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Eliminating Unnecessary Spare-Parts Spending

Feb. 1, 2023

Foundries and all manufacturers must budget for purchasing maintenance supplies, including consumables and spare parts. These supplies are vital for implementing corrective and preventive maintenance to different assets on the shop floor, to maximize the availability and efficiency of production equipment.

At the same time, manufacturers should identify possible measures to eliminate unnecessary spending on spare parts, because these are part of the usually tight annual maintenance budgets

Unnecessary spending on spare parts stretches maintenance budgets, leading to budgetary depletions before recommended timelines. This increases the quantity of deferred maintenance work due to a lack of funds to purchase required maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) supplies. It implies that manufacturers face more frequent equipment breakdowns, inefficient assets, and unsafe facilities.

What are some strategies for eliminating unnecessary spending on spare parts?

Develop a spare-parts inventory-management system. Some manufacturers use manual methods for MRO inventory management. It is an ineffective approach that lacks consistency and is full of errors. Manufacturers using manual strategies cannot effectively track spare-parts consumption and struggle to complete periodic MRO inventory audits.

Metal manufacturers can streamline inventory management by digitizing spare-part management. Digitization means companies keep tabs on the number of spare parts in stock, to avoid ordering duplicate parts or overstocking. They can identify obsolete parts and find ways to discard those parts from storage.

Digitizing inventory management allows manufacturers to integrate various systems, including computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). The integration allows field operators to request and update inventory records remotely. And the digitized system can leverage maintenance data to create a database of frequently used spare parts. With that information, it becomes easier for manufacturers to streamline stock management and improve their control over spare-parts acquisition budgets.

Perform regular spare-parts audits. Modern manufacturing operations rely on data to streamline all operations. They require data on the type and quantity of spare parts used by each piece of production equipment. They also need to determine the frequency of asset failures and replaceable parts over fixed timelines. Then, the manufacturer can compare those figures with the existing stock levels to identify how much longer they can sustain operations.

A comprehensive, data-driven audit streamlines categorization of spare parts and storage reorganization. It helps manufacturers to identify excess or unnecessary inventories – and these are spare parts that are no longer useful or in overstock. The audit also unearths discrepancies and errors in inventory records. Manufacturers learn of inefficiencies affecting spare-parts acquisition and distribution in a facility.

Streamline maintenance programs. Metal manufacturers understand the value of reliable maintenance programs. However, some are yet to streamline maintenance schedules and rely on a run-to-failure strategy. This strategy reduces equipment lifespan and increases failure rates. When equipment fails, the demand for repair parts increases. Efficient equipment runs more effectively and does not extend damage to other assets on the production line.

With predictive maintenance, manufacturers can identify and rectify underlying problems before they cause asset failures. They can avoid component replacements by fixing minor defects immediately after they occur. Manufacturers can sustain complex operations with a handful of spare parts, unlike a run-to-failure strategy, where maintenance teams deal with several uncertainties. And they can avoid holding unnecessary spare parts and spending extra money to source rare repair components.

Repair and refurbish parts where possible. When equipment fails, some technicians rush to replace the damaged part. Some of these parts are repairable and can sustain several operating cycles without affecting the overall quality of operations. When technicians perform these replacements, they may opt for non-standard spare parts because they are cheap. Other asset failures are recurrent, and a business may prefer overstocking replacement components for such occurrences. It means they spend more money on new parts, yet the same problems persist.

Operations can save more money by repairing damaged components and refurbishing aging parts where possible.

Identify preferred suppliers. Working with the wrong vendor can increase an operation’s spare-parts expenditures. Some vendors have cheap methods of conducting their business, including repackaging generic parts and selling second-grade parts as originals. Other vendors take long to respond to customer requests, increasing equipment downtime or extending damage to other components.

Engaging a reliable spare-parts vendor is beneficial in several ways:
  They can assume the risks involved with storing critical spare parts;
  Long-term partnerships allow manufacturers to source spare parts at discounted rates;
  Reliable vendors can avail spare parts as and when needed; and
  They conduct quality inspections and certify products to ensure compatibility with customers’ equipment.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS, a mobile CMMS software that helps plant managers organize, automate, and streamline maintenance operations.