Codification / Cataloguing - a mode of communication for items


How is codification / cataloguing done ?

Codification / cataloguing is basically an identification system for each item of the inventory. There are often three broad approaches to developing a suitable identification system :

1.Arbitrary approach:

As the name suggests ,this approach does not use any design for codification. Rather , as and when an item is received by Stores in its receiving bay, a running and unique serial

number is assigned to it. This number becomes the code of the item for subsequent use at different stages. While this system is the easiest one to use, it does not help in scientific management of  inventory. For example, say a particular spare part of a machine is received in the stores and is assigned a running unique number 999XXX as its code. Then if the same item is received  at any other point of time the code number shall not be the same i.e. 999XXX as by that time a lot many other items might have entered into the firm and might also have been assigned different running and unique code making it impossible to assign a previous code to any item.
Arbitrary approach is useable only where perhaps items are non-repetitive and the inventory management need not be scientific.


2.Symbolic approach:

Also known as intelligent code system it assigns code in a manner that the same item is not allotted two different codes and also a code ,because of its design, can be used to tell many things about an item.
The system uses either a numeric codification system or an alphanumeric or mnemonic system. Under the numeric system, a set of numeric code (length pre-decided) is assigned to each item where different parts of the code describe, of an item :

unique running number of that item
Location of storage
Suppliers' code etc.


For example :











Running number


Location code

Thus the code of this item shall be a 10 digit code,  2145098344 and it shall remain always so for this item. It shall then be easy to communicate about this item among the concerned agencies.
Similarly ,there can be code using alpha numeric value like AA223B234 with different alpha and numerical value describing some pre-decided meaning. It is also called mnemonic system. Both numeric and mnemonic systems are symbolic systems as the codes under it describe a symbol for identifying an item. Since this code has certain logic it is also called intelligent code and this system is in wide use every where.

3.Use of Drawing numbers:

In many firms using complex drawings through which part numbers etc are drawn, use their drawing numbers as codes to identify an item. Since the drawing number for a firm remains unique , assigning a code on this basis assumes a unique code for that  item and hence confirms the requirement of unique identification for the item.

Process of codification :
  • Decide if the firm wants to go for arbitrary system, symbolic system or engineering drawing system

  • List the inventory items

  • Define the class of items such as (for example...) :

    Belt and beltings
    Bolts, nuts & washers
    Brooms & brushes
    Cans & containers
    Chemicals & reagents
    Cloth, leather & rubber
    Oil & lubricants
    Pipe & Pipe fittings
    Photographic items
    Safety items
    Tools & tackles
    Welding materials
    Raw Materials
    Building materials


  • Define the sub class under each class

  • Depending upon the number of classes , their subclasses and probable number of items under each sub class decide the length of codes which shall remain fixed for all the inventory items (10 digit, alphanumeric etc.)

  • Start assigning codes as per the detailed list of inventory

Who does the codification ?

Normally, it is the custodian who does the codification for the items he keeps in his inventory. However, in firms of substantial sizes where good number of items are received on regular basis , codification is usually done by a team consisting of representatives drawn from Stores, user department and Industrial engineering department. Still, for Automatic procurement items the responsibility lies with the Stores department.

When codification ?

Codification identifies an item. Also it acts as a communicating medium for an item among the different users of that item in whatever way such as Stores, User department, Planning department, Finance, Purchasing etc.
Thus , as soon as the item enters into Stores (if item is a new one), it is codified. Once codified, the same code is used  in the cycle of procurement, throughout and for ever.


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