We all know what defines critical spares, right? Those parts or components that would cause significant downtime or interruption of operations should they fail. Often, critical spares are stored at remote sites and available based on a prioritization schedule. This post looks at critical spares that neither in the storeroom nor an off-site facility.
If you want help defining critical spares, see Wally Wilson’s excellent article on How do you determine which repair parts are critical?
When we talk with storeroom managers and buyers, a common comment is ‘we can’t define a critical spares program’. One buyer they had a critical spares program consisting of assets located mostly in other facilities. He works for a large wood products manufacturer. When he needs a critical spare that is not in locally held inventory, a search of the company’s ERP system begins. If the needed part isn’t less than a day away, the phone calls and emails start. This means contacting other plants to locate the critical spare, hoping the inventory is accurate. On one occasion, we drove a critical spare to a rendezvous point in the middle of the night so it would be available the next morning. We’re talking about extreme circumstances here, but they do point up one problem with critical spares.
Critical spares are often not where they should be
Sometimes critical spares are not where the system says they should be, or unit counts are simply inaccurate. Spares are removed from the storeroom and records are not adjusted. As a result additional spares are ordered because the spares in question are not in inventory. This results in excess inventory until, one day, the new management team insists on a full accounting of all spares. Even though a complete inventory will show inventory in sub-stocks, sometimes these sub-stocks are held in secret, called ‘squirrel stocks’ by those in the know. This practice flourishes despite best practices to identify and track all critical spares.
Maintenance personnel, fearing that a critical spare will not be in stock when needed, create these secret stocks close to their work areas. Our field service teams confirm this behavior is fairly common. In some facilities spares don’t even find their way into the storeroom before being carted away to a secret sub-stock.
Free issue storerooms without a manager present challenges
One of the challenges is that in many facilities there is not a storeroom manager, or other site manager present. Many parts are free-issue items destined to be consumed soon after they are received. As it relates to VMI items, like those shown here, this is acceptable behavior. They are expense items, not inventory and are treated accordingly in the accounting system. But, as it relates to critical spares, a free-wheeling approach is simply out of synch with best practices.
Best practices indicate that inventory items should be at 95% plus accuracy level. And if the vast majority of inventory is considered critical, how can you achieve this level of accuracy when critical spares are unaccounted for? It’s an unpopular idea with maintenance and operations, but insisting on accountability of critical spares inventory is essential to a reliable critical spares program. It’s also vital critical spares are inventoried and tracked in an asset-based approach to storeroom management.The alternative is a growing stock of secret spares and inventory dollars tied up unaccounted inventory.
If you would benefit from a storeroom review, we can help. Contact us at ISTeam@EECO-net.com, or call 800.993.3326. To get started, see the link on this page for a self-serve evaluation.