Parts System
A Data Communication Historical Series

Parts System: AUTODIN

 

A description of the early Parts System:

 

Story Contributor: Jeanon Smith

 

This story is about the RCA established parts cataloging, control and storage system during the period 1962-1966.

 

Norton AFB example (Overview by Bob Pollard):

This scenario about the RCA parts control, cataloging and processing system is being presented because of the problems encountered when attempting to locate replacement parts for equipment repair. Each part item had a RCA part number assigned to it and each number was recorded on a 6 x 8-index card. There were enough index cards to fill 8 file cabinets, with 8 (or 10) drawers per file cabinet. In other words several thousand parts were stocked at each AUTODIN Site. When a part was used or received and entry was recorded on the appropriate card. The part number, listed on the index card, was cross-referenced to a system schematic or drawing. This all sounds neat and orderly, except when it came to actually locating a seldom-used part needed for repair. The Storekeeper and maintenance personnel usually remembered where frequently used parts were physically located. A schematic or drawing may not have been used during the problem solving procedure and therefore, the cross-reference number wasn't available. At times, when a schematic or drawing was used, the numbers didn't seem to cross-reference properly. It seems there was always some problem in locating the part number.

 

   The Parts were stored, by numerical part number and in accordance to size, in cabinets, on metal shelving and on the floor when convenient. There wasn’t any "rhyme or reason" to the physical placement of the parts since the physical size separation of parts did not allow for consecutive part number placement. A particular category of parts was dispersed to many physical locations. One couldn't assume that if a transistor was needed, it was a matter of looking in the cabinet where all the transistors would be together. Nope, they would be scattered all over. When an identical part was used on more than one piece of equipment it would be found in several different locations. The final result of this part cross-referencing and location problem was spending from 30 minutes to several hours locating a seldom-used part. In some cases a person might give up, as illustrated in the following example.

 

   The Maintenance personnel working on the High Speed Printer (HSP) found they needed to replace an internal part. They could not find the part number or the part on Site so they had one shipped in from another Site. This all occurred without checking with the storekeeper (Jeanon Smith) to see if one was in stock. When the part came in and the maintenance personnel proceeded to disassemble the HSP and unpacked the new part Jeanon asked they why didn't they use the one in stock. In other words one was available on Site, but they couldn't find it.

 

   Storekeepers, like Jeanon, continually inventoried and rearranged the inventory attempting to make some sensible order out of the confusion and gain parts recognition knowledge. Many times Jeanon stuck her head inside a piece of equipment to see what the part looked like so she could locate it on the shelf for the maintenance personnel.

 

   Jeanon got together with a Technician (Willie Leighton) and they wrote a program, that could be run on the computer system. It did most of the cross-referencing work and provided a part description. This help reduce the headaches caused from trying to locate a part. It took this kind of personal involvement to help solve this problem.

 

   Eventually Western Union converted all RCA part numbers to W.U. part numbers. This merely added to the confusion, especially when new equipment was received and new parts were added.

 

Note: No information available after 1966.