Organizing the Maintenance Storeroom
By Peter Philips
The most time-consuming job of all.
Storeroom organization is the single most labour intensive maintenance activity we can undertake.
Depending on the size of a storeroom and the number of parts carried, it can take anywhere from three months to a year to complete. Without a clear plan, these many months can be wasted.
Not to mention the overall cost. Storage shelving and cabinets are expensive; cabinets with drawers can cost anywhere from $37,000 per unit. Shelving, plastic bins and organizers can cost several thousand dollars depending on the number needed. With that in mind, the storeroom design and layout are extremely important to control costs.
Steps to take and critical points to consider in design – as well as safety, layout, storage options, signage and labelling – are discussed below. Best practices in storeroom organization, and how to keep the room organized over the long haul, are highlighted.
First, let’s look at the advantages of having and keeping an organized storeroom. The most important two reasons are:
1. Having the parts you need when you need them; and
2. Being able to find the parts quickly.
Having the parts when you need them is simple; however, it’s not always the case. Most storerooms are in poorly organized condition; tradespeople know where the parts are, not because they are organized, but because that is where the part has always been stored. Shelves are normally a mixed bag of parts in no particular order.
If parts are unorganized and used parts are allowed on shelves, that’s asking for trouble. Typically, maintenance people say it’s a seek-and-find exercise that can take five to 30 minutes. The only used parts that should be in the storeroom are the ones labelled certified rebuilt.
Once you’re organized, a method to receive and check out parts is needed; the quantity on hand and the reorder quantity are always known. Usually maintenance departments use a CMMS for this; however, you may be surprised to know that less than 50 per cent of maintenance departments use the CMMS function. Instead, they rely on tradespeople to tell the storekeeper when parts need to be reordered.
Finally, finding parts quickly is important. Tradespeople need to get in and out of the storeroom as quickly as possible with the parts they need. There is a cost with every equipment breakdown and finding the correct parts in a short amount of time saves time, raw materials, labour and a multitude of other related costs.
Storeroom layout, signage and labelling are key to finding parts quickly. The industry standard today is under two minutes. From the time the tradesperson enters the storeroom until they have what they need is just 90 seconds.
Following are the key components of basic storeroom development.
One of the most important factors in your design is safety. We need to make sure storekeepers, employees and contractors are safe in the storeroom. For example, parts should not be stored on top of shelving units. Shelving is designed to have parts sitting inside the enclosed unit with sides and backs to keep parts in place. Often, sloped tops are installed on the top of shelves to keep people from trying to store parts on them.
Parts storage needs to be safe and ergonomic. Parts need to be secure on shelves, so they don’t roll off, and heavy parts need to be near the bottom shelves and lighter parts near the top shelves. Depending where you live in the world, you may need to consider the climate. In some cases, there are earthquakes that can topple racking that can weigh hundreds of pounds. In these areas, shelving and racking will need to be secured to the floor or loaded to bearing walls. Remember to make sure all fastening devices are engineered to withstand the forces of nature and the unintentional collisions with mobile equipment.
Assessment of available space
There isn’t always enough space for all parts, which is more reason to purge the storeroom. Obsolete and used parts need to be removed, and an overall cleanup needs to be done.
Create a layout
The design process is important. Effective layouts lead the way to determine the storage needs. Moving shelves and parts on paper is easy, so take the time to create a design.
Determine parts storage needs
There are many different options to store parts. Cabinets with drawers typically store 40 per cent more parts than open shelving, so these are ideal for small storerooms. Drawers work well with small to medium-size parts. Shelving and heavy racking come in various configurations and weight limits, so know their weight restrictions.
Signage can help locate parts quickly. Bold shelf and bin location labels make a visual impact, allowing tradespeople to easily navigate storeroom aisles.
Determine location-naming conventions; this goes hand in hand with signage. Naming conventions need to be logical and easy to follow.
In the storeroom design, an area needs to be designated to stage parts for work orders, so storekeepers can easy pick up parts for upcoming jobs.
Parts need to be kept clean and in new condition while in storage. Dust and humidity need to be factors in the design.
Storerooms need to be secure. Only authorized people should have access. Keys and swipe cards should only be assigned to people who need to have access.
Determine storeroom processes
Determine how the storeroom should operate. Receiving, putting away, checking out and cycle counts procedures need to be documented and followed. Including, how to sustain the storeroom and keep it organized. Organized storerooms can give a real sense of pride to the maintenance staff. Organized storerooms often filter down into how tradespeople maintain their personal tools and workspace.
We often get what we expect. Let’s expect the best.