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Identifying and Managing Critical Spares

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Keeping your manufacturing equipment running is crucial, but equipment failures happen. Having the right spare parts on hand can get production back up quickly, while waiting for a needed part can lead to costly downtime. With supply chain disruptions still causing long lead times in 2023, effective critical spares management is more important than ever.

What are Critical Spares?

Critical spares are replacement parts that are absolutely needed to repair equipment and avoid extended downtime. They are parts that:

  • Have a high failure rate or limited lifespan
  • Are needed for critical equipment where downtime is very costly
  • Have long lead times to obtain
  • Cannot be easily substituted with another part

Some common examples of critical spares are bearings, motors, circuit boards, servos, lasers, valves, and seals. Anything prone to wear, corrosion, or fatigue may be a critical spare. Identifying these high-risk parts takes an in-depth analysis of equipment reliability data.

Best Practices for Managing Critical Spares

With supply chain issues persisting, companies need robust critical spares programs. Here are some best practices:

  • Analyze equipment failure data to identify parts most likely to fail. Look at MTBF, failure modes, and maintenance records.
  • Work closely with vendors to understand lead times and supply constraints for identified critical parts. Factor in geographic risks.
  • Build safety stock for high-risk parts with long lead times. Consider buffering 12-18 months of projected demand.
  • Implement inventory control systems to track usage and trigger reorders for spares. Set minimum stock levels.
  • Store spare parts properly to prevent damage or obsolescence. Follow vendors’ guidelines.
  • Review spare parts inventory regularly for changes in equipment or suppliers. Adjust stock levels.
  • Consider repairing or refurbishing used parts to conserve stock.
  • Pool spares cooperatively with other companies to share costs and inventory risk.

New technologies like predictive maintenance and 3D printing are also transforming spares management. Sensor data and analytics can forecast failures before they happen. Onsite 3D printing can produce simple plastic and metal parts on demand.

The Costs of Inadequate Spares Management

Running lean on spare parts stock can backfire. A 2022 survey found that 78% of manufacturers had experienced a shutdown or line stoppage due to lack of spares. The costs of downtime can be eye-watering:

  • Lost production capacity, which under-absorbs fixed costs
  • Lost revenue and profits from reduced output
  • Penalties and logistics costs for late customer deliveries
  • Increased labor costs for expedited repairs
  • Higher expediting fees for emergency part orders
  • Secondary equipment damage from failures

SDI helps companies forecast part performance to optimize the performances of their equipment, personnel, and strategic assets. Working with client companies’ operations, maintenance, safety, supply chain, and other managers, SDI quantifies the possibility and consequences of equipment failure in terms of order backlog, reduced productivity, employee safety, lost goodwill, etc. We then determine the best way to mitigate these risks. By leveraging a vast supplier network and forged-in-steel industry relationships, SDI can customize procurement of critical spare parts, establishing reliable supply at the lowest cost. These solutions include processes to guarantee critical spare parts are either always in stock or deliverable within an acceptable time frame, negotiating with suppliers to achieve volume discounts, creating streamlined but comprehensive maintenance routines to maximize component life, and more

Good critical spares management delivers big savings by avoiding these costs. With global supply chain woes set to continue in 2023, industrial firms should reevaluate their spares programs. Investing in the right spare parts inventory and modern strategies will minimize disruptive equipment failures and keep operations running smoothly. That’s where SDI comes in! Let us help you identify critical parts and guarantee they are in stock the next time you need them.

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