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One of the toughest challenges any manager faces also is a major source of savings. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and manage inventory more efficiently.
In the time I’ve been observing the maintenance and engineering management profession, few issues have elicited as many eye rolls and shrugs from managers as inventory management. It seems every facility has some sort of unmanageable inventory issue. Large stashes of hoarded equipment and spare parts, going largely unused but tying up valuable cash. Shoddy, paper-based recordkeeping. Inventories with hundreds, even thousands, of obsolete spare parts and equipment.
The problems are so vast, many managers can’t figure out where to begin the process of streamlining their inventory management practices. In such cases, maybe the best answer is, anywhere. Almost any action is likely to help.
Consider centralizing the purchasing function and involving procurement professionals in the organization. Use fewer national contracts, and make buyers adhere to them more strictly. Make specific departments or operations responsible for certain product categories. Bring in an outside party to manage and take ownership of the inventory. Standardize equipment specifications, which, in turn, will decrease the number of needed replacement parts. Cut back the number of suppliers. (Why use 100 when 10 or 5 will do?)
Start anywhere, but start now. Sure, organizations are touchy these days about unnecessary costs, so look at it this way: The only thing a manager can’t afford to do is nothing.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
Inventory Management: Managers Need to Take Reins