Food Engineering
11th Annual Replacement Parts Survey

Replacement Parts Survey: Advancing inventory practices

While cutting costs drives innovation in product sourcing and inventory management, processors are demanding higher-quality spare parts.

July 3, 2013
Supplier characteristics

The survey identifies plant maintenance management strategies and parts and component inventory practices, as well as how inventory is managed. The study of food and beverage personnel involved in spare parts ordering noted facilities turn to general administration/executive management personnel in greater numbers to oversee the majority of maintenance replacement decisions and strategies.

Employees with administrative or executive titles make the call on replacement decisions 13 percent of the time, a figure more than triple the number in last year’s report (4 percent).  Plant operations employees do more decision-making now (19 percent) than a year ago (12 percent).

Maintenance personnel still make the majority of the maintenance replacement decisions overall (45 percent), but they saw their role reduced significantly from the prior year (64 percent).

The average dollar volume spent on replacement parts and components totaled $1.24 million, down from $1.34 million reported in 2012.

Nearly two-thirds of survey participants spent up to $1 million on replacement parts and components. Nearly one-third of participants say their annual replacement parts purchases amounted to between $100,000 to $499,999, up from the prior year, when one-fourth spent this amount on replacement parts. One-quarter of respondents purchased between $1 million and $4 million in replacement parts and components, down from last year when one-third of companies made purchases at this level.


Inventory interests

More than 40 percent of food and beverage companies have changed their inventory practices. Thirty percent of participants are reducing their replacement parts inventory and say cost is the main reason, followed by an effort to move to a just-in-time model or to dispose of obsolete parts.

Twelve percent of respondents are increasing their inventory of replacement parts and components, with new equipment needs emerging as the primary reason. New equipment also helps manufacturers eliminate or decrease downtime.

High-quality OEM replacement parts and components are selected 32 percent of the time when most parts are commodities with price as the determining factor when specifying requirements.

Nearly half of respondents say  they have quantified the maintenance cost of most machinery parts and are able to calculate ROI on higher-quality, expensive parts. One-third of those surveyed say they buy OEM when most parts are commodities and where price is the determining factor. Almost one in eight says manpower shortages force plants to specify the highest-quality available part as a way to prolong mean time to failure.

Problems from non-OEM parts vary from not working as well compared to an OEM part to concerns that received parts may be counterfeit. One-fifth of participants say they avoid potential work stoppages and downtime by using only OEM parts. Nearly 40 percent of respondents say less expensive non-OEM parts work just as well as their higher-priced counterparts.

An equal number (40 percent) says less expensive parts do not work as well as more expensive alternatives, and one-third report they have experienced premature machine failures with less expensive parts. “Careful evaluations are done before we use non-OEM parts,” says one reader.

Ninety percent of respondents consider the lifecycle cost of replacement parts as significant when making new equipment purchasing decisions. Three in 10 companies say they always consider lifecycle costs of the replacement part or component in their purchasing decision, while six in 10 say sometimes they consider it.

Replacement part ordering is automated in 75 percent of plants. Half of the companies report automating their ordering with system-generated purchase orders. Ten percent of respondents say they automate ordering with a direct link to a parts supplier or distributor, while another 11 percent rely on standardized hard copy purchase orders.

Regularly scheduled visual inspections are cited as the main maintenance replacement strategy implemented, selected more than half the time; the run-to-failure strategy is favored 20 percent of the time. Additional strategies include a time-based or volume-based parts replacement schedule, automated measuring of parts and components, and predictive tools such as vibration analysis, thermal imaging and energy use or heat measurement. 

A reader states one time-based approach could be “based off hour meters, stroke counters, etc. to track lifespan [of the component] and then schedule preventative change outs at 90-95 percent lifespan.” Another reader says he uses “more condition-monitoring equipment to time replacing parts on a time or volume basis.”

When asked what condition-monitoring tools  the maintenance program uses, thermal imaging and vibration analyzers emerge as the top two selections, with more than half of the maintenance programs using them.

Infrared sensors, oil analyzers and ultrasonic sensors are chosen by four out of 10 plants;  one out of 10 chooses stethoscopes as a condition-monitoring tool. Two of every 10 respondents indicate no condition monitoring is done at their company.


What’s your MRO?

Three maintenance repair operations (MRO) inventory practices are equally leveraged among companies this year: remanufacturing or re-engineering of parts onsite in a machine shop; vendor-managed inventory; and parts kits for routine maintenance. Central warehousing of common parts for use at multiple plant locations and consignment where the supplier owns the components are other, more common MRO practices.

