Effective Parts Management

Using technology for better planning and control, and lowering costs

Systems can track parts history to identify faulty parts and perform comparative analyses between different manufacturers in order to purchase the highest quality and most cost-effective parts, he says. This enables better control of vendor spending and pricing.

"Parts purchasing for planned stock replenishment ensures keeping inventory at optimal levels," says AutoPower Corporation's Mallory. "For multi-shop fleets, being able to ‘see' the available stock in the other shops can often prevent purchasing the out-of-stock item, but rather transfer the part.

"With shop quotes maintained in the computer, out-of-stock conditions can be avoided when testing the quote's stock requirements against the inventory levels. Then, parts purchases, transfers or even special orders can be completed in advance of the vehicle arriving for service. Smart software can easily keep track of these stocking demands on a daily basis and have alerts broadcast when stocking conditions warrant the attention of the buyer."

Moreover, there are systems that begin tracking warranty once an item is installed on a unit, says TMW Systems' Walters. Inventory levels can be monitored and stock quantities are adjusted based upon usage, history, seasonality and procurement time. Inventory and purchasing data can flow seamlessly though automated interfaces to a company's business accounting system, improving data accuracy and reducing staffing requirements.

Beyond that, there are computerized systems that can manage cores and disposals and associated costs, and control defects, exchanges and returns, Ashburn of Prophesy Transportation Solutions adds. They can also and keep track of multiple cost levels and automatically use the correct part based on the FIFO (first in, first out) or LIFO (last in, first out) methods, as well as automatically assign part markups by customer or globally.


Proficient inventory management provides an organized work environment, PMXpert Software's Wruck says. "Knowing what parts are in stock, when to reorder, which assets are going to be serviced in the upcoming weeks and having access to historical costs allows shops to run smoothly with effective time management, reducing parts costs and wasted labor."

When parts are available when needed, technicians can complete repair work in an efficient manner and return the asset to service, adds Walters of TMW Systems. At the same time, inventory controls maintain the correct stock levels to accomplish this task while preventing and eliminating over stock situations. The result is improved technician efficiency and streamlined work bay productivity.

"Having the correct part available when needed eliminates excessive downtime, Arsenault Associates' Arsenault agrees. "It is not unusual to see a $100,000 vehicle out of service for a $10 part.

"Without an effective parts inventory process, preferably software, the fleet maintenance department will have to spend an inordinate amount of unproductive time managing their parts," he goes on. "Parts, tires, batteries and even fluids all need to be managed carefully, and a manual system is just unproductive, and in many cases unsustainable, due to the manpower it takes to manage it correctly.

"The other thing we've seen is that because inventory management is time consuming, some under-staffed fleets will have a tendency to lean too heavily on their part vendors for the management of their inventory. This is like letting the fox watch over the hen house."

Adds AutoPower Corporation's Mallory: "Having the stock ready when the vehicle rolls into the service bay, limits downtime, eliminates costly emergency parts orders and keeps technicians working. Since most fleet shops are a cost center, cost reduction continues to be management's ongoing mantra for impacting bottom line results" and inventory management systems can help fleets achieve this."


Greater benefit and cost saving can be gotten with an inventory management system that is part, of or used in combination with, a fleet or maintenance management system, Arsenault points out.

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