Part numbering with custom properties

My company is in the process of switching to SolidWorks and, as part of that process, may be implementing a new part numbering system.
Some people want an intelligent system (where descriptive information is contained within the number) and others want a non-intelligent system (where the number has no significance or meaning). It occurred to me that we might be able to have both using custom properties. I'd like this groups comments particularly from anyone that might be doing something similar.
Here's how I see it working
The part/assembly/drawing file name would be a non-intelligent 6 digit number. When new parts are created the next available number would be assigned. No number would be used twice.
Custom properties would be entered in every part/assembly for the intelligent part of the number. In my case, people want a category number (7 = part, 8 = sub-assembly, 9 = top level assembly etc.) and a 3 alpha character descriptor (DSK = desk, TBL = table etc.)
On drawings a note would be created that referenced the custom properties and file name in sequence. The same thing would be done with 3 consecutive cells in the BOM.
So drawings and BOMs viewed on-screen or on paper will have the part number appear as a 10 digit intelligent number (for example: 9DSK123456). This keeps the first group happy by giving them a description. It also works for the second group because only the last 6 digits are needed to identify the part and find the file. If the categories or descriptors need to change because of something unforeseen (and you know they will) they can be changed without having to change the true part number and SolidWorks will associatively keep all the information up to date.
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Not a bad thought...but I have a couple questions/concerns. (first off, FYI, I am a BIG proponent of the non-intelligent system)
Which number will you really inventory, or use in your MRP system? Which number will you really sell? I think from your description below, you are planning to use the intelligent number as primary and the non- intelligent as just the SWX filename, correct? If so, I still think you are asking for trouble. Eventually something will change (as you know) and the intelligent part number will need to change. This is not a problem in SWX (whether it is the file name or a custom prop.). The problem is all of your downstream documentation; MRP, BOMs, Service Literature, Sales information, Manuals...
I hope you can see where I am going here. Part numbers and changing part numbers are really less of a problem in SWX than in those downstream functions (especially if you use a SWX PDM solution.)
I would suggest making the non-intelligent part number the primary part number that you always use to order or build against. Keep the intelligent number as a custom property, but it should be more like a secondary description; perhaps call it a part code. You can keep a simple database (or use a PDM system) to find a part number by searching against the description or part code and cross referencing that to the part number. You can also put another column in your BOMs to show the part code along with the part number.
Hope this helps. You have a nice idea, I would just be careful how you use it. I still think a non-intelligent part number with well organized descriptions are the best option.
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com says...

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Hi scrug, I agree with Arlin. There are standards these days when it comes to compiling part numbers. Do a search and you'll come across one or two ( i can't remember of the top of my head at this time).
Generally speaking no intelligence should be applied to the part number itself. This is a legacy issue stemming from a time when searching electronically on a combination of attributes was not possible, hence people had literally all info stored in a single part number. We use Revzone as our PDM system and you should try it (or other PDMs) before you become too involved in setting up a system that, as elaborate as it may initially seem, will not even come close to these PDM systems and it will end up costing you a lot more in hassle and time especially when it comes to revision control, BOMs, Searching, Where Used info, etc, etc
Go to SolidWorks partners on PDM/ERP section and have a look there and play around with one or two systems.
Most of our projects have two or three letters to indicate the project and a sequential number, e.g. TMP0023 or FS1043 (for Temporary project and Fasteners project) and so on.
T.Brown Bravo Designs

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Here are a few links to past discussions here about intelligent part numbers:
http://makeashorterlink.com/?F69E54528
http://makeashorterlink.com/?C4CE25528
http://makeashorterlink.com/?C3DE21528
Bill

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Arlin, T.Brown and Bill,
Thanks for your comments. Having worked with intelligent and non-intelligent systems in the past, I agree that using an intelligent system is asking for trouble. I have previously referred those involved in this project to the numerous postings on this site as well as books on the subject. Many still find an intelligent system appealing. My goal was to create something that would work like a non-intelligent system in practice but contain the descriptive information for those who wanted it. A win/win - if that's possible to achieve.
We may also have a need to include other numbers (such as reference drawing numbers and part numbers that customers assign to our product) on our drawings. Custom properties is the best way I could think of to accomplish this as well. Perhaps keeping all of this as secondary information, as Arlin suggested, is the best way to go. If we set up the notes in our drawings and the collums in our BOMs to automatically update do you see any issues other than having to maintain a larger number of custom properties?
While it is not my decision, I suspect the intelligent number is the one that would be used in our MRP system. That system is maintained outside engineering. From past experience I know that maintaining this becomes cumbersome and the intelligence will almost surely break down at some point. However, if others find the intelligence helpful enough that they are willing to maintain the system I welcome them to do so. We will have to update our custom properties but I'm hoping (perhaps falsely) that the associativity will greatly reduce the need for time consuming manual updating.
Steve
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