April 03, 2023
Spare Parts And The Equipment Family
Last weekend, I visited my friend, Bob. He'd asked if I could assist with some non-emergency projects around the house.
He had his list ready but before we'd started on the first job, I knew we were in trouble. Bob's workshop/storage building was decent-sized, but he'd let the area become a mess. Piles of stuff lay in corners, cabinets cluttered, and drawers filled with miscellaneous items.
He dug through one drawer and held up what looked like an old gear belt. "I wonder what this was for." He laughed. "Oh, sure, it was for the old mower. Man, I got rid of that thing years ago."
He picked up another item and studied it for a few seconds. "I know this goes to something." He slumped into a wooden chair. "Sorry, Steve, I didn't think I'd have as much trouble finding what parts we needed."
"What's wrong?" I asked.
He gestured to indicate the entire shop. "This reminds me of work."
"You're in maintenance at that plant east of town."
"Right. Thing is, we have the same problems out there as I do here. Parts laying around that either we don't use anymore because we don't have that piece of equipment or those we think belong to one of the processors or maybe a mixer, but no one is certain."
"Doesn't sound good," I said.
He nodded. "We're constantly ordering, yet later find out we already had in stock what we just purchased."
"Sounds like you need a more organized system to track your inventory."
"We use spreadsheets," he said. "But we don't seem to have the time to keep everything updated."
I pulled up another chair to sit. "Bob, you keep going along like that, and all you'll be doing is wasting money."
"I know. Accounting has been on us lately."
"Not only at your plant but here, too," I said.
He nodded and sighed. "Here, it's not too bad. I just need to get organized."
"Let me be honest, Bob. You're in for more work than you think."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Time and a concentrated effort," I said. "I can help here if you want. You said none of the jobs were so important they couldn't wait."
"Right. What do you suggest?"
"We're going to make a list of everything you have here in the shop and how many of each item."
"Then, we're going to make a hierarchical list of what parts go with what equipment."
"You're going to have to bite the bullet, as it were, Bob. Anything that doesn't relate to any piece of equipment, is used as a tool, or you don't recognize what the item is, you throw away."
"What if I need it later?"
"Bob, you don't know what a lot of this stuff is right now. When you need something in the future, you still won't remember. But you have to start somewhere with your organization."
The process took all morning and most of the afternoon. We ended up disposing of a lot of obsolete parts and those not needed. Afterward, I had him institute a labeling system so he knew where everything was located.
During one of our breaks, he said, "I'm seeing the end of the tunnel. Shouldn't have too much more to do."
"I still don't know what to do at the plant."
"The same thing we're doing here, Bob," I said. "Except for one major change."
"Here, you can fashion a spreadsheet to accommodate what you have. Yes, you have a lot of stuff, but I'll bet not as much as at work."
"Make time to do the same type of process that we're doing here. However, you're going to input everything into a computerized maintenance management system."
"My supervisor has looked into one of those."
"You'll love it, Bob," I said. "Let me tell you how one relates to what we're doing and what you can do at work." I explained that with a CMMS, he'd have lists for equipment and inventory. "When you're making the equipment list, you can create 'families.' Basically, one piece of equipment may have other equipment related to it. Just like we're doing here with the hierarchy."
I told him that it would make preventive maintenance more efficient. "A worker checks all 'members' of the family during inspection, lubrication, or replacement of parts."
"That would be efficient."
"Inventory can be designated for specific equipment. And with each piece of equipment, you can create a bill of materials. Parts, tools, and how many you have in stock."
"I like it."
"When you create work offers, add those BOMs. It makes it so much easier for the worker to find the items."
"Less search time. More wrench time."
"Right," I said. "Here's something else. When creating your inventory lists, designate items that are critical spares. That way, the accounting department will be happier, because you're ordering only what's needed."
"Cost-saving," he said.
I explained how getting rid of obsolete parts also saves money. "You'll clear more space for what is required."
"We've cleared a lot of space here," he pointed out.
"Right. You'll see that same at work. Now, let me give you something that will really help."
"Lay it on me, Steve."
"The quality CMMS will let you give a specific location for your parts and tools. Even better than the labeling of drawers we're doing."
"By stockroom, aisle, shelf, bin. Or closet, cabinet, and drawer. Pretty much as far down as you want to go."
"Even less search time," Bob said.
"So, where do we start on using a CMMS?"
"Do like we're doing here. Start making lists. If you have most of the items on a spreadsheet, with assistance, you could have the CMMS vendor import the data into the system. Then fill in details as needed. First, plan exactly what modules and features you want for the new system."
"When we do have that information ready, what then?"
I handed him a business card.
"Mapcon Technologies," he said. "800-922-4336."
"Call them, set up a time to watch a demonstration, tell them what you need, maybe some of the stuff we've discussed."
"How about support if we have any later questions?"
"They'll find the answers," I said.
"From overseas, I suppose," he said.
"Nope, from Des Moines, Iowa. They'll even remote into your system if needed."
He stood. "Thanks, Steve. I'll talk to the supervisor about Mapcon on Monday."
"Great. You won't be disappointed." I stood. "Shall we finish those last two drawers of parts?"
"Ready when you are."