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Why Access to Spare Parts is Critical

  • Dec 20, 2021, 16:53 PM

Access to the right spare parts when you need them is foundational for a successful production environment. Having too much inventory on the books brings its own financial challenges, but not having enough can mean an extended downtime risk while you wait to receive the assets you need - especially considering recent supply chain issues. Above all, the cost associated with unplanned downtime can be significant, particularly for critical production equipment. The best way to keep these costs at a minimum is to maintain the right inventory for your installed base, and to implement strategies when owning the spares outright may not meet your needs.

Minimize Your Spare Parts Inventory Risks

Did you know that 51% of service work that cannot be successfully resolved during the first fix attempt is due to lack of part inventory and/or having the wrong spare part inventory? Make sure you have the spare parts you need to get your machines back up and running.

Developing your spare parts strategy doesn't need to be complicated, but it does require a few steps to assess your needs and plan. 
  1. Understand your production installed base. Which drives, controllers, sensors, and safety devices are currently used at your facility and how many of each do you have?
  2. Identify your critical assets. Which machines do you place the highest production value on and what components are used on those machines? Where are your frequent failures? It's important to know where machine downtime will hurt you the most.
  3. Determine which spares you need and what quantity. You'll want to consider both critical parts (those used on your high production value machines), parts with a high quantity installed base, and parts with longer procurement times. 

Consider Other Strategies for Spares

Whether you're installing new equipment or supporting existing production lines, there are many factors to consider as you develop your overall strategy and look to optimize your maintenance, repair, and operations budget. Ask yourself:
  • What upcoming construction or planned changes are in the works and how does that impact your inventory needs? Just because a part is on the line today, doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. With product changes often come newer, modernized technologies that you'll need to account for in your spare parts list. If you're going to undertake the effort to evaluate your current installed base, you should evaluate the next 6 to 12 months of planned production changes.
  • What is your strategy for aging or discontinued products? Once you have a firm grasp on your current installed base, you need to know which components are still manufactured and supported by the OEM and which are at risk. Should you modernize to the latest product family to reduce your risk? Or do you need to procure more spares to last for years to come? Also investigate whether the manufacturer offers sustainable repair practices that reduce your environmental impact while making your parts last longer. 
  • Do you own too much and are some parts obsolete or non-functional? Excess or obsolete inventory creates a financial burden. It also takes up space, causing storeroom shelves to be crowded and making it more difficult to find the correct part. If the part is no longer needed, it's time to scrap it. If you have open boxes or parts that may not be functional, consider recertification options to have the asset tested and/or repaired.
  • Which parts do you need to own upfront? What are your other options? Consider when it makes sense to spend upfront capital to buy and own parts you know you’ll use and can afford in your maintenance budget. But also consider where you can use vendor-managed parts agreements to defer the cost of ownership or pay a lower access fee, freeing up that capital for better uses. For equipment with little to no downtime cost, such as building support and facility equipment, you may not even need the spare part on-site and may want to consider options for guaranteed access to off-site spares or repairs.
  • Could a partner-owned part agreement be a good fit for some of your inventory? Parts agreements are a great option if you’re unsure of your spare parts needs or fear buying parts that will become obsolete before a failure ever takes place. To address the high obsolescence rate of a traditional company-owned storeroom, parts agreements allow you to have access to the parts you need on-site with the flexibility to update and remove spare part inventory when you no longer need it…without ever owning the part outright.
  • How will you keep your installed base list up to date as things change? Make sure you have a standard process in place to update storeroom inventory when production changes. Every planned construction should have a to-do checklist, including updating inventory levels, stocking new parts, and budgeting for updated maintenance needs.
  • Do you need a Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) or other storeroom management options? Sometimes you don’t have enough people or the right skills to maintain your storeroom inventory; when that happens, outsourcing may be your best and most cost-effective option.
  • If buying spares is not an option, should you enter a repair contract to achieve best service and price? While it’s always an option to conduct one-off repair transactions, consider the time and effort to obtain a quote and generate a PO before a part can be sent for repair. Repair contracts or extended warranties can offer the benefit of fixed costs to avoid the financial hassles of multiple repair transactions. They also speed up the repair time as assets can be shipped out immediately for repair, and they often offer lower (or free) repair costs.

And consider this alarming fact: supply chain issues are leading to a rise in counterfeit products. Unauthorized vendors are selling fake products and repairs without the correct software/firmware, offering no warranty or guarantee the asset will function. Protect your operations by making sure that your inventory strategy leverages only authorized vendors and genuine OEM product.

As you improve your spare parts inventory management practices, take the necessary steps to right-size your inventory and confirm you have the parts you need, and ONLY what you need. With a good asset management strategy, you can be confident in your stocking levels, reducing your costs and maximizing your production uptime. 

Learn more about SMC's inventory optimization services below.

Article Source: Rockwell Automation