Automate naming and tranlation of Materials in SAP

Do you spend a lot of time to ensure consistent part names and to translate the names to multiple languages? In this article we will show how this can be automated based on classification.
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Why are part names important?

Part Names (material descriptions) are important in most companies. A good and consistent name lets your employees, suppliers and customers better understand what is “behind” the part number.

Furthermore, Part Names are hugely important when it comes to customs: Good translations cut down transit time.

An increasing number of our clients spend vast amounts of time and money to translate Part Names. But there is an alternative: Automate the naming of parts!

General Idea

At BoostPLM, we have looked into this issue and have provided a automated solution.

This solutions can name and translate part names by creating naming templates for each Part Class.

Classifying Parts is a old method to search and find Parts. Hence, some companies has an extensive classification system developed internally.

Today however, the trend is to use international standards like UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Product and Services Code) or eClass. This reduce the internal governance of the categories ease the collaboration with partners.


Every Part has a set of attributes specific to its category. As an example, a bolt can be described by its shape, size, length, quality, finish and ISO standard. Therefore, a suitable Part Name for a hexagonal bolt could be:


Many ERP systems have a limited length of the Part Name. For example the “material description” in SAP must be shorter than 40 characters. This often requires to use abbreviations and reduce the number of attributes included in the part name.
We have built a SAP functionality that complies with this demand. Furthermore, we’ve the extended material description without abbreviations and with all attributes are also supported – again fully automated and readily translated.

Below is an example of a template for the 31161620 hexagonal bolt, showing first the short and then the long description:

Figure 1. Template for Material Description (max. 40 characters)


Figure 2. Template for Basic Text (multiline)

We use different tags to specify each type of building block in the description template:

[] for attribute value

{} for attribute unit of measurement


To automate translation, we utilise SAP’s out-of-the-box functionality for handling multi-langue attribute descriptions.

Even better, some alpha-numeric attributes don’t need any translation, e.g. the attribute ‘Standard’ as shown above in the example with the value ‘ISO4014’. This allow us to separate the alpha-numeric attributes into two groups: One group where English is the default, and another where translation into a specific language is mandatory.

Triggering points

The part name is not static so the generation of part names must be started whenever:

  • a part’s UNSPSC classification is changed
  • a part’s attribute is changed
  • translations are changed
  • a description template is changed

Implementing the automation

Automating the Part Naming might be a gradual process and to accommodate this, we can introduce an automation level with the following values:

  • Fully-Automated
  • Semi-Automated

This means that parts designated ‘Semi-automated’ will go through a review process before the updates are applied. Changes to the description of ‘Fully-Automated’ Parts would kick off whenever a triggering point is raised.

Fully-automated systems obviously need a few checks and balances and we’ve introduced an application log and a set of possible errors that the system should log. The types of error types added were:

  • General update errors on each material (this would typically be object-locking issues due to some users locking the Part already)
  • Truncation of the short description – this would be when the template results in a description exceeding 40 characters.


Automating the naming of Parts could be hugely beneficial to any manufacturing company and greatly help with warehousing, selling, procuring and not least with customs.

If you think you could benefit from an upgrade to your Part Naming system, get in touch and let us investigate the options.

About the Author

Kim Hald Kristensen

Kim Hald Kristensen

I have worked with SAP PLM since 2001 and ……………….

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