Published 29 Jun 2022
BVL Forum Spare Parts Logistics: Pathways to a flexible supply chain
In medicine, endurance means resistance. Also in spare parts logistics. It's about managing stressful events, whether it's people or the supply chain. Supply chain flexibility has become the hallmark of a contemporary spare parts logistics strategy. The spare parts sector is considered the “backbone of the economy”.
For a long time, the spare parts business was mainly concerned with economic factors. Production and storage locations were centralized and fewer and fewer suppliers were involved. Now there is a different perspective. Epidemic, natural disaster, war - many events over the past few years have taught logistics one thing: When locations in one area are no longer working, as usual, others have to step in. This will only work if you set up smaller production and storage units, that is if you gradually convert centralization to moderate centralization.
More networks for better maintenance
It is no longer enough to have a few central warehouses spread around the world. This was also made clear to the audience by the chief logistician of an internationally operating mechanical engineering company. It exercises close networking with its distributors so they can share inventory with each other. It is the networking of basic ERP systems, even if the partners are independent and therefore external service providers. The aim is to gain transparency as to what is currently available in several hundred warehouses in order to be able to deliver the required spare part to the customer as quickly as possible.
In another example, networked thinking leads to a decrease in stocks. Keyword: availability platform for spare parts. Factories of large industrial companies often have the same spare parts in all locations to avoid machine breakdowns. The cost! In the case of global players, this results in enormous portfolios totaling €100 million and more. A speaker showed that there is a more subtle way. Idea: The manufacturer makes an inventory of the worldwide spare parts stock on a central platform. Goal: Not every factory has everything in stock, locations help each other.
Artificial intelligence identifies spare parts
Clean data collection is a prerequisite for a spare parts platform and other flexible logistics concepts. Even minor deviations from the description of the same product mean you won't find them in inventory. Clear identification of parts is essential, even if craftsmen order from construction services manufacturers. For example, for the repair of heating systems. Not every small part can be identified by pressure or type plate. Such communication problems can be solved with artificial intelligence (AI). To do this, the master sends the manufacturer a photo of the part to be replaced. Artificial intelligence compares the image with photos that the manufacturer has stored in a database of their parts. The AI never identifies the piece and tells the master what it's looking for or narrows the selection down to just a few pieces.
The "Amazonization" trend
Projects like this explain why the word "Amazonization" has become commonplace in spare parts logistics. What is meant is a business-to-business speed in the supply of spare parts that would otherwise only be experienced in private customer business. Almost everything happens in the night jump or faster. This is exactly the purpose of flexible spare parts logistics: Every part is instantly in the right place, even if external influences greatly affect the conditions of production, storage, and logistics.