A growing number of food and beverage facilities rely on less common types of MRO inventory practices (14 percent for 2013 as opposed to 4 percent reported a year ago). Survey contributors say other MRO cost-cutting strategies include “working with our suppliers and moving to a reliability-based maintenance system;” “review what parts are critical to maintain the operation of the equipment;” and “review which components have the longest lead time; if the replacement parts are high dollar items, they can be purchased in monthly increments instead of all at one time.” One firm says it created a new salaried position for parts maintenance and inventory control.

Less than half (43 percent) have implemented MRO cost-cutting strategies.  However, inventory reduction and vendor-managed inventories are mentioned frequently among food and beverage companies that have implemented a cost-cutting strategy. Reduction of obsolete parts is an additional strategy.

Best practices

When asked what would constitute a best practice in component sourcing, participants report on-time delivery/quick service, guaranteed inventory and best price for best quality as their top choices, comments in line with those made a year ago. Others are looking for “competitive bidding of the part with multiple suppliers” as a means to gaining cost efficiencies. 

Survey respondents say opportunities for innovation in parts and components management are abundant and varied beyond the more popular calls for increased automation of systems, standardization of part numbers and predictive maintenance for improved operations.

Solutions range from seemingly simple requests, such as “getting better control of stock by barcode scanning of parts in and out of the stock rooms,” to more involved developments, such as “creating an inventory database of spare parts or applying a strategic sourcing technique that could, for example, keep an inventory of critical components.” 

Respondents are seeking new tools, such as a tracking/running inventory database, or computerized maintenance management systems (CMMSs) to determine expected performance life of parts and to develop predictive tools.

Measures that shorten ROI equipment investments, bring cost-cutting efficiencies or advance the march toward more cross-referenced/standardized part numbers are suggested. Multi-plant purchasing programs with national pricing contracts and engineering support are also desired. 

Challenges ahead

Though no one challenge stands out, multiple sourcing options for ordering parts is—at 20 percent—perceived to be the greatest challenge faced by processors in minimizing inventory. Insufficient funding to organize and streamline inventory practices is seen as another major challenge, as is a lack of consistent part names.  Additional challenges cited are the absence of a searchable parts database, the lack of coordination between multiple plant locations and the lack of management continuity. Getting parts for old equipment and a long lead time on critical parts were other challenges.

Of the measures food and beverage firms track to improve inventory management, inventory dollar value (64 percent) and turns (48 percent) are the most tracked. We “look at turns rate on parts to inventory levels [and] reduce all low-turn inventory,” says one respondent, while another suggests a cost by volume model.

Outsourcing to local supply houses is also used by 26 percent of participants. Other measures represent 12 percent when tracked together. They include: SAP inventory, CMMS, idle parts inventory, inventory spot counts, MaintiMizer, criticality, obsolescence, PMMS, time on the shelf, weekly inventory, WMS and multiple indicators.


Sourcing suppliers

More than nine out of 10 survey respondents view product quality, on-time delivery and product availability as the most important characteristics when selecting a supplier of replacement parts and components. Food and beverage processors think value for price paid and having technical service support are the next-most important attributes. The ability to provide electronic ordering and order tracking, national or global service capabilities and lowest price rank as least important.

Supplier-supported remote diagnostics have the ability to identify machine parts that are wearing down and approaching failure. Nearly one of every three survey respondents uses remote diagnostics and troubleshooting services offered by equipment suppliers and automation firms, a figure more than twice that reported last year (14 percent).

Eight in 10 access remote services through the Internet, using the Ethernet pathway in the plant. Nearly seven in 10 relay the information to maintenance and parts-ordering personnel, down from the 75 percent reported in 2012.  V


About the survey responses

Statistics and comments in this report reflect the input of Food Engineering readers who returned mailed questionnaires or responded to invitations to complete the survey online.

Half of the replies came from companies with 100-499 employees, a slightly lower proportion than in previous years, while one in 10 works at a plant with fewer than 100 employees.

  Nearly one in five responses came from industries where meat, poultry and seafood processing or beverage products is the primary production focus. This is followed by bakery and snack food products (13 percent), dairy and frozen novelty products (10 percent) and frozen and prepared meals/fruits and vegetables (9 percent). Other manufacturing groups include shelf-stable products, grain-based products, confectionery products and dietary supplements