Proper product title tag procedures for 1000's of products?

When google penalizes for duplicate content or tags, does this mean the entire tag?

For example, Ive been instructed for SEO practices to rename my product titles tags from

5446 Red Modern Steel Electronic Widgets


Modern Steel Electronic Widgets - 5546 Red

since my keyword phrase is “modern steel widgets”

So how does google feel about going from 2000 widgets that start with a unique product code to 2000 products starting with the same 2-4 words?

Is it the entire tag that should not be duplicated?

I believe we are looking at WHOLE tags