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1. Limited schemes fail. When they fail they need
expansion or replacement. For instance, a set
of numbers such as BOOK-nnn can handle up to
1000 books, and cannot easily accept non-book
media or collections of books.
2. Complicated, limited schemes fail worse.
Numbers can easily encode a small amount of
information to distinguish various kinds of
media, fields of knowledge, or print formats.
For example, SM-nnnnn might be the software
manuals, and HM-nnnnn the hardware manuals.
Attempting to encode too much into a part
number can cause difficulties. Simpler schemes
are generally better than complicated ones.
3. Numbers can be self-verifying. See the
Wikipedia entry for check digits.
4. Numbers within an organization should be
generated by a single authority. Whether this
authority also maintains the list of the
meanings for each of the numbers is not
really important, but it should record to
whom, when, and for what purpose each number
5. Even if letter prefixes are used, it is wise
to avoid re-use of digit patterns. For instance,
BK-2345 and CD-2345 should not both be allowed.
It is an especially bad idea to attempt to
maintain parallel part numbers for items that
are supposed to be somehow related. Maintaining
parallel lists can soak up a lot of time and
6. If numbers with "meaning" are desired, it is a
good idea to have a pair of numbers for each
item, divorcing the unique and technical part
number from the "meaning" number. For example,
item W2388-7559-264 in the master list can be
publication JB-240. This way the second edition
of JB-240 can be item number W2388-7587-342 and
whether to market it as JB-240, JB-241, JB-240-2,
JB240(bis), or JB-240a is not an issue for the
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