14 Replies Latest reply on Nov 12, 2014 1:34 PM by Kevin Drew

    Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?

    Eric Snyder

      First...I do not anticipate purchasing Solidworks vault or management system.


      We make tools but sometimes also engineer machines or production modifications to equipment. This discussion mostly has to do with the engineering process. In the past I have just created an assembly and then given parts in the assy a name that made sense to me like "Infeed shaft bearing". These projects also use many 3D parts from outside vendors like McMaster (greatest website ever) or others. In the end I have a folder that contains a jumbled mess of assemblies and parts that I created as well as outside parts that I downloaded from vendors - a big mess to come into if you are looking at your own work four years later or you are picking up something that someone else did.


      So...how to organize this mess taking advantage of what you all have learned from blood, sweat and tears and not making things complicated?

        • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
          Jeff Mirisola

          The first thing I would say is that you probably already own PDMWorks as it comes with SolidWorks Pro and Premium. That being said:


          My initial thought is that you guys are more of a job shop than an OEM, so you probably don't utilize an ERP/MRP type system? I'll use that assumption in my answer...


          I would implement a  5-6 digit part number system just to prevent having two parts with the same name. The filename would be the part number and you would then put the part description in the description field in the custom properties dialog. Using a spreadsheet, you can have your part number list with the associated part names/descriptions. While it may add a layer of management, it'll also aid in the finding of parts, via search, versus creating copies. If you implement a naming convention that everyone can understand, it'll make searching for potential common parts easier. One that I was introduced to many, many (many, many, many) years ago was: Noun, adjective, further descriptor. For example: Screw, HHC, 1/4-20 x 1" or Angle, Steel, 1 x 1 x 12".

          I would have some sort of common parts library to store the off-the-shelf parts you use (screws, bearings, widgets, thingamajigs, etc), especially if they get used over and over. Again, it helps to prevent replication.

          I would then utilize job specific folders for the parts that are specific to the job. There are those who would suggest that you assign some sort of job-specific number to each file, but I don't think it's necessary. Just grab a block of numbers when you start the project and start designing.

            • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
              Eric Snyder
              The first thing I would say is that you probably already own PDMWorks as it comes with SolidWorks Pro and Premium.

              You are correct. I am installing it now to look at it. I noticed in SW's intro to Enterprise PDM ( I think a more feature rich version) that they handle sequential number issuing.


              I appreciate your response. I like your scheme for naming files. One issue I have run into with file names are illegal characters like the slashes and the double quote symbol. When naming files I have had to call a 1/4-20 screw 0.125-20 screw.


              I did start a library and have it categorized by type of part (Air cylinders, screws, etc) but don't like the sorting as much. Seems like checking a new part into a vault might help keep people from creating duplicates???

                • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                  Jeff Mirisola

                  With regards to the file naming, don't use the description, use the part number. Your file name would be 12345.sldprt. It's description would be 1/4-20 screw.

                  Whether you use Excel, or some type of inventory software, you can sort and search to see if a particular component exists in the system. The nice thing about saving components by their part number is it is clean in the file structure. You don't end up with 10-, 15-, or 20+-character file names. Just a simple number.


                  While Cole's system makes sense, it doesn't allow for component reuse. You'd end up having to rename a common part to use in other assemblies, potentially within the same parent assembly, creating file bloat.

              • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                Cole Benjamin

                We have a 6 digit job number that encompasses everything in the project. EG: 60000

                We use -00 for the main assembly, any sub assemblies are -01, -02 etc
                Parts are yet another -01, -02, -03 etc.
                So 60000-01-04 would be part # 4 of sub assembly #01.

                60000-00-08 would be part #08 of the main assembly
                60000-04-00 would be sub assembly #04 assembly file

                This system works pretty well for us.
                As for purchased components, we keep them in a sub dir under the job called suppliers, then a directory under that with the vendor name. You can even get more in depth & have them divided into groups like bearings, fasteners etc. BTW, I agree with you on McMaster Carr. That's my "go to" site for almost everything. They deliver really fast too!


                This system is by no means the do all & end all but it works really well for us. Especially if you fill out the description & materials for each part under the custom tab in file properties. Then you B.O.M. has a description like "Infeed Shaft Bearing" under the description column of your B.O.M.

                  • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                    Eric Snyder

                    Interesting as well. Lately I started keeping subassemblies in their own folder as a strategy to keep the main folder getting wayyyyy tooooo manyyyyyy files and being confusion.

