MRO Magazine

CMMS Software Solutions: How to Find Repair Parts Fast

We've come a long way with our CMMS software implementation guide over the past five issues and you'll probably agree it has been a lot of work to cover. However, you're about to tackle the largest ta...

November 1, 2003 | By Peter Phillips

We’ve come a long way with our CMMS software implementation guide over the past five issues and you’ll probably agree it has been a lot of work to cover. However, you’re about to tackle the largest task of all: Organizing the spare parts storeroom.

Unquestionably, the biggest problem I see at the work sites I visit is the condition of the storeroom. If you have a highly organized, clean, well-labelled storeroom, then take a bow. You know what it took to get it there and to sustain it.

If you have a dirty, cluttered, unorganized stores with many old and obsolete parts, then you’re looking at a major overhaul.

Start by taking the time to go through your inventory. There will be parts for equipment that you took out of service years ago, as well as used parts that shouldn’t have been kept in the first place. Throw out what you don’t want and document what you have left over.


This is easier said than done for two main reasons:

1. Finding the time to sort through the rubble: Unless you commit some resources to this, it will never be done. It’s best if the people who do this are knowledgeable about the equipment and spare parts, however I have seen it done by co-op students or temporary employees. The drawback of using students is they usually don’t have any familiarity with the items, so they end up waiting to ask the maintenance personnel what the part fits. However I have seen some terrific-looking storerooms completed by first- and second-year engineering students.

2. No one wants to throw out anything out: Most of us are pack rats and save parts from old equipment that is no longer on site. You’ll have parts that still have a little life left in them that are kept on hand, just in case. You’ve probably continued to put these old parts on shelves and in boxes over the years. Most of the time you couldn’t find these parts if you wanted to, and have usually forgotten what you even saved them for when you find them in the stockroom.

So what to do?

If these old parts do not fit any equipment you currently have, then get rid of them. If you have three new parts on the shelf and two used ones, get rid of the used ones, if you can.

If you don’t know and can’t find out what it is or where it goes, get rid of it also.

Believe me you’ll get a lot of resistance to throwing things out from the maintenance crew. Many of them will be upset, but keep going. The old stuff has to go.

Another reason to clean up is if there is no room for new parts, or not enough room for the existing stock, or it’s located all over the plant.

Sufficient room to house your parts is important so that the storage area isn’t cluttered. Trying to fit too many parts into a small space will take a lot more time to maintain. Eventually you will revert to what you had before. People will get frustrated trying to find what they need.

Some facilities have several storeroom areas. Again, these may be hard to maintain. Instead of one storeroom, now you have two or more to keep clean and tidy. They are usually in remote areas of the plant and because they’re not in regular view, get messy in a hurry.

I’ve heard several people say that a central storeroom is best. However, there are always exceptions. Depending on the size of the plant, there may be justification for satellite storage areas.

Storeroom layout

A simple layout of the storeroom can make finding a part a breeze. Aisles should be clearly marked. The same goes for shelves and bins. Labels should be clearly visible. Part labels can be on the front of the shelves and bins or applied directly to the parts.

Everyone, not just the parts guy, should be able to easily find parts. Test your layout by having maintenance people look for a part. Set a goal of how long it should take to find it. Finding parts quickly means faster repair times.

Now that you have your storeroom set up and parts entered into the software, how will your CMMS help you?

Your CMMS inventory records should have a good description of every part, its location and the current quantity on hand. The important issue is how to get parts checked out of the program so that inventory information is accurate. There are a couple ways of doing this:

1. You can use checkout sheets in the storeroom where staff can record the items they remove. Later, someone can collect the sheets to record this information into the software.

2. You can install a computer terminal in the storeroom and train staff to check the parts out of the CMMS directly. Most programs are customizable, so make this process as simple as possible by using customized, easy-to-understand forms on the computer screen.

Both methods have the drawback that people may not bother to write the parts on the sheet or check them out using the software. Unless someone is taking inventory on a regular basis, eventually you’ll run out of parts. Murphy’s Law says that will happen at the worst time.

The best way to encourage people to record what they take is by training them in how the CMMS works and explaining the importance of proper record keeping. Help staff to understand that if parts are not checked out using the software, then at some point they simply won’t be available.

All CMMS programs reorder items based on the stock levels and reorder points. Most maintenance staff hate to run out of parts. I have found that taking the time to help them understand how the system works usually does the trick.

Short of installing high-end electronic entry systems at the storeroom access door, education is the most economical way of ensuring people sign things out.

Having too many or not enough, or running out of parts, is expensive. Use your CMMS inventory system to its fullest potential. It takes a lot of effort and resources to get an efficient stores area up and running. However, the return on investment is substantial.

Finding parts quickly means faster repair times, which translates into more production time on equipment. It also does wonders for the image of your maintenance department and the morale of maintenance staff.

Next issue, I’ll discuss how to start developing preventive maintenance routines.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company, can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at


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