Parts proliferation is a recurring problem in today’s industry. Their excess number therefore makes it difficult for the company to control the quality of product data and improve its efficiency. Additionally, the costs associated with the proliferation of duplicate parts are not easily apparent or fully measured.
Detection of duplicate parts, or even their reduction, is imperative in order to combat their proliferation. However, priority is given to short deadlines for finalize a design, to the detriment of savings obtained by reducing duplication, but requiring time or specific resources. The absence or inadequacy of research tools and processes to identify duplicates also complicates this process.
Spread issues affect multiple departments and business units, but typically no one wants to take sole responsibility. It is not a service that is at fault, but the entire process. Therefore, with the implications poorly understood and responsibility avoided, management is often unaware of the situation and cannot implement corrective actions.
Engineering, purchasing, and manufacturing departments each contribute to this problem, for their own reasons.
For engineers responsible for the overall operation of the design, meeting deadlines takes precedence over the potential appearance of new “duplicate” parts, especially since it is easy to assign a new part number, what’s more free.
Their attention is particularly focused on the problem at hand, such as completing design before the next review. Although they can understand the implications of duplication, these costs are more abstract than the urgency of meeting design deadlines.
Additionally, while engineers are generally willing to reuse proven existing components, it often takes them too long to find acceptable existing parts. The required part is difficult to locate, or the information about it may be inconsistent and incomplete. Finally, the search tool may be inadequate for locating and comparing similar parts.
As a result, when the pressure is high and the time needed to find a piece is longer than the time needed to create it, the decision will inevitably shift to creating a new piece.
Once engineering completes the design, the purchasing department receives the design BOM for parts procurement.
The purchasing department undoubtedly sees duplicates and knows that duplicate parts reduce the number of parts purchased, which minimizes volume pricing discounts. He is also aware of the processes and challenges involved in qualifying new suppliers for new parts. However, when the purchasing department receives a bill of materials and is inundated with parts to purchase, it faces time constraints in placing orders and meeting deadlines. Sorting the nomenclature and existing stock to find duplicates is therefore not a priority for the purchasing group.
Additionally, making changes to a design is costly for procurement. Typically, when a BOM is passed to purchasing, the design has been validated and any changes require a change order. Change orders therefore incur substantial costs because they require additional review and analysis by engineers. A change order also results in time penalties since it delays the purchase of components and the manufacturing of the part. Therefore, is it more cost effective to issue a change order or leave the new part in the design?
Note that communication between engineering and purchasing is often one-way, with engineering not receiving much feedback from purchasing on identified duplicates.
When it comes to picking inventory to assemble products, the service de fabrication probably wondering why engineering lacked insight in using duplicate parts.
Having had first-hand experience pulling duplicate parts from stock and setting up additional tooling, manufacturing inherently understands the cost of duplicate parts. Additionally, new duplicate parts from unproven suppliers with different tooling require additional processes and setup time. This introduces variability into manufacturing and inevitably poses new quality issues. Although manufacturing has first-hand experience with duplicate part issues, it is unlikely they can fix them, for reasons similar to purchasing.
Finally, manufacturing usually has its own list of issues to address without adding the elimination of duplicate parts.
As a result, uncertainty exists for manufacturing, which does not know whether an engineer has specified a near-duplicate part for a specific reason, especially since part data is often insufficient to make an effective comparison of components. For example, a nearly identical part may have the exact dimensions of another, but be coated with non-visible differences to allow it to operate in harsh environments.
Note that here too, communication between manufacturing and engineering is often not two-way and suffers from an “over the wall” mentality.
Eliminating duplicate or near-duplicate parts requires change orders, which takes time, costs money and delays product delivery.
However, ensuring everyone understands the multiple ways duplicate parts can increase costs throughout a product’s lifecycle is necessary. Therefore, there is a need to educate engineering, purchasing and manufacturing about the problems and costs associated with the proliferation of duplicate parts.
Yves Valentin, Mindustry