Part Numbering System Best Practices for Electronics OEMs

Part Numbering System Best Practices for Electronics OEMs

Part numbering can get complicated in a hurry. What should you keep in mind to create a schema that helps your PLM instead of hinders it?
Amy Santiago

Part numbering is an essential aspect of the manufacturing process, enabling Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Contract Manufacturers (CMs) to track electronic components or parts from procurement to assembly and testing. In this article, we explore what part numbers are, why they are important, and the types of part numbering schemes used by manufacturers. We also discuss the benefits of a well-designed part numbering system and the common mistakes to avoid.

What is a part number for electronics OEMs and CMs?

A part number for electronics Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Contract Manufacturers (CMs) is a unique identifier assigned to a specific electronic component or part used in the manufacturing process. This number allows for easy tracking of parts throughout the entire manufacturing process, from procurement to assembly and testing.

The part number typically consists of a series of alphanumeric characters that provide specific information about the part, such as its type, characteristics, and supplier. For example, a part number for a capacitor might include information about its capacitance, voltage rating, and physical size.

Having a well-defined and consistently applied part numbering system is crucial for efficient and effective inventory management, as well as for facilitating communication between different teams and suppliers involved in the manufacturing process. Additionally, a robust part numbering system can help minimize errors and delays, ensuring that products are manufactured correctly and delivered on time.

What is a part numbering system for manufacturers?

A part numbering system for manufacturers is a standardized method of assigning unique identification numbers or codes to the different components or parts used in the manufacturing process. The system enables manufacturers to track parts through various stages of the production process, from design and procurement to assembly and testing.

The system is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the manufacturing process or new components, while also providing consistency and structure. A well-designed part numbering system can help improve inventory management, facilitate communication between different teams and suppliers, and minimize errors and delays during the manufacturing process.

Types of part numbering schemes

There are different approaches to designing a part numbering system, depending on the industry, company size, and specific needs. Some manufacturers use a sequential numbering system, where each new part is assigned the next available number, while others use a more structured approach that incorporates specific codes or hierarchies for different types of parts. Ultimately, the goal is to create a system that is easy to use, maintain, and scale as the manufacturing process evolves over time.

There are several types of part numbering schemes used by manufacturers, and the choice of scheme often depends on the type of product, industry, and company needs. Here are some common types of part numbering schemes:

Sequential numbering scheme

This scheme assigns a unique number to each part in a sequence, often starting at 1 and incrementing for each new part. This is a simple and straightforward approach that works well for smaller organizations or those with a limited number of parts. Given the complexity of electronics hardware design and production, this is unlikely to work for most OEMs.

Hierarchical numbering scheme

This scheme groups parts by their function, material, or other attributes, creating a hierarchical structure that allows for easy organization and retrieval. For example, a part number for an electronic component might start with a prefix indicating its category (e.g., "R" for resistor), followed by numbers indicating its resistance value and tolerance.

Alphanumeric numbering scheme

This scheme combines letters and numbers to create a unique identifier for each part. This approach allows for more flexibility in creating part numbers that convey specific information about the part, such as its supplier, material, or size.

Vendor numbering scheme

In some cases, manufacturers may adopt the part numbering scheme used by their suppliers to ensure consistency and compatibility throughout the supply chain. This approach can be useful when working with a large number of suppliers, each with their own part numbering system.

Benefits of a great part numbering scheme

A great part numbering scheme is essential to smooth product lifecycle operations. Without it, functions won’t be able to collaborate effectively. With a solid system in place, though, you’ll enjoy many advantages:

  1. Efficient inventory management: A well-designed part numbering scheme can make it easier to track and manage inventory levels, reducing the risk of stock-outs or overstocking. This can result in cost savings and improved operational efficiency.
  2. Streamlined manufacturing processes: By providing a standardized method of identifying and tracking parts, a good part numbering scheme can help streamline the manufacturing process. This can reduce errors, improve quality control, and ultimately lead to faster time-to-market.
  3. Improved communication: A clear and consistent part numbering scheme can facilitate communication between different teams and suppliers involved in the manufacturing process. This can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and reduce the risk of misunderstandings or errors.
  4. Better supplier management: A good part numbering scheme can help manufacturers better manage their relationships with suppliers. By providing a standardized way to identify and track parts, manufacturers can ensure that they are receiving the correct parts from the right suppliers, and can more easily compare prices and quality levels.
  5. Simplified repairs and maintenance: A well-designed part numbering scheme can make it easier to identify and replace faulty or worn-out parts, simplifying repairs and maintenance. This can help reduce downtime and improve overall productivity.

Common part numbering mistakes

Part numbering is a critical aspect of the manufacturing process, and there are several common mistakes that can occur if the process is not carefully managed. Here are some common part numbering mistakes:

  1. Lack of standardization: One of the most common mistakes is the lack of standardization in the part numbering system. When each team or department creates their own part numbering system, it can lead to confusion and errors. It's important to have a clear and consistent standard that is followed by all teams involved in the manufacturing process. Every team that touches part numbers should have a tenant in the same BOM software to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language.
  2. Insufficient information: Part numbers should include sufficient information to identify the part, such as its function, material, dimensions, and supplier. If important information is missing, it can lead to confusion and errors when identifying or ordering parts.
  3. Too much information: On the other hand, part numbers that are too long or complicated can also cause problems. This can make it difficult to quickly identify the part, and can slow down the manufacturing process.
  4. Inconsistent numbering: If parts are numbered inconsistently, it can lead to confusion and mistakes. For example, using different numbering schemes for different product lines or suppliers can cause problems when trying to manage inventory or track parts.
  5. Lack of traceability: Part numbers should be traceable, meaning that they can be linked back to specific suppliers, production runs, or batches. This is important for quality control and recall management.
  6. Poor documentation: Finally, poor documentation of the part numbering system can cause problems down the line. It's important to have clear guidelines and procedures in place for creating, assigning, and managing part numbers, and to ensure that this information is readily available to all relevant teams and departments.

How do you make a part numbering system?

First, you should use a semi-intelligent customer part number (CPN) scheme, which includes a prefix and a suffix. The prefix is usually category-based, and the suffix is a counter that increments for each new instance of the category. This type of scheme provides a middle ground between the non-intelligent and intelligent options, allowing for the benefits of intelligent systems without too much added complexity. To build on the semi-intelligent numbering scheme, utilize category-based part numbering, which allows for easy finding of parts and filtering through component libraries.

In addition, use numeric item identifiers instead of alphabetic ones. Numeric identifiers are easier to recognize and reduce the number of data errors. Along with sticking to numbers, you should keep part number length consistent, usually between six and eight digits. This reduces the chance of error and creates consistency across the board. Then, ensure that item identifier numbers are unique and permanent, with no duplicates or copies of part numbers, and avoid changing or updating part numbers – even when a part is deleted and you no longer plan on using it. Along with sticking to numbers, you should avoid using special characters and leading zeros. Leading zeros refer to a zero or string of zeros at the front of the part number, which some software tools will strip off from a numeric value, corrupting the intended part number. 

Finally, base the part numbering system in PLM (product lifecycle management) and not CAD (computer-aided design) tools. Basing the system in CAD tools can cause problems because they don't have access to other parts and assemblies not generated within that CAD package, and they can't assign numbers as needed. Using a PLM allows for consistent tracking and centralized repository, ensuring data cohesion and proper communication.

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