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Why assessments are the foundation of effective lifecycle management

Intelligrated's Lifecycle Support Services (LSS) understands the crucial role that assessments play in our abilities to predict and prevent issues before they occur. But for many plant managers in order fulfillment or manufacturing environments, the importance of performing regular assessments is often overlooked. And while some may think that planned preventive maintenance activities are enough to keep operations running at sufficient levels, the truth is they're often not equipped to identify unseen problems in mechanical structures or uncover issues that may lie dormant in material handling control systems. Unfortunately, when a piece of the system breaks, their parts inventories are often unorganized and understocked, preventing fast issue resolution and prolonging costly downtime.

These were the very scenarios our LSS team addressed in Intelligrated's most recent On The Move webinar, "Identifying minor issues before they become major problems." Joining me for this live webinar were Javiera Aguirre, assessment manager and Doug Bach, director of lifecycle sales. Together we discussed the importance of assessments and then answered many questions from attendees after the presentation.

We started the webinar by introducing the concept of assessments and discussing what's at stake for those who ignore this crucial step. In our first polling question, we asked attendees how many unplanned downtime events they had experienced in the past year. We weren't surprised to learn that 50 percent had experienced at least one unplanned downtime event. From our experience, we've found that these downtime events can cost anywhere from $10K to $200K per hour. Obviously, prolonged outages can have lasting operational and financial impacts.

Javiera explained that assessments are analogous to the annual physicals individuals typically have performed by their doctors. Just as we have our skeletal, blood and neurological functions evaluated to check our overall well-being, manufacturing and distribution operations should have their MHE system mechanics and controls assessed at regular intervals to prevent costly and dangerous conditions and ensure optimum performance.

But assessments don't stop just at mechanical systems and controls. Javiera discussed the many types of technology, mechanical and maintenance assessments that LSS teams perform - from software, sorters, palletizers and conveyors to personnel safety, thermography, parts and computerized maintenance management systems. Simply put, these assessments can uncover "what's under the hood" and potentially prevent substantial productivity loss, accidents and expensive repairs.

Javiera walked through the key steps involved with the assessment process, starting with understanding the baseline system performance and culminating with taking necessary remediation steps to return the system to optimal operations and plan a system's lifecycle. She emphasized the importance of using assessments to not only take a proactive stance toward maintenance, but also to better prioritize repairs and align them with the capital planning process.

Finally, Doug demonstrated that assessments are integral for all types of facilities, regardless of their current phase in the system's lifecycle. Whether you're operating a brownfield site, sharing maintenance tasks with multiple vendors or starting up an all-new greenfield site, everyone should make assessments a mandatory part of their maintenance processes. 

To learn more about how assessments can help you formulate and execute an effective lifecycle management strategy, please view this webinar in its entirety. 

Single-source OEM parts strategy: The most efficient way to the right part at the right time

Unexpected downtime can accumulate significant costs, exceeding $20,000 per hour for some operations due to idle employees, delayed shipments and overtime expenses as operations recover. Avoiding these costs of downtime requires quick access to a well-managed stock of spares. Since fast-paced maintenance departments are often occupied attending to other service demands, speed and simplicity are paramount in the parts ordering process.

Using the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) as a single-source parts supplier provides several important benefits to keep equipment running with the right parts at the right time. The OEM offers access to the latest versions of parts, simplifies the ordering process, proactively extends system lifecycle and more efficiently leverages inventory. 

Long-term, trusted partnership

Automated systems can last decades, meaning that the OEM has a vested interest in client success that eclipses that of a third party simply fulfilling a parts order. Furthermore, using the OEM as a single source for parts can yield easier budget management, better parts value and quicker root-cause analysis in the event of an equipment issue.

In practice, this single-source parts relationship can be especially beneficial for multi-site enterprises. If a facility places a large parts order but the OEM knows the retailer already has a large stockpile of the same parts at another location, they advise the customer to source the parts from another site, rather than place a redundant order.

Reduce transaction costs, increase confidence

Ordering parts from multiple vendors dilutes accountability and increases overhead thanks to extra purchase orders, additional invoices and more time spent managing vendor relationships. Ordering all parts from a single source simplifies the process, saving time, providing clear accountability and inspiring confidence that the right parts are available when needed. 

Intelligrated offers a dedicated team of support specialists to not only provide information on lead time, parts availability and technical documentation, but also offer unique insight on how parts function within complex material handling systems - insight that third-party vendors simply cannot offer.

Enhanced support for complex systems

Spare parts usage can provide clues about overall system health, but only the OEM has the knowledge to turn this data into the most complete picture of system performance. OEMs know how each part should function within a system and can compare purchase activity with metrics like expected time-to-failure for each part. This analysis can be used to detect part usage anomalies that may indicate more serious problems elsewhere in the system.

Furthermore, OEMs often issue updates to existing equipment as technology advances. As they phase out older spare parts in favor of more efficient, longer-lasting designs, OEMs provide recommendations to match systems with the right alternatives. 

