Friday, August 27, 2010

Spare Parts

What do you see in this picture? Beside a lack of any real 5S, what thoughts come to your kaizen mind about the motors?

Perhaps you may think about what are the motors used for? Do we really need them? Are they critical? How fast can we get one if we needed it? What is our process to decide what parts to keep in stock? Or how much do they cost?

One of the elements of a solid Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) program that does not get much attention is our spare parts. By simply taking good care of our machines and equipment does not entirely eliminate the chance of them breaking down. When that happens, the fire drill begins.

Go to any Maintenance Department in any company in the country and you find many things in common like a storage area for supplies and parts. Since this is typically viewed as a non-production area, we tend to ignore it.

With a kaizen approach, we need to improve all areas of our company including spare parts. With good TPM program, we should develop standard processes that establish the method to what parts we keep on hand.

First, a team based approach is best used to identify the critical parts that we may need. We can use the recommended spare parts list by the manufacture but only as a starting point. Many times this list of parts can include more parts than we should keep. Look at the machine history but also take care not to include a part just because we got burned back in 1982 when it broke down for 6 months.

As a guideline, critical parts can be identified as recent chronic problem areas and difficult to obtain within 24-48 hours. Cost should NOT be a factor. If the chance of a problem is high and we are left waiting days or weeks for the parts to come in, it’s better to keep these parts on hand no matter what the part cost is. Compare it to lost business, customer disappointments, etc to factor in the decision. Discuss this with your team and company management to determine what makes the best sense in your situation.

Once we have a plan, set up a spare parts list by each pieces of equipment and clearly identify them in our stock area.

As all things in lean, this is not a static process, it’s dynamic. The spare parts list needs to be reviewed on a regular basis, perhaps once a year. Machines fall out of warrantee or the manufacturer not long supports this model in either service or parts.

Without a standard process for our spare parts, we may find parts on the shelves like the picture above.

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