Understanding the Role of a Maintenance Storeroom

Don Armstrong, Veleda Services

In any organization, there are many departments that must work closely with other departments. In manufacturing, maintenance and operations must work as partners. Another vital partnership is maintenance and the maintenance stores. To achieve a high level of maintenance effectiveness, nothing is more important than getting the right parts to maintenance people at the right time.

While the maintenance/stores partnership is critical, it is difficult to develop and maintain because it requires discipline and determination by both parties. This article will explain the responsibilities of both maintenance and stores for success.

Many maintenance stores operations are ineffective. The focus often seems to be on security by keeping the building locked, not allowing maintenance people to look for parts and generally preventing losses. Sometimes the stores’ goals are completely out of sync with maintenance’s goals.

For example, stores may focus on reducing inventory without understanding the consequences. I’ve seen instances where stores reports to purchasing, which in turn reports to a corporate procurement organization. A structure that puts stores so organizationally remote from its customer will always create service problems.

To develop a picture of effective maintenance stores, it is important to start with solid principles. For example, stores should have complete business processes, standards, systems, facilities and staff to control and protect maintenance materials from the time they enter the premises until they are used on a maintenance job. This should include stocked materials, “zero-stock” catalog materials, direct purchases and special parts that may be stored outside the stores building.

Stores should also make it as easy as possible for maintenance people to find, select, obtain and, where necessary, return the materials they need while maintaining a high level of security at any time of the day (or night in a continuous operation).

In addition, materials should be stored and handled so they will always be in a condition that will meet reliability goals when they leave stores’ control.

Following these principles, the internal supply chain for maintenance materials would look like this:

The implications of such a process are significant and require both maintenance and stores to work closely together for it to be completely successful. For example, if stores is to stage materials for maintenance work, maintenance must advise stores of all the material that is needed (a product of planning) and tell stores when it will be used (a product of scheduling).

Without proper planning and scheduling, staging material will be very difficult and certainly wasteful. This requirement means that the effectiveness of stores is extremely dependent on the discipline with which operations and maintenance can schedule work, and requires that scheduled work be planned in detail.

Stores can support maintenance by providing the following services:

  • A robust and simple way for maintenance people at all levels to find materials, including good naming standards, an integrated “stock and non-stock” catalog, and help from the stores staff when needed, all supported by a highly functional computer system

  • A well-managed “free issue” system for small parts

  • A suitable facility adequately staffed to securely store, protect, control, retrieve, stage and deliver all stocked items and all direct purchased items

  • A secure location and facilities for staging “work order kits” for at least two weeks of non-shutdown maintenance work, if a weekly work scheduling process is in use

  • A suitable facility to securely store, protect, control, retrieve and deliver all materials for planned shutdowns

  • A simple process to accept returned items and ensure that they are fit for restocking

  • A process to manage repairable and serialized spare parts

  • Recording of the location and movement of parts stored outside the stores building, with input from maintenance and operations people who are responsible for these parts

  • Sound inventory-management systems to immediately restock items that have reached their re-order point, replacing items that have reached their shelf life and managing other basic inventory functions

  • Maintenance of an integrated catalog of stocked and appropriate non-stock items, based on a naming standard that uses the same terminology as employed by maintenance

  • Investigating stock-outs and advising maintenance if they appear to be caused by equipment problems (e.g., increased usage) or by using maintenance stock for projects

  • Publishing appropriate key performance indicators that monitor stores’ performance

Because stores has the business processes to control the movement of materials both from and back to stores, it makes good sense to include all objects that are used by maintenance. This could include special tools and maintenance manuals, but it is important that the process be simple, such as using a “tool tag” system and not a computer system.

If the maintenance statement of purpose is to provide operating partners with a physical plant which, if operated correctly, will continue to meet all goals including production, quality, safety and the environment at the lowest possible total cost over the long term, the stores statement of purpose could be to provide maintenance partners with all the materials they need at the right time, at the right place and in a condition to support reliability goals, all at the lowest possible cost over the long term.

Finally, to support maintenance and stores in managing materials and tools, managers must ensure that the operation has a high level of security and that any instances of theft of company property are dealt with in a manner that will strongly discourage any future theft.

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About the Author

Don Armstrong is the president of Veleda Services Ltd., which provides consulting and training services to maintenance departments in industrial plants and i...