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The Tool Crib: What You Need To Know About Managing The Industrial Tool Crib

Managing the cost and inventory of peripherals or MRO supplies is a necessary task to keep production running smoothly. Indirect materials are often defined as products necessary to manufacture goods sold to market, but are not actually in the product you manufacture.  These products can include office supplies, stationary, machine tool equipment, machine parts, shop rags, chemicals and many others.  This inventory is often thought of as the cost of doing business.  Utilizing the right inventory management; however, can have dramatic positive results on your financial ledger.  <p>Managing Indirect Materials Routinely.    With the 2016 Olympics we watched and supported many outstanding athletes bring home Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in their respective sports.   What we didn't see was the intense planning and training that went into their investment to the sport and to themselves such as nutritional supplements, personal trainers, top notch sports gear and athletic equipment that was a critical part of their success.  In the same way, establishing a similar investment in your business, such as routine inventory of indirect materials is a measure of planning that results in your business/plant running at peak performance.  Striving to "bring home the Gold" in your business is an investment that pays off with high yield production lines and positive results. </p><p> Balance "Lean Inventory" with Crucial Inventory.  Monday, of all days, a Monday, my college student, oldest daughter had a flat tire.  In the course of changing the tire to a temporary spare, the lug nuts were so rusted they wouldn't loosen.  That's when it's time to break out the Rachet Bar (TM), a tool you don't need, until you really need it. Of course, I really needed it, but didn't have it.   It's the same concept with managing crucial lean inventory.  If production lines are "down" due to a piece of equipment that needs a maintenance part, it's realistic to expect to pay extra cost to obtain the part(s) quick enough to restore production.  The last thing your business needs is a team of employees standing around waiting for production to be back up and running.  It's easy to overlook the need for crucial inventory when things are running smoothly, but planning for the unexpected is much like not having a Rachet Bar (TM) when you really need it.  </p><p> Clearly Define The Process of Accountability with Inventory.  How many times have managers heard an employee say "It's not my job"?  When the one part or piece of equipment is not in the tool crib and production is literally at a halt, that's when the finger pointing starts.  Whose job is it to manage the tool crib or lean inventory?  When the office printer is out of print cartridges or paper, the solution is to run to the local office supply store, right?  However, buying in bulk, ahead of time saves the business an average of $5.00 - $15.00 in the course of six months. When the spot welder on the shop floor needs a welding cable to continue production, it's more of a specialty item in the tool crib.  The cost to expedite parts often means hefty next day air shipping fees with UPS and the manufacturer's expedited production of the part to meet this need.  Planning ahead for spare parts proves that a business can realize savings of hundreds of dollars. Planning ahead should also include designating team members in appropriate departments the task of weekly or bi-weekly inventory maintenance as well as the ability to submit a request to purchasing for items that should be ordered. </p><p> Technology has taken management of business to new levels of competent software programs to account for inventory with mobile apps for employees to utilize on mobile devices in multiple locations.  The bottom line is the same for any business, large, medium or small to minimize costs while still maintaining an effective lean, crucial inventory.  Managers that implement regularly scheduled inventory of their tool cribs purchase critical items in advance at regular cost and outline savings at the end of the year by avoiding the associated surcharges.  By the way, what's in your tool crib today? </p>