Get your stuff together: A road map for a better storeroom (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this two-part series, learn how to build a more-effective storeroom.

By John Ross, CMRP, Marshall Institute

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“Even if you know where you’re going, you’re still lost if you don’t know where you are,” my colleague Earl Porter told me years ago. Earl and I had been assessing the preventive maintenance program at a client’s site. Those words rang true then, and they still carry a lot of weight in our reliability work today.

It’s been a few years since Earl and I worked on that assignment, but I’ve never looked at another client the same way since. Think about it: We usually have a sense of where we want to be, but the direction to get there is unknown unless we know from where we’re starting.

Two years ago, we sat down to create a road map: a visual representation of what makes up a world-class storeroom. The genesis of this need was the simple fact that companies can’t build a clear route to a world-class storeroom without establishing where they are presently.

The road map to a world-class storeroom looks like most road maps; it has sections and coordinates. The first task is to become effective in your storeroom practices and processes; the next is to become efficient. Without this basic tenet, companies run the risk of becoming very efficient at being ineffective: not an envious detour.

There are no shortcuts here; you need to become effective at a foundational level and then drive toward intermediate and advanced levels.

When I’m determining where a storeroom is on the map, I don’t proceed until I’m certain everything behind me is solid. This prevents me from making a U-turn, or in continuous-improvement terms, from “backsliding.”

This month and next, we’ll examine each sector on the road map to a world-class storeroom. Here, in part 1, we’ll focus on the journey to effectiveness. Next month, we’ll explore storeroom efficiency in more detail.

The first grid is the intersection of Foundational-Effective.

The processes and practices within these coordinates are:

  • Defined space
  • Physical organization
  • Security
  • New item setup
  • Ordering parts
  • Receiving
  • Issuing

An effective storeroom must have a defined space. This is a location that clearly and unambiguously denotes the areas considered the storeroom.

The storeroom manages the items within its control. This must be made clear: Only items in direct support of assets currently in the plant will be kept in the storeroom. If any other entity wants to hold onto something “just in case,” it will not be stored in the storeroom.

Also foundational to storeroom success: There must be a defined physical organization, and someone must be identified as being in charge. Remember, too, that one can’t expect full-time results with part-time help.

With regard to security, there is a very simple proverb that governs this tenet of creating an effective storeroom: A storeroom’s inventory accuracy will never (and I mean NEVER) be greater than its ability to protect what it already stocks. Securing the storeroom and its million-dollar inventory is paramount to having solid inventory accuracy.

The maintenance organization has the primary responsibility for telling the storeroom what items to stock and in what quantity. It is up to the storeroom to use its tools and formulas to maintain that stock. For items to be installed as stocked items, the request and the part specifications need to be formally submitted in writing.

A new-item setup form will be submitted by the requestor and will include, as a minimum, the following information:

  • Nomenclature
  • Where the item will be used
  • Manufacturer part number
  • Supplier part number
  • Suggested supplier information
  • Unit of issue
  • Physical size
  • Suggested quantity to stock (min/max or otherwise)
  • Cost
  • Suggested reorder point
  • Suggested reorder quantity

For the nomenclature, I suggest you consider this format or something similar to it:

Format – Noun: Attribute, specifications, further detail
Example – Bushing: Dodge Taper-Locking, 2517, 2 3/16

Most industries utilize some sort of materials requirement planning (MRP) for the automatic process of ordering parts. Commonly, when the inventory is established for a certain item, the reorder point and the reorder quantity are determined.

When stock levels match or go below the reorder point, then a purchase requisition is automatically generated for the reorder quantity. This is ideal. I still believe in some human interaction, and I recommend that the stores supervisor reviews the listing of computer-generated orders to confirm what is being ordered.

There are other instances when a part is not stocked and needs to be ordered or where an item is stocked but at 0/0 levels and has to be ordered when required. Ordering items that are not stocked items must be done with attention to the specifications of the part to facilitate the receipt of the correct item.

When receiving parts from various suppliers and vendors, it’s critical to confirm that there are no obvious signs of damage, that the delivery is accompanied by a bill of lading or other shipping document, and that the content of the package matches the information on the shipping documents. Next, the shipment must be reconciled with the purchase order. Proper reconciliation will ensure that what was ordered was what was received and paid for.

There is one guiding principle when issuing parts from the storeroom: Stocked parts will be issued only against a valid work order. Under no circumstances will a part be issued without accompanying a work order. Many personnel will say that for emergency work, we should do the work first and the paperwork later. But there are no emergencies that cannot allow an extra two minutes to create a work order to track labor, material, processes, and other circumstances. A highly performing storeroom should and will have the ability to generate a work order in the time of great need.

Our road map will lead us forward to the next grid, which involves the principles that make our storeroom Intermediate-Effective.

This intersection involves:

  • Return to stock
  • Return to supplier
  • ABC classification
  • Cycle counting
  • Emergency procurement
  • Inventory accuracy
  • Inventory service level

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