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Data Elements – Duplicate Parts

by Jodee Hale-Schmid

August 16, 2010

Authored by Peter Dahl, Senior Consultant, Utopia, Inc.

One of the very first things that happens when one is challenged to reduce the stock of spare parts in inventory – whether it be MRO spares or parts for production – is the search for duplicates by part number.

The results of that search can be interesting, but are those duplicates you found actually duplicates?

Before jumping right in and starting to perform drastic surgery, make sure that you investigate the manufacturer’s numbering schema. You may quickly find that many manufacturers have schemas that require additional data. For example, one manufacturer I found had what appeared to be unique part numbers … but on closer examination, that specific part number covered multiple sizes of the object. The same part number was used for all impellers (of a specified material) of that configuration in sizes from four inches through 16 inches. Had one simply purged the system of “duplicates”, a scream from the preventative maintenance group would shortly be heard.

Alternatively, the fact that multiple unique-appearing part numbers exist does not mean that the items are unique. Upon investigation, it was found that one manufacturer utilized THREE different numbering schemas for the same item. That manufacturer had a part number, an item reference number, and a catalog number. Amusingly, even taxonomy folks working for that manufacturer weren’t completely aware of that fact until we started to investigate and included them in discussions.

Finally, if the manufacturer practices part number enhancement – wherein the base number is extended by adding option codes – one cannot use the base part number to identify duplicates (but can use them to find “close enough” matches). The examples that spring to mind are transmitters and bearings. If the complete part number is not a match, one cannot assume duplication. An application that calls for a specific bearing, say an SKF 5306ZZ, cannot necessarily use an SKF 53062RS. True, both ZZ and 2RS connote seals, but steel and rubber are quite different (which is why you seldom see a locomotive on the freeway).

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