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Inventory control: Changes in store

23 January 2018

Effective stores and spare parts inventory control and management are known challenges to British industry. Now more than ever, forward looking businesses need solutions that provide them with the means to collect, provide and interpret data for greater visibility of fixed and moveable assets. Here, MCP Consulting looks at some of the challenges and outlines solutions 

Managing a busy spare parts store has always been a challenge in terms of ensuring that the stores are secure and that all items issued or returned are accurately recorded into the management information system.

Very few stores are manned 24h; often the store is completely unmanned, relying on engineers to record what they take. A common complaint heard during MCP AMIS Assessments is 'we never have the part we need'.

MCP’s CEO, Peter Gagg, has seen the potential for substantial cost savings and enhanced efficiency in many MROM (maintenance repair and operating materials’) stores. He states that typically a company with £1m value in engineering stores, could look to save £2-3000 per annum under a Stores and Spare Parts Inventory Control and Management Programme.

MCP’s partner, Inventor-e, has developed a stores solution, which uses patented technology to provide a simple, easy-to-use means of assessing and recording parts issued.

Stores solution

Babcock International is an engineering and support services’ contractor to Royal Navy Devonport. Prior to the introduction of a SmartStores system, MRO stores operated a simple database and paper recording system, often resulting in errors in logging parts’ issued and inaccurate stock levels.

Smart Stores is an application that is downloaded to an Android device with NFC (Near Field Communication) capability. The technician requiring consumables presents his clock card to the reader at the stores’ counter. The store person places his device on the reader to capture the technician’s card’s data. 

All stock bins are NFC (RFID) tagged and these are read as the store person picks from each, resulting in accurate real-time tracking of parts issued and the resulting stock balances.

The system is linked through 3G/4G or WiFi to Sourcerer cloud-based software, providing immediate updates of stocks of any part or material held in any store across the organisation. Sourcerer will also connect with the CMMS to provide an automatic update of the asset history through the common link of work order number. 

At the Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth several stores and ordering problems needed to be resolved and these too were addressed through the implementation of the SmartStores solution. 

SmartStores allowed the PFI provider to ensure that all materials were ordered through their preferred suppliers. This ensured compliance through ordering the right equipment and materials, improving replenishment time and reducing stock-outs and downtime. 

SmartStores allows the issue of materials both from a manned stores by a stores person and, at night, by an individual with access rights to SmartStores through a unique PIN on the SmartStores app. This installation was so successful that the programme was rolled out at Southmead Hospital, Bristol.

Remote stores solution:

Results from the latest AMIS survey of maintenance indicate that on average every technician spends 30min/day walking to or waiting at the stores – a total of 120h/year, per person and that assumes the parts are in stock.

Recent developments in technology that ‘take the stores to the technician’ can lead to less waiting time, more accurate stock levels and cost savings. Lower value consumables, such as PPE and critical spares, are placed into iVend cabinets at key points around a site; this has been shown to reduce consumption some 20 to 40% through control and accountability. 

This method of managing and tracking materials eliminates the need for manual recording of parts issues, reduces queuing time and improves stock accuracy and availability – resulting in less lost time and more plant uptime.