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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