As a manufacturer, your warranty and customer support promises are only as good as your spare parts management. Using words like “reliable service”, “lifetime parts support”, “made to last” and “quality commitment” all require the support of an efficient spare parts management process. Whether your manufacturing large metal cutting machines or farm equipment how your product performs in the field directly relates back to your company brand perception. Further, how you respond to a customer when the product is no performing can make all the difference. The ability for customers to get the right spare part quickly and easily will win you a true “customer for life”.
But managing a spare parts inventory isn’t always easy. As new models are introduced, spare parts inventory grows and you can’t toss any of the current inventory because those models are still in the field. Before you know it you’ve got thousands and thousands of SKU (stock keeping units) to manage in a small warehouse in the corner of the facility. Good spare parts management takes efficient space management, organization, and reporting.
Consolidate Spare Parts Inventory with Automation
Spare parts inventory is complicated. You have to inventory some parts that you very rarely (sometimes never) need, but you still have to have them “just in case.” You also have little control over SKU growth; parts are added as new models and products are introduced into the market. This leaves you often in the dark, with inventory piling up.
Spare parts inventory usually starts out in a back corner on basic rack and shelving, but as it grows it can become a nightmare to manage. To make good on brand promises around reliability, service and commitment, manufacturers are taking spare parts management seriously and investing in technology to support a more efficient spare parts management process. Automated storage and retrieval systems – specifically Vertical Lift Modules, Vertical Carousel Modules – can consolidate spare parts inventory into 85% less floor space than traditional shelving.
Improve Your Spare Parts Inventory Control
ASRS solutions also help to organize spare parts inventory, and organization is the key to your success. It’s one thing to have a part on hand, but it can be a whole other challenge to then find the part when you need it. Parts stored within an ASRS can be retrieved and delivered directly to an operator with a simple push of a button – making spare parts quick and easy to find.
In addition to eliminating the time spent walking to the location, ASRS units are equipped with light directed picking technology to direct the operator to the exact location of the stored item. So there is no additional wasted time spent searching for the item.
Most ASRS systems come with basic inventory management system built in, allowing you to track basic locations and quantities. For more advanced picking strategies (such as LIFO or FIFO) an inventory management software can be easily integrated.
Use Reporting to Count, Purge & Re-slot SKUs
An efficient spare parts inventory management process should always include an ongoing count, purge and re-slot process. To keep inventory accurate and prevent parts shortages it’s important to cycle count your inventory. Depending on your inventory this process can happen monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Some organizations do it continuously – counting a small number of SKUs even daily.
It’s also important to review your SKU usage regularly. This allows you to identify inactive SKUs which might be susceptible to rusting, corrosion, or expiration after a certain time period. It also allows you to consider purging inventory that is no longer needed. On the flip side it allows you to identify the fast moving inventory and re-slot it to a different storage location. Slotting inventory can speed picking and ensure that the more frequently picked SKUs are in the quickest and easiest storage locations to access.