Spare Parts Management

by S.E. Smith

Spare parts management is the maintenance of key spare parts at strategic locations so they will be available when needed.  Decisions about which parts to keep in stock and where to keep them require a careful evaluation of current and future needs.  In some cases it may be more cost effective to order a part when it is needed, while in others, it is necessary to keep a spare part on hand to prevent down time in the event of breakage or problems.

One important aspect of spare parts management is good inventory control.  A facility that maintains spare parts needs a well organized storage area with a detailed and accurate inventory of the parts present.  As personnel use spare parts, they must log their activities.  This will allow an inventory controller to reorder parts if necessary, or to consider evaluating a piece of equipment if it keeps failing and requiring repair services.

Personnel making decisions about which parts to keep on hand can weigh a number of factors.  One aspect of spare parts management is part availability.  If a company knows that it can always get a part within four hours, for example, because a distributor pledges to keep it in stock, there is no reason to maintain it with other spare parts.  If there are concerns about the length of time required for delivery, or unusual parts that may not be available when the company needs them, it is necessary to keep a spare.  Likewise, if downtime will be extremely expensive, the company needs a spare. Some parts may expire or acquire damage in storage, and they should not be kept in stock unless the company knows it will use them.

Customer satisfaction is a key component of spare parts management.  Companies need to determine if having a part in stock will provide benefits in the form of shorter turnarounds and less risk of downtime that would make the costs of storage, inventory controls, and so forth justifiable.  For some companies, spare parts may not make a significant difference in customer satisfaction, and it will be more cost effective to order replacement equipment when necessary.

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