The Case Against Intelligent Part Numbers

By Keith Thompson on

Part numbers are used to identify and catalog different items. Intelligent part numbers are used to capture and display further descriptive characteristics of each unique item. Intelligent part numbers were developed at a time when storage databases were very expensive and not very prevalent. To recognize and understand the definition of a given part number, the number itself was defined using a descriptive meaning in each character or set of characters that make up the part number. Here is an example of an intelligent part number and its meaning.

Part Numbers

Part Number: FPHSW09A1
Meaning: Floating Air Pro, Heat Pump Single, Wall Mounted, 9000 BTU/Hr, Introduced 2019, 115 Volts
Wow! That’s a lot of information packed into such a small number. This is great you say, but hold on, not so fast. Let’s look at what it takes to set up and manage this intelligence. Here’s an example of how this gets defined.

Part numbers nomenclature in SOLIDWORKSNotice that the part number is broken into sections, and each section has a defined list of codes used to describe the meaning of that section. Defining and memorizing these codes is a lot of work. As the need for more unique part numbers grow, so will the complexity. Wouldn’t it be easier to have a simple number and a way to look up all the descriptive information about it? Now that databases are much more affordable and available, the question is, “Are intelligent part numbers really needed today?”

Using Databases to Create Part Numbers

Databases today can store a lot of information like the kind noted above for any given item or part number. Databases are also easy to access to look up information and be accessed remotely using a computer, tablet or smartphone. With this capability and accessibility, we can have a simple part number that has a lot of descriptive information about it stored in a database and quickly look up what it is and all its relevant information without having to memorize any of it. Below is an example of a simple part number and the matching database record of its descriptive information that might be retrieved for it.

Part Numbers in SOLIDWORKS PDMAs you can see, we have all the original descriptive information plus a lot more, like weight, cost, if it’s a purchased item, the vendor we buy it from, who created it, etc; without affecting or increasing the size of the part number. By using a database to store the descriptive information, we can add, remove or change the information without affecting the part number.

How SOLIDWORKS PDM can Create and Use Part Numbers

SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional is a database application that has the capability to create unique serial numbers in combination with other defined characteristics to make simple or intelligent part numbers. It also captures and stores a wide variety of user-defined descriptive information in its database. As discussed above, it’s no longer necessary to create intelligent part numbers, since the intelligence can be stored and looked up in a database. However, there are times when some intelligence in the part number is beneficial, for example ECO-12234 (assigns this part number to an Engineering Change Order (ECO), or DOC-12345 (assigns a part number to an office document). In these cases, SOLIDWORKS PDM can use its serial number generation capabilities to easily create these semi-intelligent part numbers. It simply puts ECO or DOC before a non-intelligent serial number and voila, a new part number is born.

Tools like SOLIDWORKS PDM and other databases allow the user to input many more details and descriptive part information than before. Users can find parts quicker, update part information without changing the part number and more! 

Explore the ways in which storage databases impact the need for intelligent part numbers and why they might not be as needed as before. Learn more about how SOLIDWORKS PDM can create and use part numbers by watching our on-demand webinar.