Material management is a technique concerned with planning, organizing and control of flow of materials, from their initial purchase to destination. The mission of any materials management program is to keep the right parts in the right quantity, at the right location and time, with the right level of quality at the lowest possible cost.
What role does the storeroom play in achieving this mission?
The purpose of the storeroom is to house materials in a safe, clean, secure, and organized environment. With that in mind, there are three primary aspects that make up the materials management process:
- Acquisition – Procurement (right parts, right quantity, right quality, lowest total cost)
- Control – Stores
- Movement – Logistics (right place, right time)
The requisition of materials is generally triggered by a planner who determines specific material needs such as items, quantities and required dates for each work order. The acquisition of this material is accomplished through procurement, which is responsible for ordering exactly what the customer wants from an approved vendor. Vendors provide parts that meet prescribed specifications. After the required parts are received, the store’s organization assumes responsibility for the proper handling and control of those items in the warehouse area until they’re needed in the field.
At that point, logistics arranges the movement of the material to its final destination when it’s needed. In most organizations, material movement is done by storeroom personnel, which means that Logistics and Stores are the same team. Stores are embedded in the middle of the material flow, so they can have an effect on every one of the elements of the mission.
Potential Pitfalls in the Storeroom
There are a few unsuspected difficulties when managing a storeroom. These pitfalls include having the wrong parts in the wrong quantity, parts in the wrong place, delivered at the wrong time, and/or in unacceptable condition. Costs can increase significantly as well.
To avoid these issues and successfully set up and maintain a storeroom, all team members need to fulfill their roles and execute their responsibilities consistently and accurately.
Critical Success Factors for a Successful Storeroom
Infrastructure – The condition of the storeroom facility itself is a fundamental challenge. A storeroom in poor condition risks exposure to the elements which can degrade the quality of the materials.
Location – Having too much distance between the storeroom and where the materials are needed can cause delays and creates an opportunity for materials to get lost or damaged in transit.
Accessibility – Based on assessments, as many as half of all maintenance departments have an “open” storeroom plan, where the “honor system” is in effect. Employees need to be educated on the importance of adequate controls and procedures in order to avoid unnecessary delays and costs. Controls need to be put in place to ensure that the materials are properly handled, effectively managed, and accurately checked out.
Physical layout – The ideal storeroom should be set up for optimal material flow. The factors of an ideal set up include the ability to move material quickly between areas as well as the ability to move material effectively within each individual area.
Standardization – It is very important for items and storeroom set up to be standardized. From the inception of the project, decide: will items be organized left to right or right to left? Top to bottom or bottom to top? Are labels placed above or below? Is this set up the same throughout the storeroom? Is it the same between storerooms?
Visual Management – Providing large visible signage to mark different sections will save time and make the process more efficient. Once a worker has looked up which row and aisle a part is located from the VIN system, markers such as signs and arrows will help guide them to it in the actual storeroom. Labeled maps or diagrams of the floorplan can also be useful designating areas, such as:
- Incoming Inspection / Quarantined Material
- Returns to Suppliers
- Returns to Inventory
- Repairable Spares
Space Utilization – Before determining if a storeroom has enough room, consider whether the space is being used effectively. Doing this can be simplified by throwing out trash, getting rid of clutter, segregating non-stock items, eliminating obsolete materials and reviewing min/max levels. Maximum inventory is calculated by adding Reorder Points (ROP) with Reorder Quantity. Target utilization is 80%.
Handling Equipment – Make sure all handling equipment and supplies are properly maintained. Common struggles that can slow down the operation and frustrate storeroom employees include broken pallets, chronically weak batteries on electric forklifts, parts with wobbly wheels and hydraulic pallet jacks with leaky seals. Large material handling equipment should have Preventive Maintenance programs that are just as effective as the programs for the production assets.
Continuous Improvement Plan
- Perform a Storeroom Assessment to evaluate current processes and practices.
- Decide on an Action Plan to identify the continuous improvement and opportunities that can be performed within your organization and storeroom.
- Describe the specific activities that need to be completed, how important they are, how long they’ll take, how much it will cost, and who the key stakeholders are.
- Strategy + Execution = Success
eMaint CMMS and Storeroom Success
An effective computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can also help facilitate a successful storeroom. eMaint’s parts management software simplifies tracking parts across storerooms worldwide and helps improve inventory accuracy. Within a CMMS, organizations are also enabled to set up reorder points to track critical parts, or auto-generate purchase orders when on-hand amount falls below the specified amount.
Organizations can also eliminate data entry and duplicate data with barcoding. Use barcodes and QR codes to scan and view part records instantly on a tablet or mobile device, and use Parts kitting to issue or return multiple parts with a single item number. For example, eMaint client Silver Bay Seafoods set up a comprehensive inventory management program that tracks transactions and costs for over 10,000 parts and generates barcode labels, allowing parts to be issued and received with a barcode scanner.