I have just left a small roundtable discussion in Brussels where the topic was overcoming our MRO issues.   In attendance were leaders working in industries as varied as pharmaceutical, discreet manufacturing, marine, as well as food and beverage.  So much insightful discussion, but here is what I left the table with:

Maintenance Reliability Optimization Team buildingTakeaway No. 1:  We don’t understand each other’s role within the plant well enough.

Ask a typical manager: what a failure mode is or how we manage risk in the reliability process and you might just get a blank stare.

Ask a typical maintenance manager: what a cycle count is and how to calculate economic order quantity and you will meet that blank stare’s twin brother.

There are some fundamental principals that drive our decision-making process both in procurement/stores and in maintenance/reliability.  We don’t need to be experts, but we need to understand and appreciate the fundamentals that drive our area of the business.

Don’t believe me?  Ask a random maintenance technician what the difference between the item number, OEM number, and catalog number for a single part is.

Ask a random storeroom technician what MTBF stands for or the difference between utilization and availability.  We have a lot of ground to cover.

Takeaway No. 2:  Until we talk, really talk, we will probably work towards different goals.

Ask any maintenance manager what they believe the goal of the storeroom manager is and they will say “they just want to shrink the size of inventory and reduce our costs!”  To which I would say to the storeroom manager “Thank You – job well done!”

Conversely ask any storeroom manager what the goal of the maintenance manager is and they will likely say “they just want a big fat inventory so that we have the spare parts we need to fix the equipment immediately when it breaks!”  To which I would say to the maintenance manager “Thank You – job well done!”

Now how can we work together towards a common MRO goal?

Shrink our inventory, but in a correct way.  Making sure that we get rid of the right parts (or better yet never buy them in the first place) while keeping the critical ones.  How do we build an understanding that even though that single part has a very low turn rate, it may very well be that one part that saves our bacon should that unthinkable equipment failure happen?

Takeaway No. 3:  Most of our problems are deeply seeded during the construction phase and capital expansion projects.  Build MRO Stores into your Cap EX project!

Finally in our discussion in Brussels, we came to the conclusion that most of our problems in the inventory arena are created early on and in a tremendous volume that makes it almost impossible to dig our way out of later.

If you are reading this blog you probably have been present during a construction project and you know these statements about capital explansion projects are true:

  • Everyone is focused on building the machines and making finished goods.
    • Very few are worried about the long-term future (Proactive Maintenance Plans, Training our People, Technical Drawings, Managing our Spare Parts.)
  • The spare parts purchase comes almost as an afterthought.  Emails are sent out to our vendors asking them to “send me your list of recommended spare parts right away….we are running out of time and money quickly!”  Once they regain consciousness after being overcome with financial bliss overload they send you an enormous list that has no bearing on your operating context or risk tolerance – in the end it is there list.
    • We add up the totals at the bottom of all of these lists and realize that we never budgeted for all of this!  Panic sets in and we lock someone in a room with a pen for about an hour and say cut it down to size!  Very little science and very little method applied – driven by pure panic and time pressure.
  • When the parts do in fact arrive, they all seem to have symmetrical identification numbers?   They are all 10 characters long and start with the letter “D.”  How can this be possible?   This is an SKF bearing, and this is a Dodge coupling?
    • It is because these are the vendor part numbers and not the OEM part numbers, and we will be buying our parts from the vendor for the next 30 years at a 1.5 markup because we did not manage according to our contracts.

I got chills writing that.  For those of you who have been in this business that last section probably reads like a Stephen King Horror novel.  Creepy and all too real, but this kind of thing happens all of the time, and we create such a large problem that it is nearly impossible to work our way out of it.

How to Align your MRO Strategy

The solution is to give as much attention to the future as we do to the present during capital projects.  We need people fully dedicated to making the correct decisions about our spare parts throughout the project, not just when the panic sets in.

I am very lucky to have these opportunities to spend time with experts working in this field in these collaborative settings.  Sharing ideas and knowing that none of us are in this alone, we all face the same challenges and through these opportunities to share we sometime find workable solutions.   I hope to be sitting across the table with all of you at some point in the future!










2 Responses to MRO Confusion: Hey, aren’t we on the same team?

  1. Dana Bay says:

    Excellent article – unfortunately also very true! I have recently been brought in as a team member on a Capital project startup – 6-8 months before plant startup with the goal to have the CMMS system fully functional including all spare parts and PMs in place – we’re still struggling with contractors for spare parts lists!

  2. Chuck Neely says:

    I have been on both sides, as Maintenance Manager who owned the area after project completion, and Project Manager, tasked with completion “On Time & Under Budget”. The only way to prevent these issues is to develop Project Specifications, included in the contract documents in the FRQ, requiring complete O&M manuals included parts list and recommended spares. All equipment pruchases should require one year of recommended spares with intitial purchase.
    Trying to find time and money at the end of the project is a losing proposition.

    With these specs in place your storeroom will be ready when you need them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.