Four best practices in spare parts management

A comprehensive spare parts management policy should include identifying critical motors, comparing carry costs to downtime, and maintaining spare parts on hand.

By Nicole Dyess, Motors@Work October 27, 2017

With today’s emphasis on lean and just-in-time manufacturing, the objective of any spare parts management program is to ensure timely availability of spares in the event of failure while minimizing inventory. On-site spares and vendors with quick turnaround times help to minimize your downtime — and your spares inventory.

Maintaining spare motors racks up inventory costs quickly; however, a well-managed spare motors inventory can improve your bottom-line. Here are some of the best practices that you can follow to improve management of your spare motors inventory:

1. Identify critical motors.

Get to know your motor inventory: identify and classify your motors based on their criticality. While different philosophies use different terms for each level, I like the four-tiered scale below that defines an asset’s criticality by influence on production or service delivery.

Ensure the availability of spares for vital motors by either stocking them in-house or keeping on-site on consignment with your preferred vendor. For motors not stocked on-site, check availability of spares quarterly (scarce/difficult/available analysis). Many motor manufacturers produce motors in batches, meaning the available stock for certain size and speed motors varies. Critical and essential spare shortages can lead to higher prices — or worse, an operational shutdown.

Your spares management program should align with your operational objectives and drivers, and apply standard inventory management strategies, like automatic replenishment for any spares that you decide to stock, timely replacement when inventory levels fall below the re-order threshold.

2. Compare carrying costs to downtime.

Maintaining a spare motors inventory can be expensive. Costs include purchasing, storage, material handling, security, labor, and inventory carrying costs such as obsolescence, depreciation, insurance and taxes. Tying up your funds in spare parts also carries an opportunity cost versus potential other capital investments. But downtime is often even more expensive. Comparing inventory costs with spare part availability and equipment downtime cost will help you to strike a balance that maximizes your return on any spares investment.

3. Maintain your spares.

Spare motors require care and monitoring. Inactive motors are susceptible to rusting, corrosion, eccentricities, and bearing issues. Protect your motors from corrosion, re-lubricate bearings periodically, rotate shafts monthly, power spares on (no-load) annually (be sure to take appropriate safety precautions around rotating equipment), and remove dust build-up regularly to ensure your spare motors work when you need them.

4. Hire a spare parts management firm.

Increasingly, firms use outside vendors to manage their spare parts inventory. In addition to reducing (or even eliminating) inventory carrying costs, spares management firms enable you to share the risks associated with obsolescence, shrinkage, overstocking, and depreciation. These supply-chain-management vendors also often bring industry-specific expertise on failure rates of similar equipment and benefit from economies of scale on the price of spares they stock.

Nicole (Kaufman) Dyess has nearly 20 years’ experience optimizing the performance of motor-driven systems. She began her career at Advanced Energy testing thousands of motors, consulting with motor & appliance manufacturers on their designs, and documenting motor management best practices for the US Department of Energy. Subsequently, she managed statewide energy efficiency programs at the NC Department of Commerce and facilitated sustainability and process improvement projects for the City of Raleigh. Now, as Motors@Work’s director of client solutions, Nicole focuses on client implementations and user experience while providing technical support to the sales and development teams. Nicole holds master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and public administration. This article originally appeared on Motors@Work, a CFE Media content partner.

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