Metal manufacturers keep an inventory of all the spare parts required for routine and emergency maintenance activities. These spare parts are used to optimize efficiency and availability of diverse production assets. Some companies struggle with spare part management, resulting in overstocking, under-stocking or lack of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) inventories. 

Spare part inventories vary from one facility to the other. Companies that rely on reactive maintenance strategies spend more money on repairs compared to those that utilize proactive measures. Also, the number of production assets on the shop floor dictates the type and quantity of parts a company should stock at any particular time. 

Despite establishing robust maintenance strategies, companies face challenges in optimizing and managing MRO inventories. Unnecessary spending on spare parts arises when:

  • Companies overstock or understock parts
  • Manufacturers use low-quality parts that require frequent replacement
  • Metal manufacturers poorly handle spare parts
  • Companies choose unreliable vendors

Here are a few tips for metal manufacturers to reduce and eliminate unnecessary spending on spare parts while sustaining reliable asset management.

Automate maintenance activities and inventory management

Proper management of maintenance activities significantly contributes to better spare parts management. Companies that rely on manual maintenance management methods cannot effectively track part consumption. Metal manufacturers have access to several digital technologies, pivotal for automating and managing complex maintenance activities.

There is increased utilization of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) on the manufacturing shop floor. These programs allow maintenance teams to automate routine workflows. They allow technicians to keep detailed logs of all corrective tasks performed and spare parts used and enable them to update MRO inventories automatically. 

Technicians can automatically track MRO inventories and plan accordingly for future maintenance interventions. The company uses CMMS data to identify frequently consumed spare parts and establish a threshold beyond which they must restock. The company can also compare the quality of spare parts from different vendors.

Once the company understands its spare part consumption data, they establish measures for effectively controlling MRO budgets. They can also phase out parts that depict high failure rates. It means the manufacturer can reduce their maintenance expenditures without jeopardizing production activities or compromising the quality of maintenance work.

Segregate spare parts

Metal manufacturing processes depend on several equipments. Each piece of equipment requires unique maintenance interventions and consumes different types of spare parts. These parts are categorized as:

  • Critical spare parts
  • Necessary spare parts
  • Ordinary spare parts

Critical spare parts have longer lead times, and their availability significantly affects equipment functionality and process safety. These parts must be readily available for emergency and scheduled maintenance activities. Metal manufacturers should create a comprehensive database of all the spare parts needed for daily operation. 

After identifying their spare part requirements, they should prioritize the parts and assign budgets according to their criticality. Ordinary parts, which are easy to source, can be stocked at low levels. However, critical spare parts must be available 100% of the time. Spare part prioritization allows the company to eliminate idle stock and maintain a lean inventory.

Utilize original equipment manufacturer parts

The mean time between failures depends on the quality of spare parts used to maintain manufacturing equipment. Companies can choose from original equipment manufacturer parts, generic or aftermarket parts. Usually, OEM parts are costlier than generic parts; their quality is equally superior. Cheaper spare parts are also less durable, and companies spend more money purchasing replacement parts.

Metal manufacturers can reduce expenditure on spare parts by avoiding the use of generic spare parts. OEM parts are durable and can support production activities for longer. It means the company enjoys better mean time between failures. They also restock after a long period. The company can redirect the money saved from reduced spare part acquisition to other improvement programs within the facility.

When establishing a maintenance strategy, manufacturers should choose reliable vendors. Managing MRO inventories comes with additional costs like insurance against theft and fires. Some spare parts are fragile and require care when handling or storing. Companies that opt for vendor-managed inventories can save significant sums of money by transferring inventory management-related risks to third parties. That way, companies acquire spare parts at discounted rates and complete maintenance activities in time.

Train your staff

Spare part wastage may arise from poor handling by staff. It happens when the relevant personnel store parts incorrectly or utilize the wrong tools to fix them. In some cases, technicians fail to adhere to standard operating procedures when replacing equipment parts. Such instances result in premature equipment failures and an increase in defective or unusable stock. In the long run, the company spends more money to fix minute or recurrent equipment defects.

Metal manufacturers must continually train their staff to excel in inventory management and maintenance. Those handling the procurement and distribution of spare parts should understand how to manage new purchases, tag spare parts and organize storage based on priority and acquisition dates. Maintenance staff should also receive training on equipment troubleshooting, workflow management using CMMS and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and correct use of work tools.

These training sessions ensure that employees perform the right tasks during the first trial. It eliminates the need for rework which demands additional parts. It also ensures spare parts are correctly stored. Digital skill training also enables employees in different departments to understand how specialized digital systems work. In the process, they gain advanced skills to facilitate inter-departmental collaboration. Maintenance technicians can remotely check stock levels and organize their tasks, while procurement teams can receive restocking requests and approve them in time to ensure seamless continuity of manufacturing operations.

Final Words

Eliminating unnecessary spending on spare parts impacts the profitability of metal manufacturers. The company begins by identifying loopholes and activities that cause poor spare part utilization. They then establish in-house management measures to help them control maintenance-related expenses. Companies can also increase staff accountability and process visibility by investing in relevant technological tools. Finally, the company should train its staff to instill a continuous improvement culture and drive excellence in all aspects of production.