A great deal of research and theory has been developed for inventory management in lean manufacturing environments. Extensive programs have been developed in order to deliver parts to the assembly line “Just in Time”. However, maintenance and repair operations have not seen the same gains in efficiencies as efforts to apply lean practices to maintenance inventories have increased costs resultant from machine downtime. A successful MRO bin management program is reliant upon a collaborative effort by shop supervisors and bin management vendors; if they work together, they can realize great efficiencies and savings. The following six points are critical for a successful bin management program.
The most common downfall of any bin management effort is the failure of the bin manager to simply be present. No amount of hard work or product knowledge can overcome the lack of a physical presence at the shop. For a program to be successful, there must be a realistic schedule agreed upon by both shop supervisors and the bin management vendors, and that schedule must be kept.
Shop managers often look to change their bin management vendors for MRO parts when their storerooms become disorganized. Unfortunately, changing to a vendor who promises to keep it clean does not tackle the root of the problem and shops will quickly return to a state of disarray. Changing the vendor won’t change the shop cleanliness, because shop hygiene requires a cooperative effort from both maintenance mechanics and the bin fill vendors. It is therefore shop supervisors’ responsibility to set the expectations for mutual respect between vendors and employees. This shared respect will drive behaviors required to achieve a clean shop.
Cleanliness can make it easier to see parts, but it takes organization to be able to find the right part. Often, vendors determine bin locations by simply organizing them in part number order. While this is simple for writing up replacement orders, it may cause confusion for maintenance mechanics who urgently search for parts during production downtime. The key to successful bin organization is a shared understanding of how parts should be organized. It must be intuitive for both mechanics and vendors, but if both parties cannot agree on a common solution, mechanics’ ease of use takes precedence.
Bin management systems started with a basic clipboard and pencil. Technology today allows us to scan bar codes and transmit orders wirelessly into our operating systems. Vending machines and scales with weights can automatically create their own replenishment lists in today’s technology-driven stockroom. However, all of these new systems are built on the same premise as the simple clipboard. Adding technology does not improve the success of the program unless we bring the usage data and product knowledge to bear. A bin management program is a living system, which requires constant adjustment and review. Vendors and shop supervisors must work together to be sure that inventory stays fresh and dead stock doesn’t accumulate. Maintenance inventory is too critical an asset to allow it to be locked up in unnecessary parts.
5. Providing Solutions
In order for a bin management program to truly succeed, vendors must be able to provide value beyond simply replenishing parts. It is critical that they be able to provide product and application knowledge for the parts they provide. They have the opportunity to understand MRO usage and recognize solutions that can limit downtime, extend life or reduce cost. Shop supervisors are essentially sharing access to their plants in exchange for the product and solution expertise that bin managers can provide.
6. Transaction Process
After lack of attendance, the most common threat to a successful bin management program is the failure to maintain a clean transaction process. Once again, both vendors and shop supervisors must put fort a collaborative effort. Vendors must be sure that part numbers and pricing match the shop supervisors’ purchase orders. Packing slips and proof of delivery must be handled carefully, so that lost paperwork does not undermine an efficient program. Shop supervisors must be certain to receive bin management orders when they are delivered to keep from delaying transactions. Successful bin management programs reduce cost in inventory and downtime, but an inability to keep a clean transaction process carries a hidden cost in wasted accounts receivable and accounts payable efforts.
If shop supervisors and bin managers can focus on these six points, their programs will succeed and they will be able to build lasting and valuable relationships.
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