Intelligent Part Numbers might be a good idea in “connected world”

Intelligent Part Numbers might be a good idea in “connected world”


Part numbers. This is probably one of the most discussed topic in manufacturing and related software domains. How to define Part Numbers? How to manage it using multiple systems? What schema to use? Engineers and software vendors are trying to figure out how to do it. Sometimes, it is very confusing.

Dumb numbers vs. Intelligent number is a quintessential moment of every discussion about Part Numbers. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts about why to use intelligent part numbers in 21st century. There are 3 reasons why intelligent numbers are good – independent from software; self-defined; can be used across multiple systems.

The traditional way is to think about Par Number as identifier in PDM, PLM or ERP system. This is still a valid assumption. However, manufacturing is getting more connected these days. As a result of this an increased number of people and related services can be interested to use part numbers outside of the system for variety of reasons – design contractors, suppliers, contract manufacturers, customer service teams, e-commerce website, etc. To hook them all to a single PLM system can be not feasible. It will might force to review the way systems are using part numbering schema.

One of the way to think about it is think about data and not specific numbering schema. Here is a link to one of my earlier posts from last year speaking about. The idea of disconnecting part numbers and classification from a specific application is one that I want to point out today.

My attention was caught by the development of Common Part Library (CPL) by Octopart. Check more about CPL here. Octopart is a software outfit developing search engine for electronic parts and helping engineers to build electronic products. The following blog post speaks about introducing CPL Part Numbers. It appears to be an interesting problem. You might think eventually, you search Parts and getting Manufacturing Part Numbers. But Octopart engineers had a different opinion and decided to invent so called – generic part, which is in my view an approach similar to how how most of PLM vendors did in the past. The following passage explains guidance Octopart engineers used to develop new part number schema.

The MPNs are not always easy to interpret, and as we developed a scheme for identifying generic parts in the CPL, these are the lessons we took from the MPN naming schemes: 1/ The part numbers should encode useful information. 2/ The part numbers should be readable without having to consult an external reference. 3/ The naming should be consistent across component types.

What I found interesting is how Octopart is using “soft” identification parameters to makes CPL Part Number meaningful for engineers search for parts. CPL part number is allowing to reference multiple parts without specifying manufacturing part number (MPN).


What is my conclusion? Octopart CPL approach to define meaningful part numbers is representing an interesting approach to build relationships between physical components manufactured by multiple vendors, but in fact can be interchanged under specific circumstances. You may think about it as “alternate” part in PLM solutions, but I’d consider Octopart use case generic and broader. It is an interesting attempt to build identification beyond organizational boundaries, which can be very helpful to engineers, contractors and manufacturers these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Pictures credit Octopart blog.


Share This Post