As a network engineer, you’re responsible for ensuring that all network faults are resolved in order to deliver 100% uptime of the network. You have the skills and ability to get the network up and running quickly, but often what lets you down is the lack of the parts that you need. Everyone’s looking at you to fix the issue, but you can’t because the ABC Widget isn’t in stock and it’ll be 3 weeks before you can get it. And it’s all your fault! - Except you know it isn't because that's not the full story.
What are critical spare parts & why are they so important?
Spare parts management is an important area of operations for most organisations. Its primary function is to ensure that the right spares are available, when and where needed, in order to maximize equipment efficiency and uptime. When it comes to the management of critical spare parts, unsurprisingly there is a lot more risk involved. If that essential piece of equipment or system should fail, it has the potential to cause major disruption or harm to the network, it's users and those reliant on its services. Not to mention the untold value in fines that could be levied against your organisation.
4 common challenges to think about
1. Identifying critical spares
When you consider the fact that your company may be international, with hundreds of sites and tens of thousands of spare part items, it’s easy to see how some critical spares could be overlooked. Have you stopped recently to think about all the critical assets and systems you need replacement parts for?
2. Deciding the right quantity of spares to be stored
Effective spare parts management is a delicate balance between making sure that you don't run out of a critical part while at the same time keeping your inventory value as low as possible to free up cash flow for other activities. Most organisations find it difficult to achieve the right balance. There can be a fear that stocking spares may not be in line with controlling costs. On the other hand, plenty of organisations fall into the habit of holding too many spares which ties up capital and adds to operating expenditure. Do you know what the right quantity of spares is for your area of the network?
3. Over-estimating availability of spares for legacy equipment
Despite an abundance of new technology, plenty of networks still depend on legacy infrastructure. In such cases, the original equipment manufacturer may have ceased production of the necessary item, introduced new versions which may not be compatible with the old versions, or they might have even stopped trading. Do you know which aspects of your network are considered legacy, and if you ran out of spare parts for maintaining them would you know where to turn?
4. Developing a good relationship between engineering & procurement
It is vital that your procurement and engineering teams work in unison to determine which parts should be considered critical and accurately forecast their demand. While it is clear to see that having a well-stocked inventory of spares for critical assets minimises the risk of catastrophic failure, the reality is that running an effective sparing programme is often easier said than done. Fostering a good working relationship with your procurement team could prove essential.