Getting the Most Out of Your Dynamics NAV Setup: Part Number Revision Levels
What do you hope to achieve?
For whatever reason, in the past six months, I’ve found myself having the “Revision” conversation more than ever. Usually the engineering group will recognize or comment on the fact that NAV does not have such a field designated on the Item Card. As I do in many conversations regarding business and ERP processes, I ask “What is it that you hope to achieve?” by having a revision level identifier at the Item/Part level. As you might guess there are a variety of answers. Let’s review a couple of things, first the theoretical question of, “should part numbers have revisions”. Then how to use NAV to meet some of the business needs geared around having revision levels.
Should part numbers have revisions? That question seems to stir debate. I have listened to many conversations both for and against that concept. An old familiar phrase, “Form, Fit, and Function” was brought up in many of the articles I read evolving around part numbers and revisions. I also found associated with the “Form, Fit, and Function” rule, a principle called “Interchangeability”. The rules basically say that if changes (revisions) to a part don’t change how it looks or functions and you could mix the inventory and get the same result, then it doesn’t change the part number and or the need to track the part number with a revision level. Many of the articles also referenced the fact that documents/drawings get revised and have rev levels, but part numbers either stay the same (interchangeable) or become a new part.
The principle of interchangeability seems reasonable and every organization will probably have unique rules on how they answer that question. Once that question is answered, the change should either result in using the same part number or creating new. Trying to match document revisions with part number revisions just to keep the two in sync is not recommended. So the NAV Item card not having a field called revision seems to coincide with what I found as a best practice in product lifecycle management.
While NAV does not have an Item card revision field, here are some suggestions on how to use base NAV functionality to help track part number changes.
Versions – The master files which influence how an Item is manufactured (Production BOM and Routing) can be created and tracked by using version control. This is revision level tracking on the documents/master files that support an Item, not the item record. If an Item change passes the interchangeability rule and doesn’t require a new part number, use versions on the BOM’s and Routes attached to that item to track those changes. Version information is captured on current and archived production orders.
Variants – Variants are an Item specific code maintained from the Item card. They basically act as an extension of an Item for the purpose of transacting and maintaining separate inventory. They work well for keeping track of slight variations of an Item that need separate inventory. I have seen companies use variant to represent a part number revision level. The Pro is that variants are an easy way to keep separate inventory without creating a new part number. The Cons are, the Variant is nothing more than a Code and a Description and once people start using them they want them to have more “Item” like characteristics and they begin to modify Variants for things like the ability to block, have them date effective or even contain their own cost or BOM’s. Once that happens, the chances are good you would have been better off with a new Item! It comes back to our theoretical discussion and addressing the rule of “Interchangeability”. Once you do that either make a new Item or keep it the same.
Item Tracking – Use Item Tracking/Lot Numbers to recognize and differentiate physical inventory that might represent a revision or change. Create the Lot number with significance like a drawing number and revision level. This would allow inventory under the same Item, to be physically segregated and managed.
Item Links & Descriptions – Many organizations purchase parts to a design spec and want to make sure the most recent drawing and revision are communicated to the vendor in the purchase order and verified at receipt. An option would be to maintain the drawing and revision level in the description of the item, thus communicating it on the purchase order. Then use the “Links” option at the Item card to attach the most recent drawing. Receiving could then access the drawing and match it against the purchase order.
When it comes to Item/Part number changes, first answer the question of “Interchangeability”. Then you can decide how to manage that Item systemically. Addressing the questions in this order will allow for the optimal setup in NAV.
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