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Part Numbers

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Identification. When it comes to data management it is a very important thing. In product data management and PLM it usually comes to the Part Numbers. Companies can spend days and months debating what to include in Part Numbers and how to do that. Smart Part Numbers vs. Dumb Part Numbers. OEM Part numbers, Manufacturing Part Numbers, Suppliers Part Numbers – this is only one slice of identification aspects in manufacturing and engineering. I want to reference few of my previous posts PDM, Part Numbers and the Future of Identification and Part numbers and External Classification Schemas - to give you some background of what potential problems or dilemmas you may have towards decision about numbering schemas and identifications.

These days product information is going beyond borders of your company and even beyond your stable supply chain. The diversity of manufacturers, suppliers, individual makers combined with increased amount of e-commerce is creating the need to use product identification more broadly and maybe in more synchronized and standard way.

My attention was caught by SearchEngineLand article – How Online Retailers Can Leverage Unique Identifiers & Structured Data. Read and draw your conclusion. Article speaks about usage of product unique identification in e-commerce – GTIN.

In e-commerce, there is a unique global identifier that is leveraged across all major comparison shopping engines and search engines: namely, a GTIN or Global Trade Item Number (better known in the U.S. as a UPC). These global unique product identifiers take the guessing game out of comparing two products to determine if they are the same item, eliminating the problems typically associated with entity resolution and big data — all you have to do is compare the GTINs.

The most interesting fact is the variety of GTINs are now part of schema.org product definition. Schema.org is the initiative supported by Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex about representation of structured information on web pages. Google can aggregate product based on the comparison of identical GTINs. You can see an interesting patent filled by Google – Aggregating product review information for electronic product catalogs. Here is an interesting description:

An analysis module collects product reviews and determines whether each product review includes a product identifier, such as a Global Trade Item Number (“GTIN”). For product reviews having a product identifier, the module adds the product review to the product catalog and associates the product review with the product identifier. For product reviews lacking a product identifier, the module initiates an Internet search using information from the product review and analyzes search results to identify a product identifier for the product review.

You can ask how it applies to PLM and Part Numbers. In my view the initiative to have a standard of structured data representation presents the technique that can be used by manufacturing companies and software vendors. Web shows how to do it in an open way and increase the value of data access and analyzes. Finding similar parts inside your company product catalogs and across supply chain with future optimization can be an interesting solutions. Manufacturing companies are trying to solve this problem many years. It can also lead to significant cost benefits.

What is my conclusion? Adoption of web technologies and practice becomes an interesting trend these days. In my view, enterprise software (and PLM is part of it) is struggling from protectiveness in everything that related to data. Keep data close, hold format and data management practice – this is a very short list of examples you can see in real life. It was well-known business practice for many years. However, the opportunity from openness can be bigger. Schema.org is a perfect examples of how an agreement between competing web giants can solve many problems in user experience and benefit e-commerce. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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I want to continue my BOM 101 thoughts and speak about working with Bill of Materials during early stages of product development. Engineers are using multiple sources of information to create an initial Bill of Materials. The initial BOM structure can come from CAD system, other BOMs developed earlier and also created from scratch. One of the important steps during this process is to assign Part Numbers as early as possible.

Part Numbers (PN) and development lifecycle process

Initial PN allocation plays a key role in overall product development process. From the moment we assign Part Numbers, the status of product development can be tracked by the Item Lifecycle mechanism. Newly created PN are obviously getting “development” status. However, measurement of time lapsed since PN assignment until Item actually entered into BOM and later until specification document becomes available will allow you to follow process of development on the very early stage.

Par Number and PLM/ERP integration

Part Number assignment requires some degree of system integration. The easiest way to get things done is to manage PN in your PLM systems. However, a reality is different. Very often, item master is managed by ERP system or another data management system. It can be also home grown database that historically keeps record of Item masters and allocate Part numbers. So, to integrate these systems will be extremely important to manage Items lifecycle in the company.

What is my conclusion? It is very important to have item lifecycle started at the very early stage of product development. Unfortunately, very often companies are postponing this step because of the integration complexity. PLM/ERP integration project is starting on the late phase of PDM/PLM implementation. Internal company politics are adding an additional level of complexity  to this decision. It takes weeks or even monts to decide where to manage Item Masters. A significant portion of product cost is defined during early stage of the development. To have early BOM/PN visibility can optimize the process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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I suggest you an experiment. Invite two engineers and ask them to provide a definition for some of PDM/PLM related terms. I’d not be surprised if you will get more than two definitions. It is not unusual to spend lots of time during PLM software implementation meetings to define terms, language and meaning of things. Regardless on terminology, I found BOM to be a central element in every product development organization and business. It contains a recipe of your product, process and, at the end of the day, becomes a lifeblood of your product development processes. Thinking about BOM management solution, I can see four major things that need to be defined, discussed and clarified.

BOM and Part Lists

Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of all items required to make a parent item. It includes components, raw materials and sub-assemblies. You may also include intermediate items identifying in-process elements to facilitate planning and other manufacturing processes. Depends on industry, people can call BOM differently. For example, in process industry, it can be called recipe or formula. Opposite to BOM, Part List is usually a term used to call a single level list for a specific level of assembly or sub-assembly.

Part Number 

This is one of the most tricky defined terms in a whole product development and BOM management story. Here is a short definition. Part Number (PN) is an unique identifier that identify a single object in bill of material. However, the trick is how to define object and how to keep it consistent with your processes. Assigning part numbers is often complicated and one of the most discussed topics. The traditional definition of FFF (Form, Fit and Function) helps to identify the right objects. Interchangeable parts, substitiute items, special parts – this is only a short list of issues that comes into the discussion around part numbering process.

Routing 

Think about navigation system with the road between different places. Now imagine part numbers. Routing is a roadmap that defines the path of part numbers across manufacturing floor by specifying workstations and labor time associated with every station. Usually routing applied to manufactured parts or items.

Drawings

Drawings represents a significant part of history and confusing engineering habits. Historically, drawing is the place where people put bill of materials for a product. It also solves the problem of Bill of Materials distribution in the company. At the same time, BOM on a drawing brings lots of disadvantages. In many situations, people don’t need drawing, but only need bill of materials and/or part list. Another point of confusion is numbering system. The discussion is about applying part numbers on drawings. In most of the situations, it represents the limitation of systems used for product development (PDM/PLM). To separate between Part Numbers and Document Numbers is the most reasonable ways to manage it, in my view.

What is my conclusion? Regardless of what systems you plan to use, I recommend you to have cross-department organizational discussion about these four pillars. Usually, it helps to understand product development processes. Engineering and manufacturing are two main organizations usually involved into BOM processes. To clarify terms will give you a tremendous value during PDM/PLM system implementation and integration with ERP. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Part numbers and External Classification Schemas

February 7, 2012

I want to talk about Part Numbers. Yes, Part Numbers, again… My previous blog – Part Numbering and the future of identification raised few interesting conversations. So, I decided to open a Pandora box of part numbering. The formal trigger for this conversation was Arena Solutions blog – Three consideration when choosing Part Numbering schema […]

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A Geek’s View on Part Numbers

August 17, 2011

I feel a bit geeky today. I posted about part numbers, document number and numbering few times in the past. These posts sparkled an intensive discussion about all possible and impossible data schemas, intelligent numbers and standards for part numbering. I want to give you a bit different approach to think about Part Numbers – […]

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