Manufacturing Part Numbers 




Tools that Help

Earlier, I mentioned three tools for accessing descriptive infor­mation about parts even when it's hard to access the system to do an item number inquiry. The three were: a properly organized and printed part number listing, relational databases, and com­modity coding. Let's discuss them briefly:

1. A typical manufacturing facility rarely has more than a few thousand truly active part numbers, and often has less than a thousand. However, the typical MRP part number listing contains all the part numbers still "up" on the system, listed one to a line (sometimes one to a page), on 11" by 14" paper. So few are printed, they are printed infrequently, and using them is an objectionable and time-consuming experience.

Now, there are places where accessing the main MRP system is still difficult. Anyone who has worked in a maquiladora in Mexico, using a corporate mainframe in the U.S., will testify to that. If people really need to be able to get information about parts when they can't access a system easily, why not print a listing of only the active part numbers with their descriptions, in small but readable type, phone-book style? 100 part numbers per 8" by 11"

page would not be hard, and (using both sides of the paper) that would allow a 2000-part listing to be printed on just 10 pieces of paper. This is a small enough matter that it can be printed monthly, if necessary (or updates can be slipped in on a regular basis), and given to all field servicemen, salesmen, etc. and left in strategic locations around the factory.

2. Sometimes you need to know information about a part number for a system that is not connected to the MRP system. You may have a piece of computerized assembly or processing equipment, or an entire Computer-Inte-grated-Manufacturing system that only talks to the MRP system via nightly (or weekly) data dumps. To fully utilize equipment capabilities, many of these systems need to know something about the parts they are handling. It might seem an elegant solution for them to simply extract that information from the part number, but it's not necessary. Today's relational databases allow users to use a (nonsig­nificant) part number as a pointer to all the descriptive information one could want. You're not limited to a few characters of description or one or two fields from the item master. If you want, you can download the entire item master from the MRP system and use it on your CIM system.

3. A well-constructed commodity code will do things for a company that a significant part number never can. (For one thing, it can grow and change with the varying demands of the business, without having to change bills of materials, purchase orders, etc. because the part number was modi­fied.) By its nature, a commodity code can be longer and thus easier to interpret than a significant part number. (Contrast, for instance, this example from one part num­bering system I experienced: "CC" was used to indicate "Chip capacitor" in our part numbers, but could just as easily have meant "Chip carrier" or "Ceramic capacitor" or "consigned component." By adding a few more char­acters, a commodity code can use "CAP,CER,CHP" to mean a ceramic chip capacitor, and leave no doubt.) With the greater storage capacities of modern computers, the commodity code can easily be more of a "structured, abbreviated description" than an actual code.

To be Continued


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