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Parts inventory tips for your shop

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your fleet shop’s parts inventory system.

Managing Editor of Fleet Equipment Magazine

In addition to our main story on parts inventory, Eight Common Parts Inventory Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, here are a few more tips for getting the most out of your parts inventory system.

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Sizing up your shop

One of the questions FE asked our sources is whether there are differences based on shop size—will larger shops have to adopt different processes than smaller ones?

“We see shops operating their parts inventory two different ways,” answers Renaldo Adler, industry principal for asset maintenance for Trimble Transportation. “Some have a closed parts room where mechanics need to request parts. The other is an open parts room where the mechanic knows what he needs and takes the parts off the shelf. Larger shops tend to have a closed inventory parts room, which helps with tracking and replenishing inventory. Technicians can request the parts through TMT Fleet Maintenance or TMT Service Center, the parts are pulled and available when they walk up, eliminating downtime.

“Smaller shops tend to use an open system because it eliminates the need for a dedicated parts staff person,” he goes on. “For open systems, we put barcode labels on all the parts so mechanics can easily charge the parts to the work order by scanning them at a kiosk before leaving the parts room.”

“Larger workshops are more likely to have administrative assistance with parts ordering and management, whereas smaller sites may rely on the technicians or supervisors to manage these processes,” says Richard Clark, business analyst for Chevin Fleet Solutions. “Being able to tailor system user profiles is essential to reflect the overlap in responsibilities. FleetWave enables modules, tables and even fields to be controlled to suit different roles and responsibilities within the same organization across a variety of sites.”

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The future of parts inventory management systems

“In the future, using predictive analytics to identify what’s wrong with trucks days before they break down will help to manage inventory and reduce downtime even more,” Trimble’s Adler predicts. “Shops will be able to plan around possible failures and what types of parts they’re going to need each month. The new way of the future will be to pre-order inventory based on the probability of failure or notification there’s something wrong with the truck in advance so parts can be ordered before the truck arrives, reducing downtime.

“Trimble Transportation is working on developing predictive analytics to identify part life and failure before a breakdown,” he adds. “In the next few years as more smart trucks hit the roads and more data becomes available, predictive analytics will be more widely available, as data is the key to providing accurate predictions.”

Hear it from a shop

“In today’s fast-paced marketplace, our customers expect us to have it on the shelf when they need it, or be able to respond quickly to fill their needs,” says Phil Howard, director of parts for Blaine Brothers and North American Trailer, which has ten service locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. 

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Blaine Brothers uses Karmak Fusion as its parts inventory software. “Many fleets have cut back in their daily on-hand stock levels, which requires us to have deep coverage,” Howard says. “Karmak allows us to track usage so we can be proactive to have the right parts and quantity on the shelf.”

“With the emphasis on data and analytics these days, I think that is a benefit to being on Karmak Fusion,” he adds. “We are able to pull reports by exporting to Excel and dissecting data. One example of that would be tracking slow and non-moving parts to take advantage of stock returns with suppliers so we aren’t sitting on old, obsolete stock. Uploading price files and part characteristics used for e-commerce are some other new enhancements.”

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