I’ve spent over 40 years in the facilities trade, with experience ranging from general building construction and facilities maintenance to construction equipment operator. In the last 17 years, I’ve focused on Supply Chain Management in the Facilities Management arena. And for any multi-site facilities leader, the inefficiencies in the parts and materials supply chain and buying process results in technicians spending at least a quarter of their time searching or shopping for parts. And it’s a huge chunk of their budget as well.
Unfortunately, due to the rapid graying of the maintenance workforce, this productivity drain will only increase. That’s why more and more multi-site FM professionals are moving to a single spare parts management platform to reduce cost and waste. There are 5 key value drivers in leveraging a digital supply chain and a more efficient parts management program:
In the typical ordering process for a store or field technician, the tech would identify the parts they need, relying on memory, and then head to the local supply house, if they could not locate the item there, then start calling or searching the internet, to find a source for the item. Then they’d purchase it on an account or with a credit card(P-Card). This process meant additional lost repair time spent on-line at suppliers, on the phone or driving from location to location to find the needed parts, often not able to get them all locally which pushed job completion off until parts arrived anyway.
In an Integrated Parts Management program, the field techs use a single mobile app to order many of the common items they need. They use this same app to place non-catalog items as well. They can upload photos of the part, equipment name plates, etc for any items they need, all while standing right in front of the equipment on the job site. They also have access to bill of materials, quick reference guides, and manuals on the equipment they’re service right in the app. This saves a tremendous amount of time in going back to the truck or shop to locate a manual.
Supplier Management and Parts Standardization
The typical FM organization manages the various suppliers for maintenance and repair spare parts using a combination of credit accounts and P-Cards to purchase the parts they need from multiple catalogs or supplier sites to complete their work orders. While these methods seem to work to get the part the technician needs, there is no visibility from the part to the work order. So, this data is managed separately. More of the tech’s time is needed to reconcile these purchases manually, in order to submit their expense reports.
By moving to a single platform, the technicians increase their tool time by putting all their purchases in one location. Technicians can utilize the supplier call-in function to place orders for pick up at their preferred local supply branches, as well as punch out from the app to the larger catalogs of participating suppliers, drawing all their shopping carts into one central platform. Most organizations utilize a CMMS to manage their service work orders. An integrated parts management solution integrates with that system to pass information via APIs, to connect their purchases to the work order, which provides benefits in productivity downstream as well.
Technical Parts Support
While many companies offer Engineering Services to their customers, often a licensed Engineer may not be needed where a highly technical individual is able to address many of the issues needed from the parts perspective.
SDI’s Integrated Parts Management solution offers a Technical Parts Support Team that is comprised of part-sourcing experts with trade experience and technical backgrounds, allowing for some understanding of the equipment and systems associated with the facilities maintenance trades. This team communicates with the field, speaking their “language” and using their experience to help technicians with challenges and they may be experiencing in locating parts for their work orders.
The Parts Team also helps to act as a translator to explain to non-technical groups how or why additional items may be needed, what an item is, or how it works. The Parts Team works to collect as much technical information (operator manuals, maintenance manuals, parts manuals, service bulletins, reference guide, spec sheets, training & service instructional videos, etc.) from various sources and place this information in a searchable access point available at the Tech’s finger tips directly from the mobile app.
Knowing when the part is going to arrive is a game-changer when it comes to optimizing technician time. And the ability to track shipments varies from supplier to supplier. Often the technicians, who have multiple open work orders at multiple facilities, have little to no visibility on which items have arrived at which site, without actually making a trip to the site to verify. Generally, the technician is traveling from site to site with the hopes that the needed items have arrived, so the job can be completed. This means an increase in drive time and a decrease in tool time, everyday.
SDI’s IPM program places that order tracking right in the mobile app so technicians can better plan their work schedules and reduce the travel time.
Integrated Inventory Management
Most FM Techs have materials (stock) on their trucks, but rarely is this material inventoried. And while the technician likely knows what is in the truck, nobody else has visibility into what’s available in each truck. Unless they have a local shop or company warehouse / stockroom they regularly visit, the truck stock is all they have to work with, and truck space (and weight) is often very limited. This leaves technicians dependent on local suppliers, dealing with longer than normal lead times, for many repair items that are used less frequently, unique to equipment, large or bulky.
Truck Stock will also very from technician to technician, so it is hard for a business to estimate the inventory dollars tied up in truck stock. Tech’s also struggle with keep up with truck stock replenishment.
While the single parts platform won’t make the truck larger or carry more inventory, it will reduce part shopping time, improve tracking on material deliveries, and with implementation of the truck stock program, introducing standardization and visibility to each truck. This will allow for sharing within regional areas (or team), keeping the company abreast of where their maintenance parts are tied up as well as providing an estimated date that the equipment should be repaired.