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A smart approach to spares

Harmonizing a maintenance and spare parts strategy

Planning maintenance and having the right inventory is often a challenge. Operators can end up with too much capital invested in stock or not enough to perform repairs in a timely manner. However, adopting best practices and the emergence of Logistics 4.0 present clear opportunities for cost reduction.

Operators are often presented with a headache when it comes to managing spare parts and maintenance activities. Previously, the Wind Farm Management Blog looked at important things to consider when organizing a spare parts inventory and discussed potential issues operators can run into. However, even with careful planning, operators can have problems in terms of long lead times for required products or multiple defects in the same component type. This is why it is important to reduce risk by being well prepared.

Proactive vs. reactive maintenance

The type of maintenance strategy an organization uses has an impact on its spare parts strategy. The two approaches are reactive and proactive. Reactive maintenance is considerably less cost-effective but is still used by many businesses. If operators are reacting to issues as they happen, they will not have a clear picture of which spare parts they are likely to need. Therefore, they must always have a large number of spare parts in stock. This can lead to many issues, such as companies investing too much in parts they don’t need or not having enough of the ones they do need.

Many companies are now turning to proactive maintenance, involving condition monitoring and condition-based maintenance. This is significantly more effective due to operators understanding the status of their machinery and being able to analyze where and when new parts will be needed. Benchmarking – whereby companies compare their machinery’s expected service life with that of other organizations – offers further key insights that allow for advance planning.

Ultimately, an organizations’ maintenance strategy must match its spare parts strategy to avoid unexpected and lengthy periods of downtime when there is a breakdown. Proactive maintenance enables significantly more cost-effective inventory management – often reducing maintenance costs by a considerable amount.

Utilizing historical data to improve planning

An additional way of gaining a better understanding of inventory requirements is by analyzing historical data. By evaluating where and when replacement parts were previously needed, operators can make better judgements for future purchases. If they ended up with too many or too few components for their needs, they can adjust their orders accordingly.

Supply chain management for the digital age

Lead times on products is a potential problem. For example, if the lead time for a critical component, such as a gearbox, is nine months, it is possible that condition monitoring will not give enough warning. This is where Logistics 4.0 and Supply Chain 4.0 come into play.

Logistics 4.0 and smart supply chains are a part of Industry 4.0, which is based on automation and exchanging data in manufacturing technologies. This means all aspects of the supply chain are digitally connected. By utilizing the benefits of advanced forecasting, predictive analytics, and machine data, companies can automate the order and delivery processes, resulting in them receiving parts more quickly.

Finding the right balance for future success

Fundamentally, finding the right balance between inventory stock and what is required for maintenance remains a challenge. However, wind power organizations can take the necessary steps, such as taking a proactive approach to maintenance and using previous machine data, to ensure their strategy is cost- and time-effective. Additionally, the emergence of smart supply chains means that the order process is accelerated and lead times are reduced.

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