Walk into any service bay and you’re likely to find a parts inventory, essentially a reserve of spare components and consumables. But when parts inventories are haphazardly organized or managed inattentively, they provide far less value than they otherwise would due to uncertain stock quantities and inflated inventory values.
What makes a good spare parts inventory?
Well-managed parts inventories enable fleets to complete service tasks without the wait times and expedited shipping costs of ordering components when they are immediately needed. These efficiency gains and cost savings make part inventories well-worth managing for organizations of all sizes and industries.
The most-effective parts inventories are comprehensive without being excessive. They maintain stock levels that ensure needed components are always on hand but never end up with gluts of parts gathering dust and taking up valuable space. They are also well-organized (often through the use of barcodes, QR codes or NFC tags) so personnel can easily and instantly find whatever they might need.
Benefits of inventory management
While parts inventories provide fleets with a whole host of advantages, they don’t function autonomously. By putting in the time and effort into making their parts inventories the best they can be, organizations are rewarded with a litany of operational improvements. Some of the most notable benefits of spare parts management include:
- Fewer part stock outs and unnecessary purchases
- Reduced vehicle downtime
- Greater visibility over parts-related expenses
- Time savings from improved organization
- Actionable parts usage data
Parts inventory best practices
1. Develop a standard operating procedure
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) can provide fleet personnel with clear direction on what they should and should not do when interacting with your spare parts inventory. By clearly outlining your organization’s policies on everything from purchasing to storage to usage, employees are more likely to abide by the rules even when things become hectic. Fleets should consider providing print or digital copies of their SOPs to their personnel to further increase compliance.
2. Keep track of everything
Effective inventory management demands that all parts and consumables are accounted for at all times. When datasets are incomplete or out-of-date, it often becomes impossible to tell what data can be relied on and what should be disregarded. For that reason, fleets should strive to be comprehensive in their inventory records. From common parts and consumables to one-off purchases collecting dust, every item should be accounted for. While documenting every component may take some upfront effort, doing so will pay off in the long run by giving fleets complete visibility over their inventory.
Our parts inventory management spreadsheet provides an example of what fleets should be recording when keeping track of their parts inventory.
3. Train employees in inventory management
Because so many different employees and roles interact with an organization’s parts inventory, it’s vital that they all understand the importance of inventory management. When onboarding new hires, fleets should strive to educate their personnel on their SOPs, parts-related security protocols and any inventory management software they use. By providing this training, organizations can increase the likelihood that their data will remain clean and operational corners won’t be cut.
4. Account for shipping times and availability
Any parts manager will tell you that, even in today’s age of online ordering, procuring less common parts can often be difficult. Limited availability and long lead times can leave assets waiting on needed parts out of commission for weeks, and ongoing supply chain shortages have only made matters more severe.
To counteract this challenge, parts managers should account for any special circumstances that might delay procurement when evaluating their stock levels. For example, many organizations will go beyond their ordinary stock levels for particularly hard to source parts. While this approach does require a bit more upfront investment, it ensures that these organizations won’t be put in a bind when such elusive parts are needed.
5. Match parts with specific storage locations
When parts inventories are unorganized, locating a specific part can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. To remedy this, fleets should aim to be as precise as possible when designating where a part should be stored. For example, instead of merely stating what shelf a part can be found, organizations should specify the exact bin and slot where a particular SKU is placed. By doing so, personnel are able to retrieve needed parts and consumables far more easily and time-efficiently.
6. Double-check with cycle counts
Effective inventory management hinges on having accurate part counts, but most organizations don’t have the bandwidth to recount the hundreds if not thousands of items in their reserves all in one go. Fortunately, cycle counts provide an excellent way for fleets to confirm the accuracy of their inventory records without impeding their operations. A cycle count is a sequence-based auditing procedure that focuses on a subset of an organization’s inventory. By perpetually running cycle counts for different categories of parts and consumables throughout a year, fleets can double-check their records and verify that equipment maintenance procedures are being followed with minimal disruptions to their day-to-day business.
7. Set minimum stock quantities
From person to person, what quantity constitutes “running low” on a part can differ significantly. This ambiguity can lead to inconsistent procurement practices that increase the risk of stockouts. To avoid such issues, fleets should specify minimum stock levels for each of their parts based on how often they are needed. This way, as soon as a part meets or dips below its minimum stock quantity, personnel will know to replenish their supply with a new order.
8. Invest in an effective fleet maintenance management system
Depending on the size of an organization’s part inventory, keeping track of countless parts, consumables, and pending orders can be too much for paper documents or spreadsheets to handle. Thankfully, with the help of fleet maintenance software, fleets can streamline nearly every aspect of inventory management. Digitization improves data accuracy, makes monitoring stock levels easier, and provides fleets with actionable intelligence on part usage and associated expenses.
Manage your parts easily with Fleetio
Fleetio helps organizations cut through the chaotic aspects of inventory management so they can reduce their operations overhead. From purchasing to storage to usage, every phase of the part lifecycle is made easier with our quick, user-friendly and mobile software.
From within Fleetio, users can compare vendor pricing to nab the best deals without having to spend any time researching. Detailed purchase histories and the ability to track the true value of their parts inventory also help users make informed buying decisions.
Keeping accurate quantity counts is also easy with Fleetio. Users can update stock levels either in bulk or by scanning part labels with their mobile device. Fleetio even enables users to generate and print their own barcodes and QR codes to help fleets organize their parts and consumables more effectively. Additionally, as soon as a part reaches or exceeds a specified threshold, Fleetio automatically sends out an alert to help ensure that inventories are replenished in a timely manner.