For manufacturers, inventory management systems can track goods through the entire supply chain.

Automating your Inventory

May 7, 2019
Establish a global supply of parts and equipment.

Unexplained components, fiddly screws and complicated instructions. We’ve all experienced the trauma of assembling flat-pack furniture. But, there’s nothing quite as frustrating as a missing or broken part. This article explains the complexity of replacing broken parts in manufacturing facilities and investigates how automated inventory management systems could minimize the downtime caused by these equipment failures.

A study published by Gartner Group states that 70% of businesses do not have effective inventory management systems in place. Relying on spreadsheets, reminders, and scheduled inventory checks, some businesses may feel that this manual method of stock management is effective. For larger organizations however, this haphazard approach can quickly become unmanageable, particularly in manufacturing.

Before explaining the consequences of poor inventory management however, it is important to clarify what exactly is being referred to in this context. For manufacturers, inventory management systems can track goods through the entire supply chain—that’s everything from production, stock, warehousing, shipping, and an area which is often overlooked—the parts required for production.

Using a global network of partners and prioritizing same-day dispatch, EU Automation can source parts quickly.

Manufacturing is a prime example of where parts inventory is of high importance. Regardless of the vertical sector concerned—whether the facility manufactures food, pharmaceuticals, automotive parts or electronics—all businesses in this realm rely on a consistent production line in order to bring products to market.

When a machine, part, or component used in these facilities breaks down, an effective parts inventory management system becomes invaluable. So, why aren’t more manufacturers investing in a proper inventory management plan?

Consider this example: A bottle capping machine in a soft drink manufacturing facility has stopped functioning correctly. Upon investigation, an engineer discovers that the bearing used to rotate the equipment that fixes caps to bottles has failed and cannot be repaired. Replacing a bearing may seem like a minor task, but without an exact replacement stored in inventory, the manufacturer is required to halt production until a new bearing is sourced, purchased, and fitted.

For food and beverage manufacturers, this unexpected production downtime can be costly. Even with just a few hours out of commission, a production line will already be several production batches behind schedule. As a result, the manufacturer could be subject to delayed deliveries to distributors and potentially, rejected orders or fines from disgruntled retailers.                                                                                                        

Automated inventory management is one method of ensuring integral parts, like bearings and other small components, are consistently available. By storing data from the manufacturers inventory, a plant manager can instantly view which parts and components are currently in stock.

Only 30% of businesses believe they have effective inventory management systems in place.

Using the same technology, the software can be programmed to automatically reorder parts that are running low. This ensures the manufacturer is never left without the correct parts. These systems are an effective way to maintain levels of integral components, but stockpiling equipment isn’t always feasible for larger pieces of machinery.

Let’s say a servo motor is required to power a conveyor in a manufacturing facility. During production, the motor breaks down and cannot be repaired. Unlike the bearing example, it is not feasible to store larger pieces of equipment, like servo motors, in a manufacturers inventory—this simply doesn’t make business sense. However, replacing this part is equally as urgent.

Automated inventory systems can provide a solution. By integrating the system with data from industrial part suppliers around the world, this technology can locate assets automatically, regardless of where the part is situated. For instance, if the manufacturer is looking for a specific Bosch Rexroth servo drive to replace the broken-down motor, the system can use the parts number to locate an exact replacement.

When combined with using a reputable and effective parts supplier, this process can significantly minimize the downtime experienced by manufacturing plants. According to the Gartner Group report, only 30% of businesses believe they have effective inventory management systems in place. The remaining 70% are at risk of halting their operations should an integral part or component break down unexpectedly. By investing in automated inventory management, these manufacturers can alleviate the pressure that an unexpected failure could cause.

Missing parts during flat-pack furniture assembly might be frustrating—but costly downtime in a manufacturing production facility is much more detrimental.

Mark Howard is a manager at EU Automation. For more information on the company’s industrial parts supply network, click here.

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