“Smart” Part Numbers Strike Again: Wrong Part Shipped

I own two dishwashers in two homes, different models from the same brand, bought in the same store, and both on a service contract. For the first one, the model number  is SHE55R56UC; for the second one, SHE65T55UC. Today, we needed help on the first one, but customer service shipped us parts for the second one, which the repair technician discovered when unpacking them.

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More Recommendations on Part Numbering

Three years ago, a previous post made the case for the key approach to nomenclature, as opposed to the obsolete “smart” numbering systems. In the key approach, the only job of a part number is to be a unique item identifier, through which all relevant information can be retrieved from a database. But you still need to think what items you want to have unique IDs for.

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Are Part Numbers Too Smart for Their Own Good? | ENGINEERING.com

[…] technology experts are warning that the use of such descriptive part numbers is not necessarily so “smart,” and that they could drag down productivity in today’s fast-changing manufacturing environments. A smarter tactic, they assert, is to employ auto-generated “insignificant” or “non-intelligent” part numbers and let information about the part reside in a database. […]

Source: www.engineering.com

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Michel Baudin‘s comments:
For details on the reasons to get rid of so-called “smart” part numbers, see  Why “Smart” part numbers should be replaced with keys and property lists.

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.