Using a third-party vendor provides neither access to ongoing system improvements, nor a singular, holistic view of the system. This lack of information can limit system performance, drive unnecessary parts costs and even lead to system failure.

Using the OEM as a single-source parts provider saves time, simplifies accountability and helps get the most out of long-term automation investments. For more information, visit Intelligrated's OnTimeParts.com parts procurement website or read the Intelligrated white paper, The value of OEM genuine parts vs. the cost of generic parts


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


New On The Move webinar to discuss best practices for managing spare parts in the DC

Keeping a distribution center running at full capacity requires having access to the right parts at the right time. Even though 50 percent of the average maintenance, repair and operations budget is spent on spare parts, many DCs either don't have the correct spare parts onsite or are unable to find these parts when they're needed most - during planned maintenance, or worse, an unexpected outage that's cutting into DC productivity. 

But many best practices, if followed, can help avoid such pitfalls and maintain DC uptime objectives.

In our next On The Move webinar, titled, "7 parts best practices you can start using today," Bridget Burkhardt, Intelligrated's lifecycle support services business development manager for parts, will discuss these best practices in detail. As a full-service equipment manufacturer of automated material handling solutions, Intelligrated has extensive experience helping clients employ effective spare parts management programs. 

This informative webinar will take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST. By attending this webinar, attendees will learn about the following topics:

  • CMMS / EAMS - Computerized maintenance management systems / enterprise asset management systems are critical to automating maintenance operations and keeping track of spare parts requirements
  • Spare parts lists - Recommended spare parts lists from OEMs help DC managers stock the right parts to avoid unplanned downtime and quickly replenish parts after use
  • Budgeting - It's important to develop realistic budgeting models based on the age of the equipment in your DC and prioritization of critical parts
  • Parts cages - Every spare parts management program must include organization strategies and processes to check parts in and out of inventory
  • Inventory processes - Know when it's time to re-order a part and have the safeguards in place to identify when a part is out of stock
  • Value-added vendor - There are many advantages to using a value-added vendor, from ease of ordering and same-day shipping to technical support and obsolescence planning
  • Training of maintenance staff - Ongoing training is imperative to ensuring adherence to processes and staff participation in improvement of these activities

Register now to join Bridget Burkhardt on Tuesday, February 21 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST for an important discussion on spare parts management. 

The importance of lifecycle management addressed in latest On The Move webinar

It's fairly commonplace for retailers to invest in multi-million dollar material handling systems that serve as the backbone of their distribution operations. What's not as common is the practice of effective lifecycle management to maximize the uptime of these systems by preparing and planning for the unexpected. When you stop and think about it, the reason for this oversight may be somewhat obvious. When systems are new and running at peak performance, it's easy to become complacent and think that things will always run this smoothly. But over time, maintenance is required, controls become obsolete and inevitable situations arise that threaten to halt productivity for hours, days or even weeks. I recently discussed how to avoid this occurrence in our latest On The Move webinar titled," Maximize your material handling system's ROI with lifecycle management." 

I was joined on the third installment of our new webinar series by two experts from Intelligrated's lifecycle support services division: Dave Trice, CSCP and senior director of business development, customer service and support; and Corey Calla, senior director of lifecycle sales.

I kicked off the presentation with a definition of lifecycle management and an explanation of why it's critical to managing system assets. Then I explained to those present that lifecycle management programs help managers answer these important questions:

  • How will we maintain our system, through reactive and preventive measures?
  • What training and support will be required (both internal and external)?
  • How will we adapt the system to industry trends and business process changes?
  • How can we optimize the system as it matures to maintain peak performance and prevent obsolescence?

To reiterate some valuable points I made in the webinar, the key results of successful lifecycle management planning are ROI, uptime, planned support, low total cost of ownership and continuous system improvement. These all lead to increased system safety, efficiency and dependability. 

Dave Trice followed me with a detailed look at what makes up an effective lifecycle management plan. Whether the system is new or mature, he explained that an initial assessment is critical in developing a road map for success. Assessment provides the following lifecycle framework: 

  • Baseline of system performance and benchmark of OEM specs standards
  • Scope of assets, software / hardware platforms, maintenance requirements and spare parts
  • Results driven by reporting to establish basis for financial and resource planning

Dave demonstrated how computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software is important in maintaining visibility to system assets throughout the lifecycle. The webinar's live polling question confirmed his point that most CMMS installations aren't used to their full capacity, a problem he attributed to poor implementation of the software. Used to its full extent, CMMS can improve labor productivity and asset performance through accurate planning and inventory management.

Finally, Corey Calla discussed the importance of partnering with an experienced lifecycle management OEM. He said this gives the DC managers a distinct advantage throughout the system lifecycle by gaining access to a full support network of experts and services, including: system engineers, Web tools, data collection and reporting through the CMMS. An OEM that has intimate knowledge of a material handling system and its lifecycle can not only provide quick resolution of issues but also have the historical data to understand root causes and respond expeditiously. 

To view this presentation in its entirety, please visit the archives section of our website.