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How do I control part numbers in a SOLIDWORKS bill of materials (BOM)?

This article will explain how to control what is used as the part number in a SOLIDWORKS bill of materials table.

Traditional Method of Controlling the Part Number

To use a value other than the filename for a part number in a BOM, the preferred technique would be to change a setting in the part’s configuration properties.

To access the properties of a configuration, click the ConfigurationManager tab (in any SOLIDWORKS part or assembly document), right click the configuration name, and select Properties from the menu.


The Bill of Materials Options pane (shown in the next image) contains a drop down list that will allow changing the default setting of Document Name to Configuration Name or User Specified Name.


If Configuration Name is selected, the name of the configuration is exactly what will appear under the PART NUMBER column in your BOM. If User Specified Name is selected, a box appears which allows for typing in any text (within reason). It’s usually best to stick with alphanumeric characters, dashes and underscores.

The Bill of Materials Options setting is configuration specific, meaning this setting can be set differently for each configuration. This is usually an undesirable situation. New configurations always default to Document Name, so change this setting if you need to!

An easy way to see what will be shown as the part number in your BOM is to open the ConfigurationManager. The inset in the following image shows a value in brackets. That value is the text which was typed in after selecting User Specified Text, and is what's shown in the PART NUMBER column.


If Document Name had been selected (which, as previously mentioned, is the default setting) you would see the file name of the part document within those brackets.

If Configuration Name were selected, there would be nothing in between the brackets and the brackets would not be shown. It would be redundant to show the configuration name after the configuration name. If there is no value in brackets after the configuration name, then the configuration name is what’s being used as your part number.

User Defined Custom Properties as Part Numbers

Adding a custom property is one step to creating and populating a customized column in a BOM.  (There are plenty of reasons to use custom properties, but we will stick to the topic at hand).

Clicking Properties in the File menu with open the Summary Information window. Selecting the Custom tab will display information similar to that shown in the following image. In our example, some Custom Properties have already been added. To add a Property Name, click in the first row under Property Name and either pick a predefined value from the list or enter your own.

To complete the process of adding a Custom Property, select the Type of property, followed by a Value / Text Expression. Press Tab or Enter and the Evaluated Value cell should populate. Repeat as needed and click OK when finished.


As you can see in the image above, 4 sample property names have been added. Some of these properties have special functionality and merit further discussion.

  • PartNo – This property is found in the drop down list when entering the Property Name, but has no special functionality.
  • Number – Like PartNo, this Property Name is also found in the drop down list, but unlike PartNo, it has special functionality. If using PDM, “Number” is a variable that is often used in search criteria. It is best to leave this property alone unless you have a specific technical reason to use it.
  • SW-Part Number – this property is specific to weldments and is also present in the drop down list, which is the only reason it’s mentioned here. Without going into detail, let’s just say you should not use this property unless you are involved with creating weldments in SOLIDWORKS and, even then, only in specific situations outside the scope of this blog.
  • Part Number – There is absolutely nothing keeping anyone from entering a property name such as “Part Number”, “PartNumber” (no space), or some other spelling variant. However, it will likely lead to confusion, so why bother? Let’s look at an example to help illustrate what could happen.

The following images show the process of selecting a custom property named Part Number for the column heading. This is done by clicking the letter at the top of the column (in this case,  “C”), then clicking the Column Property command on the toolbar.


Once the Column Property command is selected, a small window will appear that allows for selecting what that column will show. In this next image, the Column Type is set to PART NUMBER. This is the internal part number used by SOLIDWORKS and determined by the "Bill of Materials Options" setting mentioned at the beginning of this article and found in a configurations Properties. This is the recommended practice for controlling the part number in a Bill of Materials table.


The Column Type drop down list has a number of options, one of which is CUSTOM PROPERTY.


If CUSTOM PROPERTY is selected, a second list becomes available. At this point, any custom property can be selected from the Property Name list. In our case, the property named "Part Number" was selected. As can be seen, the new Part Number column is now displaying the Value which was defined earlier in our Summary Information window in the Custom tab.


Specifying a Custom Property for the part number overrides SOLIDWORKS internal mechanism for determining what the part number should be. When this happens, the "Bill of Materials Options" setting in a configurations Properties become pointless!

Creating a Custom Property that looks or sounds like "Part Number" can be dangerous for the sole reason that end users may be drawn to it and will disregard the mechanism already set up to control what SOLIDWORKS uses as a BOM part number. The only time this arrangement becomes workable is if your entire team has been trained on the internal process and is on the same page. That usually means the drafting, design and engineering department, IT department, and technical support staff.

Part numbers and additional identification numbers can coexist. If your company requires a second internal part number, a manufacturers part number, or some other identifying number, give the custom property a descriptive name to help reduce confusion.