Facility Maintenance Decisions

Inventory woes? Stock answers

By Thomas A. Westerkamp   Maintenance & Operations

Maintenance and engineering managers are challenged now more than in the recent past to find cost reductions wherever they can. Tight budgets are tightening more, workers entering the work force are challenged to acclimate themselves to advancing technology, and organizations are demanding the highest possible levels of performance and flexibility from their largest in-place assets — their facilities.

One area of maintenance operations that often is less than efficient is inventory and materials control — the process of storing, tracking and distributing spare parts, tools and equipment to front-line technicians. Upgrades in the materials-control process of maintenance and engineering departments often can produce results that meet organizations’ needs — lower costs and greater availability of key maintenance materials.

Focus on Efficiency

Key concerns among managers related to stores material control generally include travel and transaction time, stores-issue time, hunting for parts, staging, and inventory control. Among the key areas that managers can reorganize with little or no investment are the following:

    Bar-coding and laser-scanning systems. In one case organization, implementing these technologies can cut transaction time from an average of about 20 minutes all the way down to just two-three minutes.

    Radio frequency ID. This technology features smart transmitters that are attached to parts and equipment located in remote or unattended stores. The transmitters enable workers to locate needed parts far more quickly — in minutes instead of in hours — thereby minimizing hunting time and maximizing productive time.

    Material stores inventory control upgrades. These upgrades can reduce inventory costs by using a Web-based materials portal to reduce lead time and order quantities, and to increase turns and spare-parts availability, while reducing stock-outs.

    Strategic staging. Staging shortens the trip distance for technicians on the job site. For example, at a major California theme park, a truck from the organization’s central stores operation delivers spare parts and equipment to back-of-house staging areas at each attraction. Maintenance workers pick them up near the job sites where the work is to be done. Parts move from central stores to strategic staging to the job site, but technicians are involved only in the stagingto-job-site leg of the journey.

These types of strategies are especially appealing to organizations’ higher management because often their ability to attract capital for future growth is tied to their ability to reduce costs in all areas, including maintenance.

Thomas A. Westerkamp is CEO of Productivity Network Innovations.

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  posted on 6/1/2003   Article Use Policy

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