Effective Parts Management

Using technology for better planning and control, and lowering costs


PMXpert Software's Wruck says there are CMMS that can manage both pre-scheduled preventive maintenance and on-demand maintenance and tie in seamlessly with automated inventory management processes. For example, systems can, upon creation of a work order, flag the required parts and reassigns them from an "available" to a "needed" status. The parts are automatically "pulled" out of inventory when the work order is closed and confirmation is given that the parts were used.

CMMS can also send an e-mail notification to the purchaser to flag that parts are needed when those parts fall below a pre-determined desired quantity available, says Wruck, and then automatically create a purchase order or purchase requisition.

There are systems that are an integrated suite of products for managing every part of a transportation operation, notes Ashburn of Prophesy Transportation Solutions. They have modules for dispatching, accounting, mobile communications, commercial mileage and routing, fuel tax reporting, fleet maintenance, parts management, driver log auditing, driver management, logistics management and more.

"These modules are typically fully integrated and share common data so that users never have to enter data twice, as all of their critical information flows in real time throughout every part of their business," he says.

IMPLEMENTING SYSTEMS

"If you're going to deploy a parts inventory management system, make sure it is part of, or can be integrated with, your fleet management system," advices Arsenault of Arsenault Associates. "Identify whether you will need to upgrade your company's existing technology or infrastructure to effectively use the software," adds Ashburn. "Is a new or upgraded network, server or other computer hardware needed? Will any staff changes be needed?" The objective, he says, "is to purchase the best possible system - the one with the features and capabilities you actually use - that is in your budget."

"Use of technology like barcoding to identify and document parts onto a repair order should be considered a necessary feature today," Arsenault says. "Hand-held computers with barcode scanning capabilities are well within the cost range of any shop and the amount of productivity they provide far out paces their cost."

"Make the right investment in your system," he stresses. "Don't do it on the cheap or piece meal the process as in the long run the costs and disturbance to your shop operation will be considerably more."

Because there are so many capable software products available, choosing the right one requires an investment in time and effort, says Mallory of AutoPower Corporation. "Mistakes in selecting software that doesn't fit your shop is much more costly than just the price of the software."

PURCHASING POINTS

There are a number of key considerations when looking to buy or upgrade a computerized inventory management system, aside from cost and ROI, agree all of the company representatives, who say some fundamental question must be answered before looking for software. At the top of the list: determine the specific needs, requirements and functionalities of the system that are "must have" and "would like to have," and decide if it will be a stand-alone or networked program.

Consider usability and scalability, Ashburn says. "Is the software intuitive and easy to use? Features become meaningless if you can't effectively use them. If your company grows, can the software grow with it? Can you add more users and more features as needed? How much training will be needed for your staff?"

Other important considerations, the company officials concur, are: the underlying quality of the software; frequency of program updates; ongoing after-sale support plan; getting references of companies about the size of your operation who are using the software being considered; and checking the financial condition of the program's provider to insure it will in business for the long run.

In addition, AutoPower Corporation's Mallory suggests determining: was the software designed specifically for vehicle service shops; can the software link to the manufacturer's website for technical information; and does the software provider provide training, and if so, what type of training - DVDs, manuals, web training, face-to-face training, etc.?

Go over all the information gathered and narrow the list of vendors down to say the top five.

TEST DRIVES

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