PLM Data, Identification and Part Numbers

I’d like to follow my yesterday post about PLM data modeling and talk about one of the issues that in my view are very important in PLM systems and implementations. The issue of identification or how it sometimes called “numbering system” is fundamental when you start thinking how to organize you product data. This is not a new problem, in my view. It comes all the time in the beginning of each implementation, when you start thinking about how to identify literally everything in your system. It normally starts from Part Numbers but spread out later.

The identification is a very complex problem. In the beginning, you can easy underestimate the size of this issue. However, as much you will be going forward you can easy come to the conclusion that this is one of the most important issues to decide before doing any implementation. I’d like to put few of the challenges that I think important to mention when you think about identification.

Multiple Systems
In the situation when you run many systems, you need to synchronize numbering and identification schema between them. This can be a not simple task and require significant effort and time.

Global Design and Manufacturing
Product development is going global these days. You want to design, build and support your system on a global scale. Product design and manufacturing are often happening in different countries and locations. In many cases, your local manufacturing facilities will be using local ERP system with local numbering and identification schema. At the same time, global product design will be interested to rely on the single identification worldwide.

Manufacturing and Supply Chain
The product development activity can be split between different parties – OEM’s and suppliers. OEM and suppliers are using separate and often different systems. To synchronize or coordinate numbering systems between them is another challenge on a global scale.

Company Mergers and Acquisitions
This is another type of the activities when you will face identification problems. Mergers and acquisitions happen and, in this case, you need to make an effort to create a single common identification schema from two or more separate systems.

This is not a full list, but figure out the most critical aspects that need to be taken into account. Recently, I came across a very interesting write-up about Part Numbering on the ZeroWait State blog. I think you can get some ideas about possible Part Numbering options such as – intelligent, semi-intelligent, automatic.

What is my conclusion today? I think the problem of the identification will become more urgent very soon. Most of the systems in product development and manufacturing were designed 15-20 years ago and considered problem of the identification as a number in a local database. Growing exchange in design and manufacturing information on a global scale will introduce new types of identification problems. In my view, enterprise systems in general, but PLM specifically will need to learn some lessons from internet systems development to find a right solution to this problem.

I’m interested to hear about your practice and experience with implementation of identification systems in your organization and during the implementation you made.

Best, Oleg



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  • Dave Champlin

    All “intelligent” part numbering systems develop dementia with age. Not original – one of the few times an outside consultant said something remarkable. The lure of adding meaning to a part number is very strong but it is a siren song. Unless the designer of the numbering system can predict the future and every possible bit of infomation that might want to be “communicated” the system will fail at some point. In anything but the most trivial environment the part number can only be an index to other systems (PDM/ERP/etc) that maintain the metadata associated with the part

  • David, Thanks for your insight. I think, the interest of people to provide a semantically understandable classification and taxonomy is natural. An “intelligent” part numbering system is just one of the examples where people are trying to make it understandable. If future PLM/PDM systems will provide an easier solution here, the “intelligent” part numbers will eventually die. However, it is still not happened, and we keep thinking how to improve. Best, Oleg

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