How to Create an Effective Maintenance Planning and Storeroom Partnership

Jeff Shiver, People and Processes

Without effective planning, maintenance storerooms see erratic parts usage, leading to increased safety stock levels, higher costs and frustrations. A poorly implemented computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) plays a role as well. In this article, I will discuss how to bust down silos and create a partnership where maintenance planning intersects with the storeroom.

Typical Findings

I have found that organizations from plant to plant can vary considerably in their approaches and success with maintenance planning and scheduling. Ditto for their maintenance, repair and operation (MRO) storeroom practices as well. The following listing provides examples of these two statements from both an assessment and experience perspective:

  • In organizations with the maintenance planner scheduler position, only about 10 percent of those individuals are utilized effectively.

  • The most common structure is both the planning and the scheduling are done by the same individual for a given area as opposed to splitting the roles.

  • Many storerooms carry upward of 50 percent obsolete spare parts, obsolete meaning that the equipment is no longer in use in the plant. Some carry more; all waste precious resources each year.

  • When discussing partnerships, silos exist in 45 percent of storerooms surveyed in the previous five years.

  • The planner spends an average of five hours of an eight-hour day attempting to identify and source the parts required to do planned work.

  • Planners truly plan work about 10 percent of their day

  • Nearly 65 percent of all storerooms cited poor communications between different departments that lead to excess costs and lost opportunities.

  • More than 30 percent of storerooms don’t perform cycle counting.

  • Almost 45 percent of storerooms report that no key performance indicators (KPIs) other than inventory value are utilized.

  • On average, maintenance technicians spend 22 percent of their day hunting parts to do the job.

  • The majority either have not documented and trained people on the business processes or have relegated the documentation to the black holes of a digital universe where no one knows how to access it.

Unfortunately, there are many more examples for most organizations. I bet you can reflect on some examples that you have experienced as well. This list has several touch points. It’s work to address the opportunities, akin to eating an elephant. As the cliché goes, “Rome was not built in a day.” Your organization will require the discipline to break up the issues into bite-sized pieces and, over time, address each bite. You need a roadmap or strategic plan to help you get there.

At this point, you may be asking, “Where do I start?” Given the lack of well-written procedures and processes, the different functions navigate their way leveraging tribal knowledge to get things done. This is a great area to begin your efforts.

Processes Before Tools

In most organizations, maintenance and storeroom personnel communicate via a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) system. These tools automate the processes. Ideally, the business processes are developed in advance of the implementation of the system. Note that I mentioned ideally, as this is often not the case.

Another mistake is not auditing the various processes to ensure bad habits do not become standard practice. When I find that people are deviating from the defined processes, there is often valid reason. Things may have changed for a variety of reasons, and people are simply trying to get the job done the best way possible.

At some interval, i.e., every 18 months, you should revisit the business processes to ensure continuous improvement. As mentioned, the audit processes can drive you to reconsider these processes as well. From a lean perspective, tools such as value-stream mapping can help you understand opportunities for the processes as well.

That’s the point of the business processes. How should you work? Who does what? From the tasks identified with the business processes mapping activities, you can develop a RACI (responsibility, accountability, consult and information) document. This allows you to break out the tasks into functional activities for each position or role. You can also write job descriptions from the RACI documents. You might be thinking, “That’s a lot of work.” Let me explain why it’s essential.

In one site, I watched the planner/scheduler call around and email different vendors to get pricing on an item. The individual diligently received three quotes and forwarded them to the storeroom buyer. The storeroom buyer quietly dropped the quotes in the trash once the planner left his office.

The buyer looked at me and noted, “We have handshake relationships with specific vendors, and that’s who I buy from.” As the quotes came from other sources, the planner’s time was wasted. Digging into the processes serves to eliminate these issues, in this case, the duplication of effort. Note that auditing revealed what the people were doing.

CMMS/EAM

With the processes defined, you can implement them into the CMMS. Beyond the processes, you must properly configure and populate the CMMS tables. In a CMMS, everything keys off the functional location and equipment hierarchy. The equipment numbering should stop in the parent-child relationships when the maintenance strategy ends. Deeper levels are merely parts.

When the nameplate data templates are created for the equipment, typically the nameplate data at a detailed level is not captured or entered into the asset record. Usually, the asset bill of materials (BOM) also is not collected from the equipment manufacturer manuals and project drawings or entered in the CMMS. The BOM should include stock and non-stock items.

