Digital transformation affects all areas of a business, from customer experience to business models and operational processes. In the manufacturing sector especially, technologies encompassed in Industry 4.0 can solve multiple operational challenges and help manufacturing companies along their entire value chain.

An important part of that chain is spare parts management. Many key performance indicators, and the overall efficiency of production, depend on an efficient spare parts management solution.

A lack of efficiency — and innovation — in spare parts management can frequently lead to loss of money due to machine downtime. If a defective part cannot be identified and its replacement located in the inventory or otherwise ordered from a suitable supplier, the manufacturer’s overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) suffers.

New digital solution for spare parts management

A new digital end-to-end spare parts management system could be the solution for the successful management of production and operations. Such a solution would allow the user to search for a spare part in the company’s own inventory, or order it directly from the preferred supplier, quickly and efficiently, while affording a direct communication channel with maintenance staff.

Identifying the spare part needed is an essential part of the management process. An image recognition application on a mobile device can shorten the process. While this would require scanning each replacement part before stocking and therefore create an additional expense for manufacturers, it would also offer a more streamlined identification process, ultimately saving time and costs.

Once the required spare part is identified, it is necessary to either locate the part in inventory or procure it from a supplier. It is therefore essential for the spare part serial numbers and designations to be standardized, in order to match the needed correct part. This too could be handled through the digital management system.

After a spare part is delivered, a detailed user manual app addressing the removal and installation of the part in question could prove highly useful for maintenance staff, facilitating quicker part replacement and a speedier return to operations.

Integrated solution superior to piecemeal approach

Successful spare parts management holds great potential for increasing operational efficiency. Numerous isolated solutions promising short-term cost savings exist, but tackling this challenge with an integrated end-to-end solution pays higher dividends.

A fully integrated spare parts management solution can make life easier for employees and increase efficiency by guiding them smoothly through complicated maintenance tasks. In addition, manual effort in data and inventory management is reduced by the aggregation and standardization of spare parts data in a central system, which is in turn coordinated with the systems of suppliers.

Increasing data quality also minimizes the risk of machine downtime, and the continuous management of data and inventory enables efficient procurement and warehousing. Significant time and cost savings can likewise be achieved by identifying inventory redundancy and optimizing time-critical procurement processes.