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