Unique part number reduction

Unique Part Number Reduction for the Enterprise

Unique part number reduction across the enterprise can provide numerous benefits.  While it’s desirable to reduce the part count in a given product, what we are focusing on in this article is reducing the unique part numbers in the ERP system across all product lines.

For our purposes here, the terms part number or part refer to anything that goes into a higher assembly, such as a component, piece part, weldment or sub-assembly.

Benefits of Unique Part Number Reduction

Reducing the total part number count will tend to increase per part usage with all things being equal.  This has several benefits.

Reduced Total Inventory

Fewer part numbers result in less “low volume” parts sitting on the shelf.  If you have a  low volume product that uses a specialized part, the part can sit on the shelf for a long time while using capital that could be employed elsewhere.

Reduced Inventory Control Effort

Unique part number reduction makes inventory control easier.  Higher inventory turnover helps with issues of shelf life and implementing design changes faster by working through existing inventory quickly.

Quantity Price Breaks

If the same part number is used more often, higher purchase quantities per part may result in a price break.

Reduction in Setup Time

For internally manufactured parts, higher production runs will result in lower setup time per part.

Better Field Repair & Maintenance Management

If your business model involves field repair and maintenance, having unique part number reduction makes field repair easier.  If there are parts staged in warehouses around the country or world, then the inventory benefits described earlier are multiplied.

Concepts To Reduce Part Numbers

Concept – Use Parts Across Product Lines

Use a “standard” part across product lines.  For new designs, consider using parts from existing designs.  If an existing part will not work, but is a close match, it could be modified to work with the new design.  Any design change will need to be backward compatible to allow for use in existing products.

Trade-off considerations
-May add to unit cost.
-May decrease performance of some products.

Concept – Avoid Mirrored Parts

Instead of creating a left hand part and a right hand part (or top and bottom parts), consider creating one part that will work on both sides.

Trade-off considerations
-May add to unit cost.
-May cause appearance issues.

Concept – Add Extra Features

Add extra holes, projections, features to allow a part to work in multiple functions.  Some features of the part may not be used in all functions or products.

Trade-off considerations
-May add to unit cost.
-May cause appearance issues.

Concept – Use a COTS Component

Use a commercial off the shelf (COTS) component.  This is especially useful for industry standardized components such as C-face motors, etc.  Multiple suppliers can be used while keeping the same part number.  This assumes that COTS components from different suppliers meet all performance requirements.

Trade-off considerations
-May add or decrease unit cost.
-May cause performance issues.


When looking at unique part number reduction, the benefits can sometimes be too abstract to quantify or the perceived benefit can seem too small to justify.  However, repeating these concepts over hundreds or thousands of parts can provide real benefits.