Parts Inventory Management

Effective spare parts inventory management is critical for any maintenance strategy. It allows organizations to remain at peak performance, meet consumer demands, and improve productivity and asset longevity by reducing repair and maintenance time. And the key is ensuring the parts maintenance technicians need are always ready and available when needed. Let’s learn how.  

What is parts inventory management? 

Parts inventory management is the process organizations use to keep track of their parts inventory, whether to meet maintenance or consumer purchasing demands. This process should be well planned and make it easy for manufacturing and maintenance teams to quickly and easily find the necessary parts to make repairs, manufacture products, and complete their tasks.  

Why is good parts inventory management important? 

An effective parts inventory management strategy is an important part of manufacturing and maintenance management. 

Proactive maintenance activities often require parts—like cartridges, lightbulbs, belts, gears, and more—to be replaced on a regular schedule to improve asset longevity and reduce the frequency of breakdowns. Manufacturing equipment and machinery with multiple parts may require occasional replacement parts to remain functional and meet quality control standards.

A disorganized or low inventory of spare parts makes it difficult to keep up with important maintenance tasks and customer demand, impacting productivity and asset performance.  

Spare parts inventory management best practices

It’s not enough to have a storage room, a handwritten list, or even spreadsheets of available parts. Maintenance and manufacturing teams should have a well-organized plan in place to manage and utilize spare parts as needed. 

Organizations should adhere to the following best practices to create the most advantageous spare parts management system. 

Systematically identify and organize all parts

The first step in implementing any parts inventory management system is to identify and organize all parts currently in your organization’s inventory. After you’ve identified all existing parts, you can begin creating a logical organization system. 

Take a top-down approach in the storage room. Organize shelves and bins and make sure each part’s location is intuitive and has a purpose. For instance, more frequently used parts can be placed on a lower shelf near the storage room entrance, where employees can access them quickly. Also, consider separating product parts from spare parts used in maintenance activities. 

Once all parts are organized and identified, create a list (ideally digital) to keep track of inventory usage and make it easier to order parts as needed. 

Optimize and manage the Bill of Materials (BOM)

Companies use a bill of materials to itemize their spare parts, raw materials, and any other necessary components for manufacturing a product or maintaining important assets. The BOM should lay out usage instructions for each part—i.e., how frequently the part is used, how often it needs replacing, and how many of each part should be in the inventory at all times. 

It is critical that companies optimize their BOMs by ensuring all information is accurate and up to date, and then continue managing the BOM to ensure it stays that way. 

Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard operating procedures help maintain consistency when many people perform similar duties or access the same parts and assets. SOPs in parts inventory management will inform employees how to update inventory lists as parts are used, order new parts, review the BOM, organize the storage room, and more. 

These SOPs will streamline parts inventory management, making these processes second nature and contributing to operational efficiency within your organization.  

Adopt and enforce security measures

Use security measures to better track inventory levels. Consider limiting access to your spare parts inventory to essential personnel (those who need access to it), and use barcode scanning features to track the parts and their locations.

Many companies adopt a parts counter to ensure only those who need access to the parts can use them. These security measures help prevent missing parts and ensure inventory accuracy. 

Centralize parts storage

While it’s important to keep limited access to spare parts inventory, it is still wise to keep parts storage centralized within the facility for parts department employees. Replacement parts should be easily accessible and quick to find when needed. 

Adopt proper inventory control measures

Inventory control involves tracking inventory levels and ensuring spare parts are available when needed. Consider adopting a cloud-based inventory control system that allows you to monitor parts online.

Such systems typically have automated processes that allow employees to scan parts while updating inventory lists simultaneously.  

Embrace proactive maintenance strategies

Proactive maintenance strategies, like preventive maintenance, allow organizations to address issues before they arise, including managing spare parts. Proactive maintenance in inventory management might take the form of the following tasks: 

  • Ensuring critical parts are always in stock
  • Keeping parts organized 
  • Updating the BOM regularly

Use data to forecast demands and account for lead times

Usage data and a lead time reference can help organizations forecast demand for parts, both in production and for maintenance purposes. Predictive maintenance, using data sensors and monitors, offers a proactive solution to stay ahead of maintenance demands and prevent unplanned downtime. 

Establishing a comprehensive lead time reference is a necessary component of parts procurement. Companies should plan for critical parts that have longer lead times. Ensuring access to reliable local suppliers who can deliver purchase orders on demand can significantly improve inventory management strategies. 

Calculate risk

Every asset has a potential risk of unplanned downtime. For a proactive inventory management strategy, calculate the risk for each asset and stock up on parts for equipment that is more likely to fail. 

Two critical metrics can help you here: Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) and Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). Calculating these metrics can help you better anticipate when an asset will fail so maintenance teams can replace parts before a breakdown occurs. 

Use a CMMS

Maintenance and parts inventory management software is an important step that industrial and manufacturing companies should work towards implementing. That’s where a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) comes into play. 

The capabilities of this solution help organizations like yours keep up with inventory demand:

  • Automated work order management
  • Centralized access to inventory lists
  • Cloud-based inventory management
  • Data reports on parts usage
  • Notifications when parts need replaced

Stay competitive by investing in a CMMS for your organization. 

Invest in automation

Inventory management is a great area to invest in automation. Automated solutions can assist with work orders, inventory tracking, maintenance reports, ordering parts, and more. The best part is, this kind of automation doesn’t replace human jobs; it streamlines them. 

Automated solutions, often found within CMMS capabilities, make maintenance and manufacturing tasks easier, assist in avoiding overstocking, reduce risk of human error, and improve operational efficiency.

Train employees

Employ training for any new inventory management practices you implement, and engage in training regularly. It is essential that all personnel are on the same page to ensure consistency and effective implementation of any inventory management strategies. 

Start digitizing your inventory management strategy

Limble CMMS offers solutions to help companies convert their parts inventory management to a digital platform. Our solution enables automation, advanced communication, and seamless integrations with systems that you use every day. 

Contact us to learn more, or get started with our free demo today.

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