Maintenance

Maintenance, Repair, and Operations: How to Drive Spares Costs Down and Reliability Up

By Curtis Bird
10 Oct 19

Maintenance Managers are being challenged to reduce inventory costs and at the same time to maintain and improve the reliability of equipment.

These two objectives may seem at odds with each other, but they don't have to be.

What Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO) Needs To Understand About Reliability

Improving machine reliability reduces the need to stock large quantities of spare parts and will help you predict your min/max inventory levels for maintenance, repair, and operations managers.

For example, a sensor gets damaged on a production line conveyor, so a technician pulls a new sensor from spares inventory and installs it on the conveyor. Problem solved, right?

Not necessarily.  A sensor should never be damaged, it should only wear out.  There has to be a reason why the sensor was damaged so the first thing a technician should do is find out the cause. This may seem obvious, but a lot of times the tech is in a hurry to restore the line and isn't able (or take the time) to identify the root cause of the issue.

In that moment, there are two possible sources of information about this issue. 

  • First, the operators may have insight into what happened (if they stuck around)  
  • And second, machine history (if you have it in a system and have access to the data while at the scene of the crime)

From The Point of View of a Maintenance, Repair, and Operations Leader

Theresa Alvarado, a Maintenance, Repair, and Operations Supervisor for a major food packaging producer recently told me that "real time visibility in the hands (mobile devices) of their mechanics is crucial so they can make better decisions based on what spare parts have been used on a piece of equipment recently."

I agree 100% with Theresa. If the tech can see whether the machine has already been called down in the recent past for the same issue, then this is a clue that there's an underlying problem that needs to be resolved. Otherwise it will just happen again, blowing through more of your spares inventory.

Real-Time Data Drives Reliability And Improves Maintenance, Repair, and Operations

Having this type of real-time history for the equipment allows you to see patterns, like a part being replaced more frequently than it used to be. This kind of information at the fingertips of the technician, WHILE they are on the line looking at the problem, may also bring to light improvement ideas to eliminate the cause of downtime. Who knows, maybe they could add a followup work order (Improvement Idea) to place a guard over the sensor, or make it non adjustable so it cannot get hit again by moving conveyor pallets. 

So you can see that having the right real-time data is critical to your overall targets.  Also, teaching the technician to ask WHY instead of just replacing the part and moving onto the next thing, will build the continuous improvement culture you need to bring your machine reliability up.

Maintenance, Repair, and Operations Needs An Easy Way to Communicate With Technicians

Theresa Alvarado also observed that when "our mechanics have an easy way to communicate what they need, we can supply them the needed parts. This helps keep our inventory more accurate because it's easy for them to request spare parts."

You can see by simply having real-time visibility of machine and spare parts consumption history, your maintenance, repair, and operations will improve through:

  1. Improved MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure)
  2. Better ideas submitted for improvement projects 
  3. Spares inventories are set to the right min/max levels (which in turn reduces costs)
  4. Happy technicians that have the tools (Data and devices) needed to succeed
  5. Satisfied "customers" in operations

The result will be both improved machine reliability and lower cost of inventory.  Everybody wins!

Ready to improve reliability and reduce spares inventory costs, find out how L2L's CloudDISPATCH is making this easy.   

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