Supply Chain Management

Reliability rescue

Joel Leonard says better inventory management frees up training funds.

By Joel Leonard, contributing editor

Recently, Mike Eisenbise, SMRP past president, offered the simplest way to describe equipment lifecycle. When equipment is newly acquired, the buyers have a true yearning to have the equipment because they’re in the lust phase. Then, as the equipment ages, it begins to rust. And finally when it no longer works or dies, it becomes dust. So there’s no more need to explain with statistics or bathtub charts; that analogy makes it simple enough for even the newest employee to grasp. And it also can help convince management that true profitability needs a reliability rescue if we’re going to have a resurrection of U.S. manufacturing and avoid a double-dip recession. We need to explain to top leaders the need to invest in condition monitoring systems and have an adequate, efficient MRO inventory level.

I recently interviewed Robert Holmes, marketing director at CribMaster (www.cribmaster.com), to uncover more insight on what more can be done to fight the maintenance crisis and provide a reliability rescue by extending equipment life.

JL: From your industry exposure, do you believe that we’re in fact having a maintenance crisis?

True profitability needs a reliability rescue if we’re going to have a resurrection of U.S. manufacturing and avoid a double-dip recession.

RH: We see a different side of things. Because we’re a technology company that makes solutions to help with maintenance and indirect material processes, we’re usually highly engaged with forward-thinking clients who know the importance of continuous improvement and lean processes. With this said, we work with the maintenance elite, the superstars of the industry. The interest for our technology has been and continues to be of great interest to many maintenance and shop-floor professionals with a very small percentage of those people willing to implement a system. I guess this might be a sign of a crisis not having the leadership skill to sell projects internally or to control budgets.

JL: How can strong inventory management and control systems help mitigate the maintenance crisis?

RH: Inventory management and tool control is critical to having smooth maintenance operations. Having spare parts on hand without carrying too much can have a positive effect on working capital, which means more dollars to invest in training, employees and needed systems. Good inventory management is critical to the operation of any business. From developing lean process flow and reducing soft costs to freeing up working capital and reducing direct inventory cost, inventory management is critical to a business that will continue to operate efficiently in high and low times.

JL: Why is inventory control important to cost control?

RH: Inventory control is critical to controlling costs because it frees up capital for business growth.

JL: How does spare parts vending help operations?

RH: Having spare parts on hand greatly reduces downtime and improves maintenance productivity. Issuing spare parts in a dispensing device at the point of use or in proximity to where the work is done drastically reduces the walk-and-wait time to and from the tool crib or where the spare parts typically are stored. Vending also ensures that the right part is available at the right time, regardless of the shift or the time of day. Items can be made readily available 24/7 in a controlled but user-friendly environment. This allows maintenance professionals to focus on the work at hand rather than doing unproductive activities.

JL: What else can be done to fight the maintenance crisis?

RH: More can be done by building an awareness on the need to control maintenance costs through an effective inventory management system. This can be done simply by writing informative articles such as this one. Maintenance professionals and decision-makers are now more educated on the benefits of vending. In fact, many maintenance facilities are requesting a vending solution to manage inventory. It’s no longer a novelty. The key from this point forward is to help others understand there’s more to an inventory management system than just vending. RFID technology combined with robust software has made tremendous strides in tracking tools, spare parts and other mobile assets. Dispensing devices with highly sensitive scales allow maintenance facilities to track bench stock or bulk inventory accurately one piece or one fistful at a time. These types of technologies allow the maintenance professional to get the products needed in the shortest amount of time possible while the software tracks the all the critical information.

Email Contributing Editor Joel Leonard at joel@skilltv.net.