Best practices for spare parts obsolescence management

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Best practices for spare parts obsolescence management

Imagine a situation in which a machine operator urgently needs a spare part because a machine has broken down. However, the required part is not in stock and not available because it has been discontinued. This situation, combined with a lack of information about available replacement parts and suppliers, could lead to extended machine downtime.

Proactive MRO management of obsolete parts is crucial to avoid such situations.

💡 Spare parts obsolescence management is the process of proactively identifying and managing the risk of discontinued parts.

In practice, many departments work together, including maintenance, procurement, supply chain management, production, quality assurance and strategic planning. They all have important roles to play, from sourcing components, monitoring the availability of parts, managing supplier relationships to strategic decision making.

Here are some best practices you and your team should follow for efficient management of obsolete spare parts.

Benedikt Weiss

"By considering these best practices, you can ensure that your machines remain functional for the relevant production processes. We highly recommend creating a comprehensive diagram and visualizing your organization's optimal process."

Benedikt Weiss
Customer Success Manager | SPARETECH

Operational perspective: Obsolescence management in daily practice

1. Early planning‍

By considering the life cycle of machine components during the design of a production line, maintenance engineers can select machines with parts that are likely to remain available for the foreseeable future. Early planning can include the following measures:

  • Selection of suppliers who are known for reliable product support.
  • Selection of products with standardized parts, if possible.
  • Selection of products with potential future upgrades in mind.

2. Regular monitoring

Continuous monitoring of the availability of machine parts and components is another operational measure that facilitates obsolescence management. Obsolescence management tools such as SPARETECH can notify organizations when a part is nearing the end of its lifecycle so they can take proactive measures, such as replacement procurement or final purchases.

3. Successor products

When a machine component nears the end of its service life, manufacturers often introduce successor products as replacements. These successors usually have similar or improved functions and can often be seamlessly integrated into the existing product design and functionality.

❗ It is crucial to check whether the specifications and technical properties of the successor product match your product or application.

4. Alternative sourcing

Identifying and securing alternative sources for potentially obsolete parts may involve using different suppliers or finding replacement parts with the same function. It is important to verify that these alternatives meet the required specifications and quality standards. This approach provides companies with a safety net that allows them to maintain production with minimal disruption.

5. Last time buy (LTB) strategy

The Last Time Buy strategy is a preventive measure in which a large quantity of components is purchased when they are announced as obsolete. The reserve can then be used in future production to ensure the availability of the machines. However, this strategy requires access to reliable information about obsolescence processes as well as careful planning and storage, as it involves maintaining a stock of parts over an extended period of time.

6. Regular audits

Regular physical audits of the spare parts warehouse can help to check the quantities, condition and obsolescence status of parts. Adjusting stock levels in line with forecast demand can prevent overstocking or shortages.

Strategic view: Obsolescence management in the long term

1. Centralized spare parts database

Maintaining a centralized and up-to-date database of all spare parts in your organization, including important information such as manufacturer and supplier information, usage history, stock levels and obsolescence status, forms the basis for integrated MRO obsolescence management.

SPARETECH helps you reliably manage your spare parts data to maintain operational excellence and minimize downtime. Find out more.

2. Technology upgrade

Integrating newer, more readily available components into your machine line can significantly reduce the risk of obsolescence. A technology upgrade can provide additional benefits such as improved performance, increased efficiency and enhanced functionality.

One example of this is replacing old sensors in your machines with newer models, which leads to increased precision, lower costs and a longer service life.

Technology upgrades should be carefully planned and strategically implemented to ensure compatibility with existing systems and minimize disruption to the product lifecycle.

3. Machine component lifespan awareness

To understand the life of a machine, you also need to understand the life of its individual components, which can include sensors, motors, gearboxes, rails and seals, to name but a few.

If the service life of the component is longer than the life cycle of the machine, then obsolescence management may not be a significant problem. However, for machines with a long service life, proactive measures may be required to deal with obsolescence management.

4. Component standardization

Suppose your company produces 5 different electric motors for the automotive industry, and each has its own production line. From a strategic point of view, standardizing the individual components in each production line will minimize the number of unique parts and thus:

  • Reduce the effects of obsolescence.
  • Simplify the production process.
  • Optimize the management of spare parts and make it more efficient.
  • Enable cost savings through bulk purchasing at lower prices.
  • Improve the availability of parts, as standardized components are generally widely available and easier to procure.

❗ It must be ensured that the standardized components meet the required specifications and performance requirements for each product.

5. Forecasting and predictive analysis

Using historical data and predictive analytics, you can anticipate which parts are likely to become obsolete, providing insights for strategic decision-making and planning. By predicting obsolescence, you can proactively manage the lifecycles of spare parts, create contingency plans and minimize obsolescence risks.

6. Supplier relationship management

Open communication with your suppliers allows you to be informed of any changes in the production process, the discontinuation of components or the introduction of new parts . This allows you to react immediately and take the necessary measures to avoid production disruptions. In addition, good supplier relationships can also make it easier to negotiate subsequent purchases or help in the search for suitable spare parts.

Obsolescence management is essential for manufacturing companies today. Implementing these best practices will help you to strategically and effectively manage the phase-out and discontinuation of spare parts in your organization.

With software tools like SPARETECH, obsolescence management is easier than ever before. Find out more at Spare Parts Obsolescence Management | SPARETECH.

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