Everybody likes to know what they are getting. When it comes to organizing files on your computer it’s not any different.Using a smart numbering system may seem like a good ideas at first, but it invariably leads an organization down the wrong path. Why? Simply put, things change. This material become that material, that changes location, on and on till the break of dawn.

If I think about this, and try to come up with a clever analogy, smart numbers are like your favorite recliner. It’s comfy, has a leg rest, but it’s so big it only fits through one door and in one room. So it is with a smart part number. It works, right there.

For example, your part number differentiates between a part and an assembly. If you create a part and later it turns into an assembly, your part number is now meaningless and, even more, it’s confusing. To avoid this type of confusion, here’s a few guideline to use.

I realize I may be stepping on some toes here.
I know the man-years that go into developing naming conventions and numbering systems. This is intended to be a guideline to help out. Smart numbers were useful when files were stored in file cabinets. Today, that is less the case with files being stored servers and data being stored in databases.

Use a sequential alpha-numbering system
The part number only needs to be unique. To get the greatest combination of files with some added comfort, use something like this.


This gives you over 1 and half times more numbers than if you went with a straight numbering system and it breaks up the monotony of a straight numerical value, i.e. it’s easier to remember, say and read 280A than 2801956.

Name SolidWorks files the same
SolidWorks has three file types. This will be easier to show than explain. Basically, all the stuff going in the drawing is named the same as the drawing. If you have everything in one folder it would look like this.
This keeps files associated with each other better organized and understood.

Use properties to control the rest
You can create a property for anything you want to control in a part, assembly or drawing. If this is just a field on a drawing you can revise the file to change the property. If it’s used in the part number, you’re in trouble, because, look at that, it’s already been used a gazillion other places.

Think of the other documents
What other documents will you need to generate to capture change? Change Orders? Change Notices? You have a change that affects multiple parts, assemblies, locations, materials, etc. That smart number isn’t going to do much good there. You can vastly uncomplicated your documentation and engineering efforts by having one single sequential numbering system.

Start at 1
You start counting at 1, start your numbering at 1, or rather 0001 for the number of characters you plan to use. Same with revisions, alpha or numeric. Start with 1 or start with A. This way you’ll get files listed nice and clean.



Smart part numbers are comfy because by human nature we use numbers to remember physical things. The bottom line is, a dumb sequential numbering system will save you from a lot of grief. What has your experience been? Are there exceptions?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.


  1. I agree with Josh when it comes to naming SolidWorks files under directory 0280A001 but how do we add revision number? Will it be all under another directory 0280A001_01 (01 as revision 1) with Part as 0280A001-100_01or the revised file under a new directory Rev-01? Please advise. Thanks

  2. Hi Devon,

    Are those file name generated automatically based on the custom properties of the documents, or you have to do it manually? If they are done automatically could you give me the name of the software used to generate those file names. Because if they use the custom properties of the document to name the files then you do not have to worry about using the file in an other assembly, as you just have to change the custom properties to generate the new name. But this system only works if the file name is generated automatically.

  3. In our organization there are certainly people who like smart numbering systems. Those people tend to be the people who “lay hands” on the parts; designers and people on the shop floor spring to mind. Then we’ve got the folks who never come into contact with a part… just the paper that represents the part. Those folks tend to be more the doc control and purchasing sorts.

    We’ve been using the service,, and we’ve set up smart part numbers there. But we’re using a global sequence for all parts, no matter what number format was use to generate the part number. This seem to be keeping everyone moderately happy… a vast improvement from where we were.

    • interesting site, typically part numbers are handled through a PDM system, but I suppose if you don’t have one you would need a manual way to number parts. I like the idea you have though… a global sequence.

  4. Dave, are you still at Brammo? I’m on the fence about intelligence in part #s, probably not a good idea IF, read IF you have the means to manage the part #s thru some sort of Database, but if you are managing a project thru lets say excel or windows explorer, it might make more sense, what a coincidence… great discussion, lots of early morning thoughts around this and revision management, whether or not to model top down, bottom up, master sketch… It’s like learning to play the guitar well, lots of practice and mistakes.

  5. William,

    You are confusing the difference between a part number and a model number …. as I think many people do.

    The “model” number can be something composite built from the description, codes, etc. and the great thing is it can be in a different format depending on what you are getting:

    1032SHC10-SS for fasteners, R120622R3MH — for resistors … yet all driven by one linear part numbering scheme and intelligence built into the database.

  6. Prashant Dey Reply

    hi Josh I was reading this Post regarding Part numbering Scheme. It is helpful but would love to recieve some more help regarding this.

    Currently i’m tasked with the responsibiltiy of managing CAD files in My company. and Have been asked to manage cad file along with numbering schema.

    We Use Smart Numbering System, : RM-KB-xxxxx-xx-B

    RM:-company code
    KB- product identifier
    xxxxx:- length/weight or other physical attributes
    B- Part No.

    Its has Been difficult to mange files and all the part No , with this numbering scheme
    The same is Used for Drawing No. As well

    • Josh Mings Reply

      Hi Prashant, that may be able to work for you. If possible, I would look into automating the numbering, That would help I would think.

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