E – Numbering an ATMS Database

Numbering an ATMS Database #

Introduction #

There are many differing opinions on how tool management systems (manual or computerised) should number Items. These are summarised below, but GRANMAX would like to make it clear that we strongly recommend that certain criteria is adopted.

Providing you adopt a simple numbering system comprising of an alpha prefix, and a numeric suffix, or vice-versa, (e.g. DM001, DM002, etc.), the ATMS automatic number generator can be used to present the user with the next number in the sequence.

General recommendations #

Never include spaces, tabs, etc. in ID numbers. If separation is essential, always use an underscore character “_” or the dash “-“.

Spaces are very difficult to identify, and with the use of proportional fonts, nearly impossible.

Consider the combined use of alpha and numeric characters to build up a partially meaningful numbering system, prefix with alphas, and suffix with numerals.

You do not need to fully describe the Item within the ID number, when using modern software; you have a description field in which to do so.

ATMS also has a powerful search utility, which includes the use of “Family” and “Short-Search Codes” which enables the grouping together of Items.

There is no one correct system for every application, and we suggest you consider the options discussed below, and make your own assessment of the “best” system for your application.

You may decide to merely add a simple “Family” type prefix, and sequentially number as the suffix.

This approach would enable ATMS users to make use of the auto-numbering system built into the application. (This will only work with an alphanumeric prefix, with a pure numeric suffix – e.g. DMI0021)

Tool Numbering Systems #

One numbering theory states that the numbering system should be numeric, sequential, which means that the Item definition is in no way explicit.

Attempts have been made to create numbering systems that (if you understand the way they work) tell the user exactly what the Item is.

GRANMAX believes that in most cases, neither of these methods is ideal, and that somewhere between the two, is the best solution for you.

Tool numbers, must be unique, and (ideally) be as short as possible, and meaningful to some extent.

Tool numbering of generic tools #

The first consideration is the “family” identifier. This allows the system categorise tooling, according to tool type. A large proportion of tooling falls into discrete groups, such as:

Tool Type Family Identifier
Table 2: Family’s ID Samples

The second segment to be considered, is the body of the tool number, which can either be a sequential number, or a value associated to the main geometric feature of the Item.

The number of characters making up the body of the Item number, must be consistent for a family type hence, padding must be used before and after the dimensional data.

For instance, for a 1.0mm drill and a 10.9mm drill the number bodies could be 0100 and 1090 respectively.
That is, the largest number of characters to be accommodated has to be established up front.

The numbering of imperial tools is more complex. It is necessary to identify the feature via its fractional size, its decimal equivalent or as a function of the smallest fractional denominator.
That is, for a 3/8 slot drill the following are options (with the appropriate padding).


We suggest that the use of a metric equivalent or fractional denominator is too complicated.

Finally all companies occasionally carry more than one variance of a particular Item.

For instance, a 6.00mm taper shank drill and a 6.0mm straight shank drill. To avoid duplicate numbers we need to add a “sub-family” identifier. Again this can be either a sequential number or a number / letter series.

The table below identifies possible solutions:

Sub Family Type Tool Number Suffix
Automotive shank 001 or AS
Taper shank 1 001 or TS1
Taper shank 2 001 or TS2
Taper shank 3 001 or TS3
Screwed shank 002 or SS or SWS
Straight shank 001 or SS
Table 3: Suffix’s by Sub-Family

Using these three segments it is possible to construct a meaningful / semi meaningful Item number that will, for most applications, be sufficient to handle their general purpose tooling.


To demonstrate the overall effect that can be achieved, we have defined a tool number for the metric end mills with screwed shanks from 2.00 mm to 4.00 mm in steps of 0.25 mm.

Family ID Body Suffix Item Number
Table 4: Item Number’s Sample

The same methodology applied to an imperial 2 flute slot drill plain shank, with a size range of 3/4 to 1 1/4 in steps of 1/4 inch is shown in the following tables:

Family ID Body Suffix TOOL NUMBER
SDI2 048 001 SDI2048001
SDI2 064 001 SDI2064001
SDI2 070 001 SDI2070001
Table 5: Alternative 1 – Body as Function of Numerator

Family ID Body Suffix TOOL NUMBER
SDI2 0-03/04 001 SDI20-03/04001
SDI2 1-00/00 001 SDI21-00/00001
SDI2 1-01/04 001 SDI21-01/04001
Table 6: Alternative 2 – Body as Fraction

Family ID Body Suffix TOOL NUMBER
SDI2 0750 001 SDI20750001
SDI2 1000 001 SDI21000001
SDI2 1250 001 SDI21250001
Table 7: Alternative 3 – Body as Decimal Value

Tool numbering systems for inserts and specific tool types #

It is considered that the best approach for such Items is to assign a sequential tool number to each Item added.

This number should be used in all tool Assembly definitions and on all process plans. Within ATMS’s this sequential number can be cross-referenced to the supplier’s number allowing searches by supplier’s number and company number.

Experience has shown that where companies have adopted this policy, there has been less resistance to grade changes.

Summarising #

For general tooling it has been shown that a simple and effective tool number can be generated automatically if certain rules are followed:

Split the tool number into three segments

Keep the family identifiers simple

Keep the body size in characters constant for any family type

Use where required a sub family identifier (suffix)

The suffix does not need a constant length

Assembly numbering systems #

Similarly, Assemblies can have simple incremental numbers, or be meaningful in some way.

For example, TA00001, TA00099; ASSY00001, ASSY00099 Alternatively, BT500001; BT50DI00001; HSKDM00001,

which all describe the Assembly in some way (Holder type, with a drill, metric/imperial units), and will still allow the ATMS number generator to provide you with the next available number in the sequence.

Users need to decide which approach is most suited to their individual needs before starting to construct the database.

Kit numbering systems #

Job Kits are somewhat different, as they normally refer to a specific application and as such most users decide to name job Kits in the general format,


This makes the job Kit very specific, and as long as any process changes or route changes are reflected in the Kit, process control should be easy to demonstrate.

Alternatively, if multiple routes are a consideration for the same component, then consider including a route (machine group?) identifier. For example,


Automatic Number Generator #

When creating a database from scratch, or merely adding Items to your inventory, establishing the next number in a sequence for the new Item, can be an inconvenience.

Providing you adopt a simple numbering system comprising of an alpha prefix, and a numeric suffix (e.g. DM001, DM002, etc.), the ATMS automatic number generator can be used to present the user with the next number in the sequence.

This utility can be applied to Items, Assemblies, and Kits.

If, for instance, you have created Items with the above sequence, and the latest in the sequence is DM032, enter the Item prefix, DM then press the number generator icon, and ATMS will return the next in sequence number to the unit ID text box, that is, DM033.

If there are gaps in the numbering sequence,

DM001, DM002, DM003, DM006, DM032,

the number generator will return the next number AFTER the LAST in sequence, ignoring previous gaps – that is, DM033.

The number generator will only work for a numeric suffix. The prefix may contain a mixture of alpha and numeric characters, but must end with a pure numeric suffix.

For example,

Will work Will NOT work
0010DM001 0010DM
DM001 DM001XY
00012 00012DM
Table 8: Number Generator Samples

Cross-referencing/Links to external systems #

Identifying Items, Assemblies, and in particular job Kits as defined above, can make cross referencing other systems such as MRP/Process Planning systems much easier. Potential links between systems are easier to define and implement.

For instance, should tool scheduling be important, and an MRP system provides “work to lists”, the job references can be in the same format, or in a format that can easily be dissected from existing id numbers.

If such cross-referencing or links are used, then it is important to keep all of the systems with common data, consistently updated. This can be achieved electronically in most cases.