Before starting classification of parts, ask these questions!

Here are three questions to as before classifying parts.


  1. Why classification?
  2. What classification structure/standard should we use?
  3. How will we maintain clean data on new parts?
Classification of CAD models

Why Classification?


One reason given to PLM admins for classification is to help engineers find parts faster. Here are several other reasons for classifying parts you need to understand.


  • Procurement
  • Manufacturing
  • IIoT


Do you have a full understanding of why your company is embarking on a classification project? If you don’t understand all the reasons, make sure to find out before starting the project. The path you choose for classification may change depending on the use case for your company.


This sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, it’s not always that straightforward. For instance, executives don’t always provide all the reasoning behind the classification initiative. They often share how classification affects the engineers, but don’t explain the full picture.


Is finding mechanical CAD models the primary reason for your classification initiative? If so, there is a way to find legacy models in your PLM system without classification. Using PARTsolutions will help you focus your classification efforts on new parts only, saving time and money.


PARTsolutions software can index your legacy PLM data. Indexing your data with PARTsolutions enables your engineers to find parts based on geometry. They can search part topology and use several other Boolean powered text search filters as well.


PARTsolutions will help engineers find parts without having to classify all your legacy data upfront.


Is your classification initiative to help strengthen the digital thread of information downstream? PARTsolutions clusters geometrically similar parts; making classification of legacy and new parts faster.


Schedule a 15-minute reuse assessment to learn how PARTsolutions can speed up classification.

Classification on CAD models

What classification structure/standard should we use?


Have you tried looking up classification nomenclature? It isn’t easy to find classification nomenclature and structures that make sense. There are lots of options, but which ones work?


Creating a custom classification structure is a mistake. Engineers have a hard time entering new parts into custom structures.  Parts often get entered wrong. A custom structure can’t grow with you as your company grows, it’s unsustainable and be costly long term.


Using a standard classification structure has many advantages. For example, standard structures help maintain clean classification data. Standard classification lets you pass data between departments and on to partners.


You can give vendors, manufacturers, and suppliers resources on the standard. These resources will allow them to interpret your data without your help in the future.


Maintaining clean part data increases the strength of the digital thread. This flow of information is necessary for the implementation of digital twin and IIoT initiatives.


At PARTsolutions, we recommend using the eCl@ss classification structure. It’s a European classification standard that is getting wide adoption; even in the US. It’s easy to understand and implement the structure. It is ever-expanding to include new industries and products.


Below is a description of eCl@ss from their website:


“eCl@ss contains tens of thousands of product classes and unique properties. This lets you standardize procurement, storage, production, and distribution activities in and between companies – across sectors, countries and languages.”


Another classification standard is UNSPSC. Here is a description from the UNSPSC website:


“UNSPSC is an efficient, accurate and flexible classification system for achieving company-wide visibility of spend analysis, as well as, enabling procurement to deliver on cost-effectiveness.”


Using a standard classification structure will save time and decrease errors. It also ensures accurate data throughout the product lifecycle.

Classification of digital parts

How will we maintain clean data on new parts?


Classification projects never end. Every time a new part gets entered into a PLM or database, it needs to get classified. How will you ensure new parts get classified? Will new models contain the right attribute information?


Three points that are vital for ensuring clean data on new parts:


  • Use certified supplier catalogs
  • Create an easy process for engineers to classify parts
  • Set up a parts management process and protocols



Use certified supplier catalogs


To ensure accurate, clean data for purchased parts, use certified supplier catalogs. Using certified catalogs guarantees the accuracy of the model. Engineers should download parts from certified catalogs when possible. All those models will have accurate data. That data will help classify the parts correctly.


Certified catalogs are not available from every manufacturer. However, offering certified catalogs is gaining momentum among manufactures.  For examples of certified catalogs, check out



Create easy processes for engineers to classify parts


Getting engineers to reuse and classify parts is a challenge. Engineering adoption often gets left until the end of a classification project. Not ensuring your solution will get buy-in from engineers is a HUGE mistake.


Map out a process for engineers to classify parts before starting classification.  Have them start using the process during the classification project to find friction. Removing friction will support engineers’ adoption of best practices and maintain clean data moving forward.


Classification standards make classifying new parts easier. Give engineers a list of standard classification nomenclature and folder structures. They are more likely to maintain clean data and classification with this resource.


There is a process called The Reuse Method. Understanding this process will help you create processes for engineers. The Reuse Method will help you create engineering processes for reuse and classification.


Without processes in place, engineers will incorrectly classify parts, leading to future problems. If your classification process is difficult, most people won’t stick to it. Easy, straightforward processes for classifying parts set you up for success.



Set up a parts management process and protocols


To successfully implement classification, you need part management processes and protocols. To eliminate duplicate parts, which make classifying new parts difficult, you must limit engineers’ ability to use duplicates of parts that already exist in your PLM.


If your PLM looks more like the wild west than a library, you will never be able to keep up with classifying new parts. When engineers have free reign to download any parts they want from any website, with little oversight or accountability, it leads to a mess of unclassified parts.

You can set up processes on paper and the limited functionality of your PLM, or you can use a parts management system to help you manage preferred and non-preferred parts.


Classification Nomenclature

Set yourself up for classification success


By understanding the reasons for classification, deciding on a classification standard, and ensuring clean data, you are setting yourself up for a successful classification project.


When you ask the right questions and set processes upfront, you can save time on implementation and ensure success.


Do you want to set your classification project up for success? Schedule a free 15-minute assessment to see how our Reuse Workshop will set you up for a successful classification project.



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Joseph Lewin

Innovation moves the world forward. My goal is to enable engineers to spend more time innovating by reducing non-value-added tasks through effective reuse strategies.