How can supply chain software be made more robust other than rewriting the code?

By Tamara Wilhite posted 05-08-2021 10:52:08 PM

Note that my blog originally appeared as an answer to this question on Quora.

I have more than a decade of practical experience with product data management software, product verification integration software and shop floor data management system roll-outs. There are a number of procedural solutions you can use.

  1. Make sure your naming conventions for parts and part numbers don’t conflict with that of customers or suppliers.
  2. Track their part number changes so that you don’t end up with a conflict.
  3. If you have to re-number something, either as serial number or part number, have a standard procedure for doing so.

Track the old part number in case you have to look THAT up

  1. Have “masks” on data entry fields so people don’t create alphanumeric endings for parts to get around formal processes for renaming parts or sending something back for repair.

You can also use masks to ensure that the part numbers and manufacturer serial numbers are the correct length.  

  1. Make sure your system can handle alternate parts without calling them the same thing as the original part.
  2. Verify the shop floor data management tool can handle zero parts and report excess demands for parts without erroring out.

You can end up with incorrect information if someone comes up with a work-around because the system can’t handle an un-programed EEPROM or higher level assembly missing a lower level part.  

A different issue is a system that can’t handle excess requirements. Suppose someone inputs an order for 100 of product X, and building that requires more screws than you have. Make sure it says you are now short and need to order more instead of erroring out.

  1. Create part numbers for software versions that you install on devices, and have a manufacturing step for installing said software.

This allows you to track the software version on the device as well as track programmed versus un-programmed items.

  1. Upload parts lists along with drawings so that someone knows what they need to build an item when they pull the drawing to make it
  1. Attach scanned / digital versions of product manuals and/or specifications to your internal records for the supplier part.

That allows someone to have the information they need if they’re searching to figure out what an unfamiliar part is.