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By James Piper, P.E.
Material Handling Article Use Policy
Front-line technicians and mechanics rely on a steady and timely stream of spare parts and equipment to complete their daily tasks in institutional and commercial facilities. For maintenance and engineering managers responsible for providing these materials, the inventory management process presents a host of challenges.
Perhaps the toughest challenge is developing and implementing a system to control the flow of these essential materials cost-effectively. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) can ensure technicians have the materials they need when they need them, and they can give managers the data they need to do so efficiently and cost-effectively.
The most common approach for many facilities has been to set up on-site, central warehouses that order, stock, and issue materials as needed.
Unfortunately, not all technicians and mechanics trust such systems. Having been burned when warehouses failed to have the needed parts, their solution often was to set up their own personal parts supplies.
While this double inventory system might have solved some availability problems for technicians, it failed to address others, and it created new ones. One result of creating such supplies is that it can be more difficult to know the parts that need to be ordered and when to do so.
Managers also lose the cost advantage that comes from centralizing orders. And with maintenance personnel drawing materials from multiple sources, the chances increase that one or more locations contain dead or obsolete inventory that simply takes up shelf space.
A CMMS can be an effective tool for managers struggling to gain control of their inventory systems. But for the system to be effective, it takes more than just purchasing and installing software. Success is determined more by the inventory procedures that management puts in place during and after implementation than by the software itself. Establishing procedures before implementation will determine its success.
Data also is critical, so it must be accurate, consistent, complete, and up to date. All material orders and draws must go through the system. Not doing so will result in inaccurate inventory counts, possible shortages, and inaccurate billing.
Taking Stock: CMMS and Inventory Management
Buying into CMMS-Based Inventory System Challenge for Managers
Fine-Tuning Parts Inventory with CMMS
SIDEBAR: Inventory Insight — Parts and Priorities