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Management And Training

Is An Organized Parts Storeroom Worth The Investment?

January 11, 2012
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Imagine a successful company whose maintenance, repair and operation (MRO) spare parts storeroom resembles a five-year-old boy''s bedroom — cars, trucks, books, airplanes and puzzles scattered everywhere, clothes lying on the floor around the room, the toy box upended and a small table piled high with crayons, coloring books, hardened playdough and spilled, dried finger paints.

While this may seem like an extreme analogy, it is an all too common occurrence found in the storerooms of the manufacturing and facilities management sectors of business: Storerooms are allowed to look and run like this little child''s bedroom.

Overlooked is the fact that storerooms are of crucial importance to plant profitability and must be efficiently organized and well-managed.

But, historically, the spare parts storeroom has been treated as the corporation''s red-headed stepchild.

Despite the talent, experience and dedication of storeroom personnel, maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) parts storage areas often survive only from the crumbs that fall under the financial table.

Storerooms are allocated money for replacement of parts and supplies, but no funding is available to clean it up, put it in order, improve operational efficiency and install more efficient and functional storage fixtures.

Competition from both Europe and Asia, and the introduction of Kaizen, 6-Sigma, 5-S and the lean manufacturing concept, changes all that.

Unscheduled machine downtime has been replaced with computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) aided maintenance planning, predictive and preventive maintenance scheduling and manufacturing-friendly maintenance work.

These advances compel storerooms to be more organized, more efficient and more automated to keep up with the requirements and demands of a proactive maintenance department.

Simply put, the right parts need to be available in the right quantity and at the right time.

MRO parts storerooms are still overlooked as a source for overall corporate savings.

Time is money, and unscheduled production machinery downtime is big money.

In the case of the food and beverage industries, the big money can go down the drain — literally.

The bottom line of any company is painfully and negatively affected by something as simple as not being able to rapidly locate an inexpensive, over-the-counter part. Disorganization and inefficiency increase lost profits.

If the part has to be flown in from anywhere — notably overseas — then overnight shipping becomes a very expensive option, especially with today''s oil prices.

One company had to charter a jet to fly to Europe to pick up two boxes of parts essential to keep their production line running.

Their profit margin shrank by $55,000.

Money spent on organization in MRO storerooms is an investment against lost profit.

An MRO parts storeroom should operate like a store: Clean, organized, labeled, well-stocked and well-run.

There is a place for everything, everything is in its place and the owner controls the cash flow.

The storeroom presents a clean, professional-looking appearance generating confidence through good customer service for its customers.

Thus, storerooms become profit centers by generating savings in the following ways:

Organization

  • Eliminates the need for costly expansion or the construction of a new storage facility
  • Maximizes the effective use of existing space through efficient design and setup
  • Replaces old, homemade or barely-functional storage fixtures with modern, efficient units that increase parts storage density
  • Sorts parts generically, by specific machine or by process, expediting their location and retrieval
  • Allows for prompt part location resulting in shorter machine downtime
  • Creates accurate physical inventories that eliminate overstock, out-of-stock or is-it-stocked problems
  • Frees up storage fixtures and storage areas for other uses
  • Enhances part and tool security and reduces storeroom traffic.
Consolidation
  • Combines like parts and tools and stores them together in one place
  • Minimizes on-hand stock
  • Reduces overall inventory dollar value
  • Makes the setup of minimum and reorder quantities more accurate
  • Storage areas and storage fixtures are freed up for other uses
  • Eliminates part "stashes" and satellite storage areas
  • Reuses existing storage fixtures if they are functional and in good repair.
Automation
  • Bar coding technology makes part and tool management rapid and more accurate
  • Bar coding records all aspects of every transaction accurately
  • Bar coding eliminates manual data entry — and mistakes — for parts checkout, receipt and reorder
  • Bar coding eliminates inefficient and time-wasting paper-and-pencil parts checkout
  • Allows physical inventories and cycle counts to be conducted more efficiently because the parts are bar code labeled
  • Provides a variety of useful reports
  • The storeroom clerk continues to manage stores effectively on a day-to-day basis.
Most companies cannot afford a chartered jet to deliver emergency parts they need to keep their production line running.

But, every company can invest in the setup and implementation of an efficient, organized, well-stocked and well-run parts storeroom.

To attain this goal, three major hurdles need to be overcome:

  1. Recognition that a serious, costly problem exists
  2. Seek solutions to resolve and eliminate that problem
  3. Commit to and implement those solutions.
A well-organized storeroom provides the maintenance department the support it needs to keep production machinery and facilities support equipment in the best possible operating condition.

The spare parts required are available, are located quickly and are reordered in a timely manner.

Repairs are made quickly and efficiently, and the company remains profitable, competitive and successful in the global economy.

So, where are you: Picking your way through the minefield of a little boy''s bedroom; or navigating the aisles of a clean, neat, lean and reliable storeroom?


Frank Murphy is the founder and president of Inventory Management Services Inc. (IMS) of Greenville, South Carolina. IMS changes reactive storeroom practices with proactive standards. IMS'' "hands on/hands-dirty" consulting implements MRO storeroom design, setup, relocation, consolidation and organization, physical inventory and bar code labeling of MRO spare parts storerooms and maintenance tool cribs. Web-based, bar coded, inventory and asset tracking software is available for a complete implementation. Visit www.PracticalOrganization.com for more information.

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