Spare Parts Management: Reactive vs. Predictive Maintenance for Order Fulfillment
Modern order fulfillment and distribution would not be possible if it were not for automation technology. From conveyors to sorters to AS/RS, AGVs, AMRs, and everything in between, we rely on machines to increase our capacity and help us meet the demands of consumers and businesses for next-day and same-day delivery. Without that technology, it would be incredibly difficult—if not downright impossible—to meet those demands manually.
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But however much technology has helped us boost our efficiency and productivity, it has come with a downside: Machinery breaks. And when an essential system fails unexpectedly, it has the potential to take an entire business down with it, leading to unplanned downtime, a reduced capacity, and a loss of customers, business and revenue.
The key to dealing with the inevitable breakdown and necessary repairs? Properly managing your spare parts and maintenance process.
Two Schools of Thought: Reactive vs. Predictive Spare Parts Management
Generally speaking, maintenance and spare parts management come in two flavors: Reactive and Predictive.
What is Reactive Maintenance?
Reactive maintenance is a maintenance strategy that machinery or equipment is fixed after it has broken down or after a component has failed. (It is also sometimes known as “breakdown maintenance” or “run-to-failure.”) As its name implies, it entails reacting to a failure in your equipment.
In many ways, reactive maintenance is like going to the hospital after you’ve broken your arm. Your arm is broken and must be fixed—regardless of the plans you had for the day or the tasks you wanted to cross off your list.
What is Predictive Maintenance?
Predictive maintenance, on the other hand, is a maintenance strategy in which scheduled maintenance takes priority. In theory, by regularly maintaining your machinery and equipment and auditing its performance, you will be able to identify components that may be at risk of failure. This then allows you to predict potential issues and take action to correct them before the failure occurs.
In action, preventative maintenance can take a number of forms, such as:
- Inspecting your equipment and making note of components that appear worn or at risk of failure
- Looking for a pattern of failure amongst your equipment by understanding which components have failed in the past—information you can use to stock up on at-risk spare parts while also working to identify a root cause to the repeated failure
- Following a manufacturer’s maintenance advice by replacing components in regular intervals to avoid failure
While reactive maintenance can be compared to going to the hospital with a broken arm, predictive maintenance can be compared to scheduling yearly checkups and health screenings with your doctor that allow you to take preemptive action to reduce the risk of injury or illness. For example, by taking calcium supplements to strengthen your brittle bones.
Which is right for your operation?
In nearly every case, predictive maintenance is preferable to reactive maintenance. It’s the maintenance strategy used by most order fulfillment operations, for a number of reasons:
It allows you to stock spare parts efficiently. By identifying potential problems before they occur, you will be able to purchase/order any spare parts that you need to make the repair, ensuring you have the part on hand should something happen. This will allow for faster resolution of any issues, limiting the amount of time your various equipment must be offline for repairs. Following a reactive maintenance strategy, on the other hand, puts you at risk of being offline for days or longer if you must wait for a spare part to be delivered by the manufacturer.
It allows you to plan your equipment’s downtime. With reactive maintenance, it is impossible to predict when a component will fail. At worst, this means a failure could occur during peak hours or during your business’s busy season, limiting your ability to meet demand. By following a predictive strategy, you can plan when to take your equipment offline for maintenance, allowing you to align that downtime with lulls in demand.
It keeps your equipment healthy longer. Any time a component fails, you risk damaging your equipment—sometimes significantly so. A broken belt, band, or chain in the heart of an engine, for example, can lead to catastrophic damage, drastically reducing the lifespan of your machinery and require much more capital to fix than it would have cost to maintain.
Maintenance is about managing risk
At its heart, maintenance is about managing risk. Following a predictive maintenance routine will allow you to keep your equipment running as smoothly as possible, drastically reducing the risk of catastrophic, unplanned failure or breakdown that could impact your order fulfillment operation.
While predictive maintenance allows you to anticipate which components of your equipment may be at risk of failure so that you can order them before you need them, it’s also important to note that a breakdown can occur even despite your maintenance. For that reason, it’s wise to know which components in your equipment are the most vulnerable, so that you can stock them within your facility and have them on hand when you need them.
If you’re looking for an organization who can provide low-cost part replacement or a maintenance strategy that will work for your operation, we can help.