                    • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                      Eric Snyder



                      I really appreciate your contribution.


                      How would these two part schemes get numbered?

                      Main assy

                         Part 1

                         Part 2

                         Sub assy 1

                             Part 3

                             Part 4

                             Sub assy 2

                                 Part 5

                                 Part 6

                        Part 7

                        Part 8


                      Assy with part reuse in multiple locations:

                      Main assy

                         Part 1

                         Part 2 (Same part as below)

                         Sub assy 1

                             Part 3

                             Part 2 (Same part as above)

                        • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                          Cole Benjamin

                          Sorry Guys I didn't get notified of this updated thread.
                          To reply to Eric just above:

                          Job #60214( for example)

                          Main assy ----> 60214-00-00

                             Part 1    ------>60214-00-01

                             Part 2    ------>60214-00-02

                             Sub assy 1------>60214-01-00(sub #1 of main ass'y)

                                 Part 3   ------->60214-01-01 (part #1 of sub #1)

                                 Part 4   ------->60214-01-02 (part #2 of sub #1)

                                 Sub assy 2  ------->60214-02-00 (sub #2 of main ass'y)

                                     Part 5      ------->60214-02-01 (part #1 of sub #2)

                                     Part 6      -------->60214-02-02 (part #2 of sub #2)

                            Part 7    -------------------->60214-00-03 (part #3 of main ass'y)

                            Part 8    -------------------->60214-00-04 (part #4 of main ass'y)


                          Basically our system is Job# - Sub Ass'y - part


                          Assy with part reuse in multiple locations:

                          Main assy  --------------------------------------->60214-00-00

                             Part 1     --------------------------------------->60214-00-01

                             Part 2 (Same part as below)------------>60214-01-01

                             Sub assy 1------------------------------------>60214-01-00

                                 Part 3 --------------------------------------->60214-01-01

                                 Part 2 (Same part as above) ------->60214-01-01
                          I've never actually run in to this situation before but if I did I'd probably handle it like this.

                      • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                        Daniel Andersson

                        I would recommend to go with serial part numbering if you do not design quite similar products each time. But if you do eto and have realy similar design every time, then I would recommend a solution that is more of a parametric part numbering.


                        With serial part numbering I mean 00001, 00002.... or something similar. Coles idea is not too bad.


                        Parametric part number could be as this example. Image that your product portfolio is 90% a welded box with a cover. Each order is custom design due to dimensions etc. Then the box could always have eg. 11000 but with a prefix or suffix for the job. The cover could be 12000 and the top level 10000, both with same suffix...


                        Both systems can of course be mixed if depending on product and organisation.


                        Either way, I would recommend to use some prefix or suffix on all part numbers that is unique for a project. Cross used components should be kept in a part number range that clearly states that is a part that can be used in other projects. This helps the designer to know what they can revise easily or if they have to do deeper where-used-analysis (for cross used parts).


                        I would try to keep the job reference as short as possible so that people could easily relate to it on a daily basis.  I have experience both from lettering "AAA", "AAB" and so on... and from a numeric serie. I prefer the letter solution since it gives a lot more variants with only 2 - 4 charaters long, compared to using numbers.

                          • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                            Cole Benjamin

                            All good suggestions on here for sure guys.


                            Our shop has thousands of customers. We are a large machine shop that rarely does the same design twice. In the last month I've designed fixtures for putting electromotive train engines together, weld fixtures for hospital beds & custom nozzles for plastic extrusion machines. Our designs are rarely re-used & if we do need to do that we'd want a different part number on it anyway.


                            Hope these suggestions work for you Eric. Data management can be a nightmare if not done properly!

                          • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                            Paul Vandenberk

                            As said by Cole, all the suggestions above are great. It was actually helpful for me to read through all of the ideas as well since our drafting department is looking at altering how we organize our files as well. In the past, we used descriptive file names like "Triplex Gusset" but we started to notice that you can sometimes end up with duplicate names or names that aren't applicable if the part can be also used in a different application (eg: triplex gusset being used as a gusset on a heater). I recommend switching to a serial numbering system for the actual file name (.sldprt, .sldasm, etc.). I created a random part number generator that uses similar protocols as barcode serial numbers. I do not recommend going over 7 digits for the serial number as that is statistically the max a human being can easily remember without error. You should also avoid using numbers with a leading 0 in them (eg:000942). I wouldn't recommend making the serial number too intelligent or descriptive, like having the assembly structure, because if anything were to change then all the file names must change, which can be very tedious if the design is big enough. 


