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The Maintenance Management Blog

February 28, 2023

Quantity Counts

I'll admit, math was not my favorite subject. I was fortunate to have Dad around who helped me through those algebraic formulas. No matter how well one does in school, we never get away from math, numbers, and how quantities count.

Numbers are everywhere. From product serial numbers, stolen social security numbers, tax forms, telephone numbers, area codes, and military ranks just to name a very few. I'm not saying numbers and math are necessarily bad. In fact, you can have fun with them. For some amusing little math tricks, visit Thought Co.

We pay attention to quantities every day. The correct number of pills taken to combat certain health issues. The total number of words to develop a quality novel. How many gallons of gas to fill up the tank? The total miles and hours to reach a vacation destination.

Numbers are all important to any business. What to charge for products and services. How much product to purchase for the upcoming sales event. Everything from the cost of rent, insurance, utilities, and many other factors affects a company's bottom line.

Let's narrow in on a maintenance department. Accompanying that will be inventory (stockroom) and purchasing. All are heavily involved in numbers. Cost and quantities. For the moment, cost can be summarized by the price of new equipment and other assets, labor costs, and costs for purchasing inventory. Yes, we could go into more detail for each of these, but for this discussion, I'll group everything under the general heading of COST. And we can keep in mind how the rest of these points affect cost.

I want to focus on quantities in several areas and their interrelationship. It's important to understand how one quantity affects another. It's not necessarily a matter of which comes first or knowing one before you know another. Some have these elements and others weave around making several connections.

Image: man unloading boxes from vanAssets

Obviously, you'd want the number of equipment and non-equipment assets known. It's also important to track the 'life' of each. This could be done through depreciation values. Here, the numbers could be percentages, the relationship between the original cost, the cost of repair over a period of time, and the age of the equipment. Through this, you determine when it's time to buy new.

Another 'quantity' to think about for assets is the total number of preventive maintenance jobs assigned to each and the number of times per year they're done. These PMs could be routine inspections, lubrications, cleaning, or any number of replacement parts maintenance.

Preventive and other maintenance would lead to the number of work orders. How much attention is given to an asset throughout the year?

Even here in this one area in three paragraphs, there's a connection between quantity, costs, and purchasing.

Let's move to the next area because you can't conduct maintenance unless you have…

Image: a bunch of boxesInventory

In this area, there are a lot of quantities to know.

How many of each item are in stock and the minimum quantity you'll allow before purchasing more?

This is important because you don't want the quantities too high or too low. Too low and you risk not having enough when the next PM comes around or an urgent repair is needed. On the other side, you don't want too many of certain parts, especially if they aren't used very often. They affect the cost of stockroom space.

Another quantity that relates directly to purchasing and a possible risk of overstocking is how many items are in one package. Do the vendors send a six-pack, a case, a box of forty, or a palette of three huge parts?

Closely related to this is how many are used for each job. One at a time, two, eight feet of wire, etc.

These last two quantities are important because they determine the amount ordered with each purchase.

Returning briefly to the actual quantity of items, let's break it down into a few categories.

Classification – Industry standards of A, B, and C, with A being items that are lower value but move faster; B being items fluctuating in value and usage; and C being higher value items that don't more often.

Critical spares – Those parts that need to be in stock for urgent maintenance.

Alternates – Can you use a substitute part in case the regular one isn't available?

Make note of the quantities of the previous three points. They may not seem important but depending on the industry and/or company, quantities can be vital to track.

Physical count - This is another major quantity factor for inventory. You must conduct a routine physical count. It may be time-consuming, but the suggestion is to take it in manageable chunks. Section off the aisles of the stockroom, complete the count, then move on.

Whatever method of quantity tracking you employ, verification needs to be made. Otherwise, totals could be off, those errors may accumulate, and you risk problems down the road. Don't be caught short. In addition, during the physical count, one may find items that haven't been seeded or recorded in the inventory list.

Moving on to the next link in the chain Assets need maintenance which requires inventory and to know what maintenance is to be done you'll need…

Work orders

While the details about work requests and work orders could fill several posts, I'm referring to what was mentioned above in the first section. The number of work orders for assets.

Other work order 'quantities' to know are how many open work orders exist within a given date range. How many have been completed for a particular asset for a given time period? How many work orders have been completed within the time estimation? I like this quantity because it connects, or can connect, to the above sections.

Let's start with the positive side. A worker finished all jobs within the estimated time. That's great. If that's the norm, there's no problem.

What might be checked is if the jobs are finished too quickly. A ninety-minute job takes thirty minutes. Why? Was the job really completed and if so, how's the quality of the work? Maybe it's a simple case of, yes, the estimated time was off, or the actual repair didn't need as much attention as first thought.

Also, if there's a series of early completions…what's the worker doing with the rest of the time?

On the other side, why would a thirty-minute job take ninety? I'm not jumping to the very negative reason of the worker wasting time. There could be any number (yes, more numbers!) of reasons. Travel time to and from the job site needs to be factored in. Specific inventory is missing. An unexpected complication or delay occurred such as a fallen tree blocking the road.

The quantity of on-time compliant work orders can be represented as a percentage. More investigation, evaluations, and reports might be needed to see how much the percentage affects costs.

The web of connections between the above sections can be intricate. How much inventory is used and is available connects with whether a work order is completed on time, which could mean an asset (or more) doesn't work to capacity or at all (downtime), which means more costs.

An asset requires X number of PMs which requires a purchase of a certain quantity of parts. Subsequently, more work orders are needed.

And so many other connections.

One of the best 'tools' to use to track and organize the quantities is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Asset and inventory lists with data filed for the number of items, package size, usage amounts, work order management numbers, and a beneficial aide to conduct important inventory physical counts.

We're inundated with numbers and quantities every day. Some pass by without importance, some are so familiar they've become routine, and others are vital to know. In the workplace with maintenance inventory, these quantities are even more important to know and keep control over.

A CMMS offers so many benefits for this. Mapcon Technologies offers a powerful and easy-to-use system that will help you stay on top of those quantity connections. 800-922-4336 The number of minutes discussing and watching a free demonstration will be worth the time spent. Count on it!


Stephen Brayton

About the Author – Stephen Brayton


Stephen L. Brayton is a Marketing Associate at Mapcon Technologies, Inc. He graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a degree in Communications. His background includes radio, hospitality, martial arts, and print media. He has authored several published books (fiction), and his short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. With his joining the Mapcon team, he ventures in a new and exciting direction with his writing and marketing. He’ll bring a unique perspective in presenting the Mapcon system to prospective companies, as well as our current valued clients.


Filed under: inventory, assets, maintenance — Stephen Brayton on February 28, 2023