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  • Writer's pictureYves Valentin - Pro

Analyzing the organizational impact of part proliferation

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Part proliferation is a recurring problem in today's industry. With a huge number of parts, companies are finding it difficult to control product data quality and improve efficiency. Here are the areas where part proliferation is overlooked, and how to assess it more effectively:

- The costs associated with the proliferation of duplicated parts are not readily apparent or fully understood.

- The situation is complicated by the absence or inadequacy of search tools and processes that could identify duplicates.

- Short lead times to finalize a design are prioritized over longer-term savings from reduced duplication.

- Implications create problems that affect several departments and business units, but no single department is usually willing to take on the responsibility alone. It's not one department that's at fault, but the whole process

- As implications are misunderstood and responsibility avoided, management is often unaware and unable to implement corrective action.

- Engineering, purchasing and manufacturing departments are usually the usual culprits contributing to the problem, but for reasons of their own.


Engineers are concerned with the overall functioning of their design, and are usually busy updating their designs to meet deadlines. Creating new "duplicate" parts is not at the heart of their problem.

1. From the engineer's point of view, assigning a new part number is usually easy - after all, part numbers are free. Their attention is focused on the problem at hand, such as completing the design before the next design review. While they may understand the implications of duplicates, these costs are more abstract than the urgency of meeting design deadlines.

2. Engineers are usually willing to reuse existing proven components, but it often takes too long to find acceptable existing parts. The required part may be in one of many locations, or information about it may be inconsistent and incomplete. In addition, the search tool may be inadequate for locating and comparing similar parts. When the pressure is on and the time needed to find a part is longer than the time needed to create it, the engineer will inevitably choose to create a new part.


Once engineering has completed the design, the purchasing department receives the design BOM for parts procurement.

1. The purchasing department undoubtedly sees duplicates and knows that duplicate parts reduce the number of parts purchased, thus minimizing volume price discounts. They are also aware of the processes and challenges involved in qualifying new suppliers for new parts. However, when the purchasing department receives a BOM and is inundated with parts to buy, it faces time constraints in placing orders and meeting deadlines. Sorting through the BOM and existing stock to find duplicates is not a priority for the purchasing group.

2. Communication between engineering and purchasing is often one-way, with engineering receiving little feedback from purchasing on identified duplicates.

3. Making changes to a design is costly for purchasing. As a general rule, when a BOM is sent to purchasing, the design has been validated, and any modification requires a change order. Change orders entail substantial costs, as they require additional review and analysis by engineers. A change order also entails time penalties, since it delays the purchase of components and the manufacture of the part. So, is it more cost-effective to carry out a change order or leave the new part in the design?


When it comes to picking stock to assemble products, the manufacturing department is probably wondering why engineering was short-sighted in using duplicate parts.

1. Having experienced first-hand the extraction of duplicate parts from stock and the implementation of additional tooling, manufacturing inherently understands the cost of duplicate parts. New duplicate parts from unproven suppliers with different tooling require additional processes and set-up times. This introduces variability into manufacturing and inevitably poses new quality problems. Although manufacturing has first-hand experience of the problems associated with duplicate parts, it is unlikely to be able to remedy them for reasons similar to those of purchasing.

2. Communication between manufacturing and engineering is often not two-way, and suffers from an "over the wall" mentality.

3. Manufacturing usually has its own list of problems to solve without adding the elimination of duplicate parts.

4. Uncertainty exists for manufacturing, as it is not known whether an engineer has specified an almost duplicate part for a specific reason. This is not always obvious, and part data is often insufficient for effective component comparison. For example, an almost identical part may have exact dimensions, but a different, indistinguishable coating to operate in hostile environments.

5. Eliminating duplicate or near-duplicate parts requires change orders, which take time, cost money and delay product delivery.

6. How can we raise awareness of the proliferation of duplicate parts?

7. What can be done to raise awareness of part duplication?

8. Ensure that everyone understands the many ways in which duplicate parts can increase costs throughout a product's life cycle. Make engineering, purchasing and manufacturing aware of the problems and costs associated with the proliferation of duplicate parts.

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