Why you need to create a standard process for spare parts

Mike Wroblewski
Tags: lean manufacturing, total productive maintenance, kaizen

What do you see in this picture? Besides a lack of any real 5-S, 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. 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 a good TPM program, we should develop standard processes that establish the method to determine what parts to 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 manufacturer, 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 six months.

As a guideline, critical parts can be identified as “recent chronic problem areas” and “difficult to obtain within 24 to 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 cost of the part 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 for each piece of equipment and clearly identify the parts in the 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 warranty or the manufacturer no longer supports this model in either service or parts.

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

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently a senior operations consultant for Gemba Consulting North America LLC. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics


About the Author

Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently a senior operations consultant for Gemba Consulting North America LLC. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?”...