Introducing the Parts Engine

Together, we can make some sense of OEM parts at last

This project originated in a phone conversation with Bach Nguyen about the Siemens parts catalog. At the time, the only path to research part numbers was to order their DVD, install a terrible Windows app, and use their system. The idea that came up was what we could do if anyone could register a part number record for any manufacturer (in healthcare), and we could all access it, see photos, add notes, and even broadcast our need for it, or our position as a source to supply it?

There are so many real-world interconnections involving parts that the OEMs won't be interested in (and definitely won't want to support), but we can do it — as a community.
The single source of truth is the OEM

The core idea of the Parts Engine (PE) is a single record with these key values.

Next, we can extend this basic record a little more:

These basic fields are considered a “single source of truth” and should always be defined to agree exactly with manufacturer's data.

That's a basic PE record, and anyone can search on these values — no registration required.

Collaboration and conversation

So far, this is very much like the OEM-level presentation (assuming there even is one available), but we can allow registered users to do a lot more

The reason we require registration is simply to allow for basic accountability in the case where a bad actor posts information that's wrong or misleading.

Discontinued and unavailable part numbers

The PE allows a registered user to enter a new part number (one that's not already in the data) as long as it's conformant with basic standards (manufacturer, modality, name). This allows us to fill in older SKUs that are no longer supported or cataloged by the OEM. This means information doesn't die because it's no longer convenient for the OEM to publish it.

Photographs are supported

Registered users can also upload pictures (and other documents) to show what parts look like, where they are installed, and other relevant information.

Discussion is also welcome

Finally, registered users can post comments that connect to a SKU. This might be useful for adding tips on how to replace the part, links to appropriate technical support, etc. We ask the users to stay on topic, but there is no active comment moderation. (We do investigate reported inappropriate content, however.)

The next level: requests and listings

This is where we think it gets really interesting. Registered users can move from a PE record to posting a request for the item in just two clicks.

Don't believe us? Watch this short example where a user goes from looking up a part in the Engine to posting a request for same in two clicks and less than 10 seconds:

Watch the video (12 sec)

Behind the scenes, healthica sets up your entire listing ("I have this for sale") or request ("I want to buy this"), so all you need to do is confirm, and your posting goes out to everyone on the channel. While we offer a general-use listing and request interface, our experience with this option for parts has been incredibly convenient, and we think you will feel the same way.


This is designed as an almost infinitely expandable search engine. We do intend to enforce the restriction to healthcare-related items, but other than that, our policy is “hands-off”. We will be offering API access to our premium clients (automatic lookup of part numbers, etc.), but basic lookup will be available with no account required, and any registered user will have the full standard suite of tools at no cost.

We look forward to your use of (and, hopefully, contribution to) the Parts Engine project.

Clark Wilkins, Simplexable 2022.05.12