                            From there, make sure to use the meta properties in SW to add descriptions and any ERP part numbers. As stated by Jeff earlier, the description should follow a certain format and use certain nomenclature so that everyone is on the same page.


                            For off-the-shelf parts like vendor components, we actually started a library in our SW with the different vendors and their components. That way they are all stored outside of the actual project folder and available on the server to all designers.


                            Finally, make use of the workgroup PDM that comes with SW. We use it to manage our templated documents but are looking at switching to using it for all designs (even custom) if we make the change to serial number based file names.

                            • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                              Daen Hendrickson

                              Like many others, I have been through this same journey of discovery. Here are my thoughts:


                              • Use a sequential NON-Intelligent part (item) numbering scheme
                                • No matter how well intentioned, your intelligent scheme will fall short of some need in the future and then you will have "exceptions".
                                • A rare example of where this works is Tire size - a P275R16E fits the same regardless of source. However, this does not capture the variations between manufacturers for tread design and aesthetics (white walls, raised lettering, etc).
                                • This may also work if you produce a fixed line of configurable items. However,  I still stand by the first bullet point that you cannot see in to the future and no matter how well intentioned there will come a day when a cool new product or option just can NOT be accounted for in the current numbering scheme.
                                • I say "ITEM" above because these numbers may apply to any data file you create.
                                • Intelligent part numbering schemes with representations for classes either always fall short or cause significant redundant information in the part number (warning - rant imbedded in next bullet items)
                                  • My current company has three-digit alpha codes at the beginning of each part number to classify the items
                                  • H for hardware
                                  • BK for Bracket, AS for Assembly, CV for cover
                                  • 99.99% of what we make is hardware so every part number I have ever seen here starts with H (redundant)
                                  • Unless it specifically fits into a category, it gets assigned to the Bracket category
                                  • 95% of all our part numbers start with HBK (Three redundant digits)
                                  • Next we have a three digit customer code. 75% of our work is for three customers
                                    • The majority of our part numbers all begin with HBK200, HBK915, etc
                                    • The customer doesn't know they have a code.
                                    • We build these parts for other customers as time goes by
                                  • Finally we have a three digit sequential counter at the end. This limits us to 999 unique files for each customer - unless they want something besides a bracket.
                                  • The sequential counter starts from 001 for each collection of unique preceding digits. So for the same customer and in the same assembly I might have HBK200-001, HCV200-001, HAS200-001.
                                  • This is a shining example of what NOT to do.
                                  • This is a 10-digit part number with alpha, numeric, separators and only three sequencing characters. NO ONE ever looks at anything except the last three digits.
                                  • And to top that off this company was spun off from another company. The previous company has its own part numbering scheme.
                              • Part numbers should be 5 - 8 characters long
                                • Your part number scheme may/should accommodate an optional tabulator / modifier / extension
                                  • This comes in to play for tabulated drawings / common parts such as same screws in different lengths
                                  • McMaster's tabulation is the three digits after the #####A string
                                  • A 5/16-18 Socket Head Cap Screw in 18-8 Stainless might be 123456-xx with the various lengths 123456-01, 123456-02, etc.
                              • Your part number is recommended to contain digits and separators found only on the numeric key pad
                                • Part number entry can be accomplished with one hand on the keyboard.
                                  • McMaster is great except for that one alpha character
                                  • This may seem trivial until you need to enter multiples of part numbers someplace
                              • Although the spreadsheet method of assigning and tracking part numbers is a pain, it is direct and requires minimal setup
                                • There are some generic Access based databases that could do the same task and perhaps generate the next sequential number without much setup.
                              • I recommend assigning an internal part number to every file you create
                                • Assigning to fasteners removes the vendor / source from your model
                                • If you have McMaster Bolt 92196A587 in your assembly and then purchasing says "hey we are sourcing our bolts from Bolts.com" your assembly & drawing are now incorrect and you need to bump the rev. Having your own part number for a 5/16-18 x 1-1/4 SHCS eliminates this. The approved vendor list is then managed by purchasing and separated from the CAD model.
                                • You can / should assign part (ITEM) numbers to internal standards documents as well.
                                  • Paint Spec
                                  • Assembly Instruction
                                  • Marketing Brochure
                                • Assign to customer parts that already have the customer's part number.
                                  • The customer's part number is just another bit of meta data associated with your part number.
                              • If you have access to Workgroup PDM, I highly encourage its use. There is no engineering group too small to benefit from it. Yes it is limited, but way better than a windows file structure.
                              • There are arguments both ways regarding the use of a job number associated with part numbers (this is just another form of intelligent numbering).
                                • This tends for fall apart with file reuse in other jobs.
                                • The intelligence is usually ONLY useful to the group that creates the scheme. Purchasing doesn't give a hoot that you designed that under the Feeblegeezer project or that all stainless starts with a 7####. Reverse the tables and imagine Finance assigning part numbers based on asset status and amount of depreciation attributable to machining that part. Engineering doesn't give a hoot. Look at this from enough different points of view and it starts to sound like a room full of owls...
                              • Part Numbers are just digits. Last I checked we have an infinite amount available. Start a part, assign a number, throw it away for the next design, no worries.
                                • Some organizations attribute a certain fixed cost with assigning a part number. The part numbers should be free for the taking. The cost should only be incurred once your process pushes the design through the next gate / phase that says this particular part is a "keeper"
                                • So what if a part number was assigned to a file that was thrown away. If you have need to track that then do so