These omissions will haunt maintenance and the storeroom for many years to come. While not everything is known at the time of CMMS implementation, there must be an ongoing process to collect and populate this data. Doing so goes a long way toward reducing the amount of time required by maintenance and storeroom personnel to hunt parts for purchasing or issuing.

Having an accurate BOM for the assets also enables the storeroom to make inventory stocking decisions. I’ll also add that a part should not exist in the storeroom inventory unless there is a “where used” listed for that item.

Communication Handshakes

In my experience, the issue of poor communication frequently rises to the surface. The communication process often is not formalized. A CMMS is the tool that you can use to communicate internally and with your partners. Within the processes, the interfaces between the different functions should have been captured and implemented. I prefer to think of linkages as communication handshakes. These handshakes include:

  • From planning to procurement (if a separate function from the storeroom) or the storeroom buyer

  • If procurement is separate, then from procurement to the storeroom, and the planners

  • From the storeroom to scheduling to indicate that a job is ready to schedule

  • For kit staging and potential delivery, from the scheduling function to the storeroom

  • From the maintenance function back to the storeroom for unused kit parts or rebuildable items

For some of these items, you can leverage the status flags inside the CMMS. These statuses show the progress of the process, specifically for parts and materials. They include awaiting materials (hold), ready to schedule, scheduled, completed and closed.

For other communication handshakes, you can rely on additional tools such as verbal communications in the scheduling or backlog review meetings and email. Ideally, a checklist for meetings should exist to ensure that you don’t drop the ball. In his book, Leading Change, John Kotter suggests that we under-communicate by a factor of 10 to 100 times.

I’ll add one more concept in the procurement journey, that of purchasing based on best value over least cost. When silos exist, maintenance may specify a specific brand or material, as its experience shows the best overall life-cycle cost. Purchasing may then deviate by buying from a different vendor or at least cost.

The purchasing function may show money was saved, but at what cost? It could be that the replacement item fails more frequently, with maintenance and production suffering downtime losses. The challenge is to ensure all groups are driving asset reliability and are headed in the same direction. Leveraging shared metrics is one method to quantify this approach.

Purchasing Outside the Storeroom Processes

Another opportunity is where items are purchased outside the storeroom buying process. In some organizations, the concept of purchasing or “P” cards exist due to the barriers the organization has placed on the processes. This use of cards or similar approaches can be problematic for the following reasons:

  • Purchases are not always tied to the individual asset or may not be associated with a particular “item master” from an inventory perspective. In most CMMS configurations, when a part is issued to an asset, the part is attached to the asset BOM. In companies that do not populate the BOMs on the CMMS implementation, this approach is used to build the BOMs over time.

  • If not tied to a work order that in turn associates the part to an asset, the true cost of maintenance cannot be understood.

  • When not associated with the inventory item, the ability to understand parts usage is lost. If parts are bought inside the system, the storeroom can determine the quantity and frequency of issues to determine stocking levels and safety stock requirements.

  • The storeroom loses the ability to “turn” the inventory, as stock items may be purchased and never pass through the storeroom. When this occurs, the capability to rotate the stock is not available. As such, items that have a defined “shelf life” cannot be rotated out and utilized in a timely manner. When this happens, inventory such as V-belts and even bearings can be aged out and remain on the shelf. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the storeroom spare parts are for emergencies only, as this can affect shelf life and create cases of excess inventory.

Bringing It All Together

As mentioned, the challenge for organizations is to be focused on achieving the organization’s objectives, where everyone is headed in the same direction. Often, these objectives are a mix of reliability and availability, lower costs, improved safety and environmental compliance, and better quality. Collectively, the maintenance and storeroom functions are dependent on mutual goals and shared objectives to achieve success within the organization.

While maintenance and the storeroom can be considered support functions, they cannot be in a subservient relationship. Maintenance and production functions should not be considered customers of the storeroom. Nor should the production function be a customer of maintenance. All must be mutual partners for total success.

Read more on maintenance planning and scheduling:

The What, Why and How of Wrench Time

Time Zones Create Maintenance Planning Lag

How a Planner and Scheduler Should Deal with an Urgent Job

 

This article was previously published in the Reliable Plant 2019 Conference Proceedings.

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About the Author

As a managing principal for People and Processes, Jeff Shiver helps organizations implement best practices for maintenance and operations. Prior ...