Best Practices Awards - Software/Systems

Feb. 19, 2007
Read about the winner (and runners up) in the 2007 Plant Services Best Practices Awards software/systems category.

Winner: Reduce inventory costs with automated cribs

Vending machines have long been used as a vital element in tool management. Expanding on the concept, automated crib-based systems designed specifically for MRO parts and maintenance can help substantially reduce inventory, save floor space and minimize crib labor costs while ensuring that costs are being charged for jobs where they are used.

In a traditional maintenance crib, tools and parts are dispensed from storage areas known as cribs. Sometimes the cribs are manned, which means that employees must sign for the materials they use. At other times, materials are left for employees to take as they need them: a situation that can lead to inaccurate inventories, waste and sometimes even theft.

An automated crib-based system is managed every step of the way. The entire inventory of MRO parts and tools can be stored in vertical lifts capable of storing parts as large as 2,000 lbs. “When a person needs a part, they go to the system and input their ID,” explains Tom Jamieson, president of ShelfPlus.

“Once recognized as authorized, the employee uses a touch-screen to specify the part/tool they need. The system then releases it, the employee takes it, and then gets back to work.”

By requiring the employee to log in every time they need material, a maintenance department can accurately track which parts are being used for which machines/orders. This not only ensures accurate job costing, but it generates an easily-retrievable audit trail for budgeting true costs. Detailed reports show where products are being used and who is under and over budget, and give detailed information about each item's history.

As well, “When Bill takes out a $2,500 PLC controller from the crib, we know that he took it at 7 a.m. and used it on Press 27 at 8:45 a.m.,” says Larry Harper, president of WinWare. “Automated tracking allows plants to accurately track parts on-hand, and to minimize time lost due to out-of-stocks.” Experience has shown that when parts and tools are tracked to each job and department, inventory cost reductions can be expected in the range of 15% to 20%.

“What really amazes people when they first install it is the amount of floor space saved. One CompuCRIB can store the capacity of more than 50 sections of shelving,” says Gary Ash with Regal Tooling. By using vertical space, the system decreases floor space requirements, and large, high-load-capacity shelves can safely store large parts.

One of the big issues in managing any multi-shift maintenance crib is how to staff the crib on second and third shifts. Many plants struggle with balancing the cost of manning the crib versus using an open crib and facing inaccurate inventory levels. Automated cribs solve this problem. Plant maintenance personnel have direct access to parts and supplies by password security. Each transaction is monitored and recorded with a time and date stamp, allowing control of an unmanned supply crib. A video monitoring system ensures accuracy and control of the entire system.

So how much money can plants save using automated crib systems? “Overall, we estimate that plants with some form of electronic parts management system can save 20% by adding our system,” says Cribmaster’s Larry Harper. “Those plants that are stilling using a manual system can save up to 40%.”
ShelfPlus Automated Storage Concepts,


Use an EAM system to improve performance

A cement plant expanded the scope and functionality of its CMMS system to reduce inventory and improve maintenance efficiency. Inventory has been reduced $2 million, equipment utilization is up, and preventive procedures for emission controls have been validated, which provides proof of emission control abatement and avoids significant fines.

Leverage a single hosted EAM system over multiple plants

A multi-plant paper company replaced a variety of maintenance management systems and integrated procurement with its corporate system using a hosted enterprise asset management (EAM) application. The paper company estimates savings of $500,000 over five years using the hosted application and shared-services inventory system. It also has reduced inventories and has better leverage on money spent for high-volume items.

Streamline shutdowns by integrating planning, scheduling and tracking

To keep daily maintenance and shutdowns on track, a nuclear generation facility tightly integrated its scheduling system with its planning and cost-tracking system. The integration helped reduce refueling outages from 50 days to 25 days, saving $450,000 per day in lost revenue. When an unplanned outage occurs, the plant can synchronize systems quickly and build an accurate schedule for repairs.
Impress Software,

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