Engineering spare parts inventory management is a big topic and managing a spare parts inventory involves engaging with lots of participants from different parts of the business. This means that there is plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong. And that may be one of the complications that makes this task more difficult than it superficially appears.
So, what do you think is the biggest problem in engineering spare parts management?
Some Universal Issues With Spare Parts Inventory
This is a question that I ask at the beginning of almost every workshop and training event. Given the range of personnel involved in spare parts inventory management it is perhaps no surprise that I get a wide range of responses. Here is a list from one recent session:
- Satellite stores
- Rotable spares management
- Lead time variability
- Stock outs
- Engaging operations
- Determining criticality
- Redundant stock
- Cannibalized spares
- Location mix up
That’s quite a list!
These responses could be sorted into a number of different categories, such as: structure (e.g. satellite stores), process (e.g. rotable spares management, logistics), and outcomes (e.g. stock outs, availability, clutter). There may even be other categories or ways to break down this list.
Despite these issues being quite universal, identifying them and grouping them doesn’t really help us identify the #1 problem with spare parts inventory management. To identify the #1 problem we need to look for a theme that is evident in each of these issues.
Common Themes: Uncertainty and Communication
One theme that is evident in almost all of these issues is uncertainty. For example, the typical reason that rotable spare parts management is an issue is that there is uncertainty about the spares usage requirements, the repair time, the reliability of the repaired item – sometimes all three! We could say something similar about lead time variability (uncertain by definition), determining criticality, stock outs, availability, redundant stock, and location mix ups.
Another possible theme is communication. One reason that many items on this list become an issue revolves around the communication (or lack of) that occurs. This is obvious with items such as engaging operations, managing logistics, and even cannibalization, and location mix ups.
The #1 Issue With Spare Parts Inventory Management
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