In a large national undertaking like the Railways, materials management provides the keystone for perfect or near perfect inventory control. No doubt, the technique is complex. With the advancing science and technology, these techniques have acquired having enlarged money plays an ever increasing role in modern times. Naturally, the realization has come that inventory has to be properly and accurately regulated,. The more so in a public undertaking of the magnitude of the Railways, where public accountability calls for a scientific approach in materials management.
Standardization is an essential tool in all materials management. Identity of individual store materials and identity of market sources, and a proper concordance list making for a detailed description in a schematic view, provide for a thorough and scientific inventory control. And codification is one of the major aspects of inventory control. Over the last few years, the railways have succeeded in standardizing and codifying a very large number of stores.
The railways daily use hundreds and thousands of types of materials to produce the end product transport. It is necessary to number the materials and parts so used to achieve systematization. If this was not done, it would result in utter confusion as every user of items of stores would describe them in his own way and the supplier may send wrong items. To achieve efficiency and get the best results in the least possible time, it is necessary that the right item is delivered in the right quantity to the right place at the right time and at reasonable cost. Any system which ensures this continuous chain of events would be the ideal one.
Railways have been among the first in India to recognize the importance of materials management and inventory control. Long ago, Railways had codified rules and procedures, stocking and purchasing, issue and disposal of stores, and classified them. The railway stores had been divided broadly into two categories i.e. technical stores and general. The technical stores had been classified by alphabets A to F and H and they have been further divided into classes, where necessary by adding more alphabets or numbers. Thus class Ea1, represented parts and fittings of steam locomotives. The general stores were represented by letter G, further sub divided on the basis of types of stores. Examples are Ga (small tools), Gb 7 (paints), Gb 1 (Hardware), Gb 4 (metals). “S” represented scrap and “R” rolling stock.
The individual items in these classes were identified by serial numbers and arranged alphabetically. Each railways published is own nomenclature lists of stores and thus there was no uniformity.
Paranjape Committee’s Recommendations
The railways stores enquiry Committee of 1950 – 51 recommended that the railways should compile and publish a catalogue of standardized items, the use of which was made obligatory on all railways. Some progress was achieved by the publication of standard catalogue of signaling and telecommunication.
With the proposal to computerize inventory control, the need for uniformity and thorough review of codification systems became pressing. The railways Board appointed a committee in 1967 under the chairmanship of Controller of Stores, Western Railways, to examine the different systems adopted by different railways and the central purchasing organizations of the Government of India and submit recommendations regarding the system to be adopted uniformity on all the railways and production units taking into accounts the possible effect on the mechanization of inventories.
This committee considered several systems of classification of stores in vogue including the international Standard Industrial Trade classification of the United Nations. The UN has a system, known as the Universal system, which covered the various trade groups but most of these items were not relevant for the railways. Even items like coal and coke were not covered. It was found that practically all the items of the technical stores peculiar to Railways would have to be accommodated under a single trade group. Transport equipment if the UN’s system was adopted. That would entail the use of very long code number and would be very cumbersome for the railways.
The committee then considered the adoption of a fully significant system or non-significant system or sequential system.
The former system relies merely on the code number. This was not acceptable as this would mean that the code number would be unnecessarily long since the item will have to be described fully. The latter system was also rejected as it would be a very unsatisfactory one based on the minimum number of digits and would mean a mere allotment of serial numbers.