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The Maintenance Stores Dilemma

22nd April 2016 | Gwynne Richards

Gwynne Richards discusses important dilemmas for maintenance stores.

The Maintenance Stores Dilemma

The storage of maintenance parts is a significant challenge for managers. These parts are kept just in case rather than just in time.

Until 3D printing becomes the norm and parts can be produced on demand within a very short timescale, these maintenance stores facilities are here to stay.

The challenges faced by these maintenance stores managers include the number of stock lines to be stored, the total number of items per line and the time frame for storage. 

These stores also have to deal with product returns which are not always packaged securely, and having been out in the field may well leak oil, and if not accompanied by the original paperwork may well be difficult to recognise. This can slow up the process of receipt as stores staff seek out experienced engineers to decide what the part is, whether it is serviceable or not and whether it should be retained.

Other issues include engineers entering the stores out of hours and removing parts for an urgent repair and forgetting to record the movement; resulting in poor stock management and potential issues further down the line.

As equipment models change the requirement to store, more product lines becomes inevitable as agreements require companies to support these models for a number of years.

The types of machinery to be supported determines the size and value of the parts to be stored. 

These can range from small low value items such as nuts, bolts and fasteners to expensive items such as circuit boards and componentry. Within the automotive industry, engines and gearboxes need to be held, whilst in market sectors such as drilling these include large drill bits, pumps and long lengths of cable.

The introduction of new equipment on a regular basis results in more hi-tech equipment being produced and therefore more sophisticated parts being required.

Companies need to decide how these items are to be stored and whether to invest in storage systems such as carousels for the smaller and sometimes valuable items and cantilever racking for long lengths of product.

Maintenance stores tend to be at the end of the queue when it comes to investment and have to manage with what they have. This can lead to warehouse managers using floor space and inappropriate storage systems including filing cabinets, light duty shelving and drive-in racking for heavy equipment.

These Stores’ operations tend to operate with stock control systems rather than Warehouse Management Systems even though some of them will process as many orders per day as many other stock holding warehouses. This can result in inefficient operations with poor labour productivity. Some Stores’ operations will pick items in order of how they are recorded on the requisition list as opposed to their location in the Stores. Secondly ABC analyses are rarely carried out with stock being held in the most accessible and convenient location as opposed to storing the most frequently requested item closest to the despatch area.

Slotting can also be introduced into a Stores’ area especially when service and repair kits are ordered. The items required for service and repair should be kept close to each other thus reducing the travel distance with the warehouse. Having bolts in one area and nuts in another is typical.

These maintenance stores’ operations also tend to hold on to returned parts waiting for decisions as to whether to refurbish them or dispose of them. These decisions can take a significant period of time, especially when there is value attached to these parts and the finance department are reluctant to write them off even when there are enough in stock, both new and refurbished to last them a lifetime!

Until these Maintenance Stores’ facilities are given the same equipment and systems as many warehouse operations, they will continue to underperform and remain cost centres as opposed to strategic service centres.

These issues and many others are outlined in a case study produced by Gwynne Richards on maintenance stores.

This and many other supply chain related case studies can be accessed at www.koganpage.com/CSC


Gwynne Richards has over thirty years’ experience in distribution and warehouse management. He began his career with British Road Services which later became part of DHL. He also worked for Dawsonrentals, Lane Group plc and Nedlloyd Districenters.

He founded his own logistics consultancy and training company in 2003. He is a Practicing Associate of the Academy of Experts.

Clients in the past have included Bridgestone and Pirelli, Unipart, Mizuno, the NHS, ShÜco and Silverfish.

Gwynne produces and runs Warehouse Management and Transport courses on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Singapore Institute of Management, The University of Westminster, The University of Warwick where he is a module tutor for the Masters’ course in Supply Chain and various worldwide training companies.

His book on Warehouse Management, now into its second edition, has sold over 8,000 copies worldwide. A second book on Logistics and supply chain tools was published in October 2013.

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