November 06, 2023
Dos And Don'ts Of Maintenance - II
Last week began a series of discussions on the dos and don'ts of maintenance starting with Assets, both equipment and non-equipment. This week the topic shifts to Inventory.
Assets need parts/tools/supplies for maintenance. This area is where many homeowners and maintenance departments have problems. As seen by the following list of dos, inventory encompasses a lot of factors. It's not just buying a part to use or store for later. Inventory management entails a lot but doesn't have to be complicated. Diligence and determination will maintain organization. Also, as stated last week, much of this comes down to common sense. This is not to deride or criticize anyone or any maintenance department. In many cases, those little things are ignored or their importance minimized, perhaps not on purpose.
The following dos all have the benefit of efficiency in maintenance jobs—again, like last week, whether at home or in the workplace. Another benefit is cost reduction. This one is easy to see, but when you combine the points, the effect on expenses is more apparent. And of course, the aforementioned benefit of efficiency will hopefully mean increased productivity.
1. Do know what you have.
This was the first listed last week because it's the obvious starting point. Do have a list of inventory (unless you have a fantastic memory) with enough description to understand each item's purpose at a glance. Include in the description any relevant spec because often you'll have multiples of the same or similar types of items.
Belt>belt, fan, eight inch. Belt>belt>compressor>six inch.
Part of this do point is how the two examples listed show how you should have a standardized naming system. In the example, I put Belt first as an item type header or keyword. The description also started with belt. The next part has where the belt is used followed by its size.
Your naming system will be different but as you can see, consistency helps when you're searching an inventory list for a specific part. If you're using a CMMS—computerized maintenance management system (and you should be at work)—searching by keyword or description is faster because all of the belts will be grouped.
2. Do have inventory classification.
An industry standard is A, B, and C. However, the definitions can be used for home inventory.
A—Low-value items that are used more or most often.
B—Medium-value items where usage fluctuates.
C—High-value items that don't get used often.
There are variances and variables in each of these, but this gives you a general feel for the classifications. As an example, I've seen a farmer have a case of lubricant for his machinery. These are (relatively) low value, but he uses them more often than the spare motor can be repaired and switched out for another.
Three other dos that could be put in this point. Do have a notation of inventory that can be repaired, that are critical spares, and that can be alternate parts.
3. Do know the quantities.
Another obvious point and a biggie when we're talking extra costs. I'll explain further in the don'ts section, but for this point, in essence, you do have to know how much you have in stock to do the job(s).
4. Do know how many are in a package.
It's a sub-point to quantity. This will affect how many "packages" are purchased each time. Going back to the farmer, buying a case of lubricant may be fine but a hundred may be too many.
5. Do the math on jobs.
Another quantity sub-point. The farmer buys a case but needs a case and a half for each job. Once again, it affects purchases and is a biggie on cost tracking.
6. Do stockroom organization.
Are your stockrooms/cabinets/drawers a mess? Imagine that mess multiplied by X in a company stockroom. Parts put anywhere, piled up, no order...need I say more?
It's not difficult to see how an unorganized stockroom affects productivity. Just think of the few seconds or minutes lost at home when you're trying to find a tool or a part. It may be negligible but again, multiply that time by X at a company when a maintenance tech must search for inventory even if he knows what to look for.
A CMMS should help you with stockroom layout. Examples: Aisle>Shelf>Bin; Room>Cabinet>Drawer
7. Do track inventory issues and returns.
What's going out and coming back? This connects to quantity (five widgets left the stockroom but only three were used) and stockroom organization (did a worker return the right items to the right locations?).
Again, a CMMS should have an area for issue/return. It acts as a 'monitor' for the stockroom along with the human oversight.
8. Do assign inventory to assets/work orders.
For efficiency and clearer job instruction. This also helps make sure they grab exactly the right size, type of material (maybe it has to be stainless steel), etc.
9. Do a physical count.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. The CMMS is great, but you have humans using inventory. Mistakes happen, a technician forgets to note a part taken or returned, etc. The CMMS is software and knows only what's input.
However, that system also assists with generating count sheets and reconciling totals.
Your garage or workshop may not require too much time for a physical count. The large plant's stockroom will. Do the count in small stages. Many large companies count one section each month, so the entire stockroom gets counted by the end of the year, then start over again.
10. Do have a way for auto-reorder.
Again, the CMMS should have this feature, to initiate a purchase order when a minimum quantity threshold is reached.
11. Do have kitted parts.
The same inventory for the same regular jobs should be "bundled." So a worker grabs one 'kit' rather than a half dozen items each time.
I thought about what you shouldn't do in regard to inventory but came up with only two points. I could have taken a few of the dos and turned them into awkward don'ts. "Don't ever not know how many items are in a package." I didn't do this because then I'd get into a whole discussion with my critique group about proper writing, and that wouldn't be fun.
What it came down to was simple logic. The two don'ts are: Don't overstock and don't have a stockout. The dos from above should alleviate these situations.
Overstock – Do you have too many items in that C-Class? Fifty widgets where three are used every five months. Now you have a lot of stock taking up space. Not cost-effective.
Stockout – Never a good thing. An urgent job is now delayed. An emergency purchase is required. Even routine preventive maintenance is hampered if stock is low or out.
While it's clear how well the Dos list affects cost and productivity, it's equally easy to see the opposite effect they don't have (you know, if you do them instead of not doing them).
Inventory management needs proper oversight to stay organized. As mentioned several times in this post, a CMMS is so beneficial. It will do all of the points on the list, which really means help maintenance personnel do them more efficiently.
Visit the testimonials page at Mapcon to see how companies use a powerful and comprehensive CMMS for inventory. Schedule a free demonstration.
Do it today!
Next week: More Dos and Don'ts for maintenance.