The future of the part numbers transparency

The future of the part numbers transparency


Back to New Year celebration, I bought the iTwinkle Light made by GE in Home Depot. It has many features, connects to your smartphone to control light patterns, sound, stream music, etc. But, unfortunately, I had few broken lights or cable or some cable disconnect. In general, it is not a big deal, but I decided to contact support to ask how to fix it. To make long story short – for the last 10 days, I’m exchanging emails with GE support and everything we are looking for is… manufacturing code. I made all possible and impossible pictures of stickers I have on the tree, but still didn’t find something that support organization can identify as a manufacturing code. Probably manufacturing code was on the box, but I bought this tree without the box.

This story connects to one of my earlier articles – From intelligent part numbers to part number intelligence. One of the comments I’ve got via LinkedIn was from Jos Voskuil and it speaks about the fact users are not looking for part numbers any more. Here is the passage from the comment:

My recent experience with a client showed again that people are not looking for a part number. They are looking for the part with certain properties, related to a product, related to a customer, related to a supplier or inside a BoM. This is all PLM – search by properties and relations. At the shop-floor, people pick parts for the line or at the line. Here scanners should be used, or in future, augmented reality glasses. Same situation for the warehouse. The next step in the evolution is to free people’s brain from numbers and give them properties. The same way we identify our environment. That’s my dream, and I think it is realistic to reach this with this decade.

Although Jos is acknowledge that part of what he described is a dream, I’d really like the dream come true now. What if iPhone app connected to the tree being able to get this magic manufacturing code. Or the capability to transmit manufacturing code was one of the functional of product itself and only required internet connection.

Let’s hope dreams will come true one day. What does it mean for part numbers, manufacturing code, item master number and all other codes and identifiers used in product development and manufacturing? Let think about two possible scenarios – product development and warehouse.

In product development, engineers are dealing with “virtual parts”. They need to identify parts and use it in the product design or manufacturing planning. In most of these scenarios today, Part Number is one of the key elements that helps engineers to select a part. Let’s dream about the future PLM and ERP systems capable to bring right component based of the set of parameters (properties) and relation to customers, manufacturer, supplier, etc. Even so, I’m thinking about some sort of identification engineer would like to use for user experience – short name, number, etc. Maybe future 3D visualization can eliminate the need to bill of materials, but I have doubt it will happen any soon.

For warehouse scenario, engineer or technician is dealing with physical parts. There are multiple scenarios where identification of parts can be not simple task and require analysis of multiple properties and contextual data. This is a place where future scenarios related to AR devices can be interesting. Although even thinking about AR headset, I still want to understand what AR user experience will be and what (as a user) I will see on the screen – name, properties or part number?


What is my conclusion? Information technology and augment reality will transform the way we interact with information. This is a very interesting technological shift. However, unless people are still involved into the scenario, user experience and interaction will still be something to focus on. How data will be represented and identified for usage? Would it be 3D representation, part numbers, labels, properties or something else? How search interface will work? These are questions PLM futurists needs to ask before jumping into the future with no part numbers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit PTC analyst event meeting, PTC Vuforia acquisition and GfxSpeak Article


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