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Spare no effort to keep spare parts on hand

When it comes to running successful distribution center (DC) operations and manufacturing facilities, sometimes it's the things that we don't always pay attention to that can make the greatest impacts on productivity. The critical spare parts needed to keep DCs and manufacturing facilities running at peak performance are a perfect example. To prevent unexpected downtime and disruptions for your customers, these parts need to be on-site and quickly accessible in the event of an emergency. Simply put: it's a matter of having the right part at the right time. Unfortunately, this is an area where many operations stumble, and the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality can often lead to costly downtime.

In Intelligrated's latest On The Move webinar, titled "7 parts best practices you can start using today," I explained how maintenance teams can establish effective spare parts management programs. 

1. The first step is to utilize computerized maintenance management systems / enterprise asset management systems (CMMS / EAMS) to manage parts inventories and provisioning. For those who do not have one of these systems in place, a simple Excel spreadsheet may be used, but requires diligence to implement parts check-in and check-out processes.

2. Recommended spare parts lists (RSPLs) from the manufacturer of the material handling equipment (MHE) provide a comprehensive list of all the parts you need on-site to support your systems. It's equally as important to periodically compare inventory on hand to the RSPL to identify any parts missing from your inventory. 

3. Next, I talked about the necessity for realistic budgeting, especially as systems age and spare parts expenses increase. To help with this effort, Intelligrated recommends an annual assessment of your MHE to determine if maintenance is required, what parts are needed and if upgrades are available. 

4. Keeping well-organized spare parts cages - that are secure, clean, organized and labeled with location IDs and part numbers corresponding to the inventory management system - is critical to finding the product when you need it most. 

5. Having processes in place that lead to inventory accuracy is another key to a successful spare parts management program. Maintenance teams should perform annual physical inventory or institute periodic cycle counts to make sure critical parts are on-site. 

6. Work with value-added vendors (not just vendors offering the lowest cost) to cover any possible contingency. Vendors should provide access to multiple channels for ordering and help with planning for emergencies, budgeting or obsolescence. If operations are down in the middle of the night, you want a vendor that can ship parts same-day and offer 24X7 availability. Convenient purchasing arrangements - such as PunchOut integration - also save time and money. 

7. Last, I talked about the importance of proper training for maintenance staff to document procedures and reinforce best practices. Capturing staff feedback and gaining their buy-in are critical to establish an environment where everyone is working together toward downtime prevention. And, as I always say, "Don't forget the donuts." 

With an estimated 50 percent of MRO budgets spent on spare parts, it's ironic that many DCs and manufacturing facilities either don't have the correct spare parts on-site or are unable to find these parts when they're needed most. Following these simple best practices can help expedite planned maintenance and prevent prolonged, unexpected outages that can derail DC and manufacturing productivity. 

To view this webinar in its entirety, please visit our On The Move webinar library.