERP systems became pervasive throughout Manufacturing and Distribution companies, and the fact that no one wants to change these “Smart Part Numbers.”

Usually there is logic and structure to the characters and numbers that users can’t seem to live without. Smart part numbers serve as a short hand where the legacy users know that a R600-A36-#002 means that this is a raw material for the 600 series product line that was produced in the Atlanta plant and requires inspection on receipt. Everyone who has been with the company for some time knows that the Atlanta plant (#002) produces this item. When you hire a new planner, however, he/she has no clue that any part ending in #002 means the Atlanta plant made it.

Consider Your Customer View

In this situation, especially for finished goods, think about it from the Customer’s point of view. Your customer has no idea what the complicated part numbers mean, or how you use them internally. In fact, complicated part numbers are a hindrance for the Customer who is simply trying to locate the right part in your catalog or on your website, packing list, bill of lading or invoice.

The Simple Truth

Manufacturers must reduce their reliance on Smart Part Numbers. All areas of the business should work to define a no-logic, or at least a minimal logic, part number convention. Dynamics AX provides a technology-enabled, attribute-based part number solution to deliver the same operational support.

Advantages to move from Smart Part Numbers to insignificant numbers include:

  1. Centrally accessible in Dynamics AX to materials handling, production, engineering, production control, purchasing or sales
  2. Possible reduction in training time and costs because new users will not need to learn the complicated numbering system
  3. Reduction in key punch errors
  4. Reduced chance of “running out of logic”
  5. Product changes will not impact the part number
  6. Consistent part numbers across multiple plants/sites

Start Small

With over 20 years of ERP implementation experience with manufacturing companies, our recommendation is to not undertake a massive project to revise all existing part numbers to some Insignificant number. Instead, consider a grandfather clause approach. Leave all existing part numbers in place and, as new parts, items, etc., are created, move towards an Insignificant numbering system.

What do you think about Smart Part Numbers? If you have questions or feedback, shoot me an email at [email protected]


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