                              Library Organization:


                              • The problem with libraries and SolidWorks is that if you get it wrong and want to re-arrange the furniture, all your file dependencies get trashed.
                              • So put a lot of thought into it. It is not so easy to adjust things later (this is where EPDM is supposed to help)
                              • You could add libraries to WPDM, but this could bloat your vault and you really only want revision managed parts in your vault.
                              • My current company has NO library structure. We have copies of copies of copies of redundant files for each project. THIS IS BAD.
                              • My previous company settled on a library structure as follows:
                                • Fasteners
                                  • Structured identically to the toolbox structure
                                  • We used tool box as a part file generator but we did not actually place toolbox parts in our assemblies.
                                    • Burned one too many times by toolbox upgrades (maybe this is all better with today's toolbox)
                                • OEM / Suppier
                                  • Folders by Company Name, then by Type / Series / etc.
                                    • Can get messy and each company's subfolders are different
                                    • This falls apart if someone needs a widget and doesn't know which company makes it
                              • I am not saying this is the best - or even good. It was workable for our organization




                              • Mark's NOUN - ADJECTIVE - DESCRIPTOR format for part descriptions has stood the test of time. Most major industries follow this in one form or another.
                              • I have seen this in the Big Three automotive companies
                              • I have seen this in Mil spec programs
                              • To help be consistent, create a naming convention document (and assign the document a part number while you are at it)
                                • Examples are:
                                  • SCREW, Cap, 5/16-18 x 1-1/4, Socket Head, Partially Threaded
                                  • BRACE, Actuator Support, LH
                                  • BLANK, Brace, Actuator Support, LH
                                • Notice that the descriptions do NOT contain, Finish, Material, or any other information that should be captured in other custom  property meta data
                                • Your descriptions also should not call out PART, DRAWING, ASSEMBLY. This is redundant information.



                                • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                                  David Lucas

                                  I agree with Dean, Whenever possible please refrain from using any “significant numbering system”.


                                  1. 6.2          Drawing numbers shall be approved by the document control administrator (DCA).
                                  2. 6.6          A part number shall be approved by the DCA and is the same as, or is based on, the controlling drawing number for any new designs as of 2010/01/01.
                                  3. 6.6.1      Part number prefixes or suffixes may be used (suffixes are preferred) with the approval of the DCA.




                                • Re: Best practices - How does your organization handle assign numbers to parts?
                                  Kevin Drew

                                  Here is our way of keeping files in order and self explanatory.

                                  We build plastic injection molds so they all have parts of the same name and description.

                                  Hot Half inserts, Ejector half inserts, Locks, Slides, etc..

                                  So they have groups of preset numbers and abbreviations.

                                  we just need to add the job number to the beginning of the callout.

                                  This lets the shop start laying out manufacturing plans, order steel and create PO's before the job is released.


                                  We have a program tied into the properties of these parts to create a bill of materials

                                  As shown is sorts parts with fasteners, O-rings or anything associated to the insert together like a kit


                                  component numbers.JPG

                                  Process BOM _ Job Navigator_Page_1.jpg