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Inventory Management: Lessons From Industry
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Inventory: CMMS Captures Critical DataPt. 2: CMMS Data Helps Managers Make Inventory DecisionsPt. 3: Inventory Strategies: Vending Machines & RFIDPt. 4: This Page
Maintenance and engineering managers often look to their peers in institutional and commercial buildings for solutions to their challenges. While understandable, that strategy can limit their options. In some cases, non-commercial organizations offer examples managers can apply to their departments.
Consider: An oil-field operation in West Texas offers one of the best examples of a well-managed inventory storeroom for maintenance, repair and operations. The operations consist of 640 square miles and 12,000 oil wells.
Each well is identified with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip technicians scan once on site. By scanning the tag, technicians are on the job and begin generating essential data. They troubleshoot the issue, perform the required tasks, and scan the items used for the repair or routine maintenance. Once completed, they scan off the job.
The RFID system automatically captures data related to time, materials and activities. The operation's computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) gathers the information, and a planner and supervisor review field technicians' daily activities.
The department has optimized the CMMS to track materials used, and it automatically generates and sends purchase requisitions to the appropriate suppliers.
The storeroom staff receives a copy of the materials used and restocks the service vehicles' minimum and maximum items for the next day's work. The supplier automatically restocks vending machines placed at service centers throughout the field based on the electronic-withdrawals system in place.
Andrew Gager, CPIM, CMRP, is director of consulting for Marshall Institute Inc., an asset management company providing maintenance and reliability consulting and training services to facilities.