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PLM Essentials - 1. Part Numbering


The early stages of a product’s lifecycle, while it’s still a CAD model on a screen or a collection of parts awaiting assembly into a prototype, are largely interpreted through the product data assigned to each component, part and module. Effectively managing this product data (PDM) is at the heart of every good manufacturing and engineering process. In our PLM Essentials series, we’ll be exploring how to create processes and systems that will help your organisation deliver the innovation it requires to thrive in an ever more competitive marketplace.

In part 1, we take a closer look at the importance of establishing a part numbering logic that meets the specific needs of your business and the key things to consider when you do.  


What is part numbering?

In a sense, part numbering is a coding language, compressing lots of useful information into a short sequence of characters. 

A single part number is used to identify a unique component design within the finished product, such as the cooling system in a car. 

There are two kinds of part numbering system:

  1. Non-significant – A series of numbers that does little more than identify the component. 
  2. Significant – Otherwise known as an intelligent system. This uses letters and numbers to indicate the attributes and make-up of the component.

For example, a significant part number could indicate the year a product was designed, the product line it was designed for, the engineering team responsible for it, the style, the colour and so on. The level of detail is entirely up to you and your team.

The key is to find the right level of detail that works for your business. What matters is that it is clear, concise and can be easily identified by anyone, no matter which business function they work in.  


What does a good system look like?

For products that feature a variety of engineered components, such as a car, you’re likely to use a significant number system. 

Although no two systems are the same, there are some common attributes that the best systems share, including: 

  • Numbers are concise and consistent in length and format.
  • They’re applicable across programmes and production lines. 
  • They provide enough information on the origin and use of the part but remain easy to interpret. 
  • And the system has the capacity and flexibility to grow with your business.   

By establishing robust part numbering that caters for your needs now but could also be applied to new products in the future, you’ll be putting in place a system that will stand the test of time and won’t require an overhaul in the near term. 


Part numbering in action  

To show you the benefits that a robust part numbering system can bring to your organisation, here’s an example from a London-based electric vehicle manufacturer that we worked with to improve their part numbering approach.

They came to us because their system was inconsistent and lacked the necessary detail to prevent mistakes in the build process.

As a fast-growing business that is constantly innovating, they required a system that could keep pace with its progress and range of projects. To enable this, we helped them develop a system that complemented the modular nature of its vehicle designs in which many of the parts can be used across its various models. 

For an in depth look at how we developed this system and the benefits that it has delivered for this manufacturer, download the full case study below. 

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