3 Steps To Keep Part Numbers Simple

Oleg Shilovitsky
Oleg Shilovitsky
7 October, 2021 | 4 min for reading
3 Steps To Keep Part Numbers Simple

Part Numbers are important and difficult at the same time. I don’t know any topic that causes so many debates, disagreements and leads to huge amounts of frustration and confusion in the engineering team and manufacturing organizations. It all begins with Part Numbers. Every engineering organization needs them and you need to put them straight. Without it, your organization can lose time, money and engineering and manufacturing processes can turn into a bloody mess. In this article, I will give you simple guidance on how to keep Part Numbers organized and avoid unnecessary complexity. 

Before that though, here is some history to help you better understand the story of Part Numbers in perspective of what was happening in engineering and manufacturing before. 

There is always some legacy

There is always some legacy when it comes to Part Numbers. Even if you start a new company or project, you will bring some data from the past and it will raise the question about Part Numbers immediately. Engineers love efficiency. Combined with a historical lack of trust in data management, organizations always want to kill two birds with one stone. How to do it? Embed some information about a part, product, revision into a Part Number. It sounds smart, but very often ends up messy and adds unnecessary workload on everyone involved in the maintenance of these part numbers. 

Documents and use information in multiple documents is another big reason why companies are leaning towards semantically meaningful part numbers. While it sounds smart, you will have to do a lot of work syncing all these documents and ensuring nothing wrong was stuck in one of these documents from the past when you reuse it between multiple systems. Investment in digital transformation and escaping from the methods that mimick documentation flow can be another good step towards simplification of information flow. 

So, how to solve the problem? Below, I suggest 3 steps you can follow no matter what system you use to set up your data management system to manage Part Numbers.

Open and Flexible Data Management Platform

Pick the system you trust to manage data and specifically item records. Openness is the key- you don’t want your system to be stuck in some proprietary data management system that can’t be extracted. You also don’t want to have messy Excel spreadsheets without any chance of checking the uniqueness of Part Numbers. So, openness and transparency are the keys. 

OpenBOM gives you a simple yet powerful and robust platform to manage any product information, which can be accessed by everyone and always allow you to export the data if you decide you want to move to another system. 

Keep Part Numbers Simple and Rely on Attributes  

Once you trust the data management system of your choice, you should stop thinking about how to identify data outside of the system. Data management platforms must be trusted and available to everyone. The last one is very important. Check the licensing and ensuring that you can easily bring everyone in the company easy access to the data. Place everyone on the same page- there is huge value behind this. 

Once your Part Numbers are simple (numbers) or very simple strings with minimum prefixes and suffixes, heavily rely on the attributes to add any semantically meaningful information to items. This information will help you to slice and dice the data when searching, but also easily classify and have transparency about what a specific item is and what are its characteristics. 

OpenBOM catalogs combined with a flexible set of properties is the simplest way to define items, Part Number patterns, and ensure data is semantically organized and can be accessed.  

Unique Part Numbers and Sync with Other Tools (eg. CAD) 

The last element of a robust and powerful system to manage data is usually integrations. The nature of the engineering and manufacturing world is a large number of different systems that must be used together. And these tools need these pesky numbers as well. How do you make it happen? The process should start from the ability to generate a unique Part Number and later use it everywhere. 

OpenBOM catalog part number setup and company subscription provide a set of robust tools to manage the uniqueness of part numbers. OpenBOM integrations provide embedded mechanisms to retrieve a new Part Number and automatically save it in CAD (or other systems). Our recent development of CAD Part Number support shows how easy, unique part numbers can be generated in OpenBOM and placed in CAD systems.  


It is extremely important to set up simple yet powerful and robust mechanisms to manage Part Numbers and related pieces of information. By following our advice, you can take a step-by-step journey towards simplifying your data management and start using tools to get the data, semantics and sharing under a single roof. This is a foundation of modern agile product data management. The basic mechanisms are available even in the free OpenBOM user account.

Don’t waste any more of your time – REGISTER TO OPENBOM and check out how it can help you get rid of complex Excels and awkward situations where you don’t trust the data you have in front of you. 

Best, Oleg

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