Improving Spare Parts Management In Complex Asset Operations [Part I]

When any complex asset is manufactured and enters operation, every part matters [think everything from small, low cost fasteners, bolts, adhesives, and aircraft components]. Assembly floor managers, service providers and suppliers already know that effective spare part management is essential for maintaining service levels, minimising unnecessary inventory costs and ultimately mission success.

However, the ever-increasing challenge of global track and trace regulations, such as those in the defence, aerospace and pharmaceuticals industries, means that those managing components must clearly demonstrate they have full visibility into their parts, inventory and supply chain processes at all times. In order to do this, they need each piece – no matter how small – to be individually identifiable.

Whilst barcodes or RFID can automate the collection of data about each individual part, that’s only half the battle. Creating and maintaining a centralised platform with full item-level visibility and traceability will ensure that all stakeholders can access all necessary data about an item, and even its associated risks, when they need it. Relegen’s assetDNA-riskDNA ecosystem was designed to offer this unified approach across an enterprise.

Challenges for existing systems

The inescapable truth is that many continue to collect data about spare parts manually, or in isolated systems, operating without a full picture of what they have, or do not have, on-hand. Furthermore, many legacy systems simply do not manage item-level serialisation at the data level. Not only does this lead to drains on labour, time and costs [looking for misplaced items, conducting manual counts], but it also increases business and operational risk [out of stocks, incorrect installation, servicing and handling, to delayed products and projects].

Take, for example, the case of a major defence service provider and regional staging center for multi-force aircraft. It is here that incoming planes will be from different governments and manufacturers. In this context, knowing the origin, use and history of each and every part, as well as where it is in real-time, throughout its lifetime, is critical. Such operations cannot afford incomplete, out-of-date or erroneous item-level data and different versions of ‘the truth’.

Simplifying complexity

Fortunately assetDNA, asset intelligence technology from Relegen, can help complex asset operations easily track and trace an infinite number of parts from a variety of manufacturers so that mission-critical work can get done on time without fear of error. In these scenarios the benefits are far-reaching and include:

Item-level serialisation – Where is all begins! Each component, no matter how large or small, can be assigned an exclusive item unique identifier [or IUID] that is enforced and managed securely in a central asset intelligence database. Once assigned and associated using an appropriate tagging technology, the system can be integrated with Kanban systems and even existing legacy systems [e.g. SAP] to extend their value even more.

Counterfeit prevention – IUID’s bring valuable insight to the most basic information long before they reach the assembly floor such as ‘Is the part authentic?’ The issue of non-genuine parts entering defence and pharmaceutical supply chains such not only puts people’s lives at risk, but takes revenue away from legitimate original equipment manufacturers [OEMs].

Support for multi-stage or performance-based contracting – A unified system such as assetDNA helps meet the demand for visibility from the growing number of participants and third-party contractors who contribute to today’s servicing and assembly processes. Suppliers, service providers and manufacturers can use a centralised database to access and update data about the components relevant to them.

Boosting productivity and efficiency – Centralised management of each IUID makes the physical identification of each item (as well as its location and history) automatic, leading manufacturers and service providers to boost efficiency and reduce errors. Suppliers, too, can employ such a system to access inventory levels and gain alerts, without requiring assistance from busy personnel at the assembly site.

Though-life part management and processes – Many items for major asset platforms go through multiple, highly-specialised processes. Item-level identification provides a basis for tracking each item through these lifecycles and the key for quickly referencing an item’s attributes, use, and history of movement and handling.

Getting help with serialisation technology

Organisations aiming to improve part visibility and traceability – and thereby boost efficiency, safety, security and compliance – can speak with Relegen’s team on +61 2 9998 9000 or to learn how IUID with assetDNA can help solve problems at their sites and across their supply chain.

Next Up

With an enterprise asset intelligence platform in place to securely manage spare part IUID’s, manufacturers, suppliers and service providers must opt for the best tagging option. In our next blog we’ll take a look at tagging options for spare parts management, including the pros and cons of barcodes, RFID and beyond.