Should an auto parts plant use “smart” part numbers?

Mumin Vatansever, from TKG Otomotiv in Turkey, asked the following question:

I am a newly graduated production control engineer in an auto factory.
We are trying to organize our system according to the SAP.  We really do not know whether we should use smart numbers or not.  We do not know what the advantages and disadvantages of using them ? Also if it is possible could you please give me a smart code example ?

55774 05020 is a part number we have, and its process steps are as follows:

  1. Scissor
  2. Press machine
  3. Weld
  4. Packing
  5. Delivery

Technically, there is no doubt that “smart” part numbers should be replaced with keys and property lists.

I am not expert in SAP, but I don’t believe it restricts you in these matters. Manufacting Part Numbers (MPN) should be unique and short, with all information stored in other fields, either standard in SAP or user-defined. Being unique is a part number’s main job, for obvious reasons. Being short matters if they ever have to read by humans. Sequences of 5 uppercase letters and numbers give you 60 million possible unique IDs, which is probably enough for your needs. Avoid case-sensitive IDs, because people will confuse items 78De5 and 78DE5. 

What worries me is your statement that you are a “newly graduated production control engineer.” I don’t want my advice to get you in trouble. If your bosses are like 99% of the manufacturing professionals I know, they have been trained to believe in “smart” part numbers and are uncomfortable with the thought that they are an obsolete legacy of the pencil-and-paper age. You may have to go along and implement one anyway.

Please share your thoughts: