It can often seem overwhelming to try and find that one spare part needed in the vast sea of inventory that is the spare parts warehouse. As warehouse and stock room consultants, we see it all too often, thousands of parts in inventory with no real plan to store or organize them efficiently.
It may seem like it will never get better, but with the right storage solutions, your spare parts warehouse can be an organized and well-oiled machine, just like the ones your parts help to fix and maintain. There are many different solutions that range in cost and complexity. There is something available for all size parts and all size inventories.
Over the years, we have been in many spare parts and maintenance parts stockrooms and warehouses - and have put together a list of several options that provide the best organizational benefits for spare part inventory management best practices. Below are the 4 most used storage options, but do not represent every available option on the market.
1. Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) for Spare Parts Inventory Management
Vertical lift modules for spare parts is one of the more expensive options, but still reasonably priced with a very fast return on investment. A vertical lift module allows for potentially the best of all the options put together. They are very secure, extremely clean, offer a high throughput, and can store a lot of products in a small footprint. At approximately one hundred square feet, even shorter VLMs can accommodate hundreds and thousands of spare parts. A VLM can support products of all sizes and weights. Trays and bins within the trays are highly configurable.
Vertical lift modules can also offer aids to help with the tracking of inventory, accuracy of the picks being made, and efficient labeling of parts for distribution. Training new staff on a piece of equipment as advanced as a VLM is very easy and allows for a quick learning curve to get to max efficiency faster. VLMs can operate as a standalone product, however, to fully utilize its capabilities you want to integrate to your ERP or WMS.
- The highest density for storage of product and tools
- Picking aids for the fastest training of employees
- Offer security and a clean environment
- Great for spare parts and tools of all sizes
- Maximizes the vertical height of any stockroom or warehouse
- Most expensive option
- To maximize benefits, requires IT involvement for data integration
2. Static Shelving and Bins for Spare Parts Inventory Management
One of the most simple and cheapest options is to utilize static shelving coupled with plastic totes or bins. Static shelving can come in many different shapes and sizes allowing for a numerous amount of options when it comes to the layout of both the units themselves and the shelves within.
Utilizing different bin sizes on the shelves allows for great levels of organization neatly keeping parts away from other parts. Bins allows for product that may not store on a shelf to be contained and utilized on the shelf with other parts not in bins. It doesn’t have to be a one size fits all approach.
One downside to traditional static shelving is if you have a lot of inventory, the footprint of the shelves needed can quickly expand. Static shelving can be incorporated into a mezzanine structure. This can help with the space concerns as it allows for the use of vertical space versus horizontal space.
- Easily configurable for spare parts and tools
- Work well with bins and totes
- Can support multiple levels with a mezzanine
- Consumes more space than other options
- Can have the lowest weight capacity, depending on the configuration
- Doesn’t utilize the vertical height of a stockroom or warehouse
3. Mobile Shelving for Spare Parts Inventory Management
The next option takes the same concept as the last option but allows for more dense storage due to the mobility of the shelving. Whether you utilize wheels or tracks in the floor, being able to collapse down your shelving, eliminating the need for aisle space can help to increase the utilization and total capacity of the parts warehouse.
Mobile shelving can work in a spare parts inventory environment vs a more traditional ecommerce business due to the lower demand on some parts. If you have spare parts that are for emergencies or a subset of parts that have to be kept for no longer in use equipment due to contractual agreements, being able to not have aisle space wasted on those products is huge.
More advanced mobile shelving can offer security as well for those parts that are expensive or can easily be prone to theft. Codes can be distributed to where only certain employees can move the shelves apart.
- Can help reduce the footprint needed for storing spare parts and tools
- Offer a high degree of security and a clean environment
- Can provide more dense storage than traditional shelving
- Not great for product that is needed on a regular basis
- May not utilize entire vertical space available compared to other options
4. Cabinets and Drawers for Spare Parts Inventory Management
Another option is cabinets and drawer-based solutions. These are excellent options for smaller parts and may not be a candidate for large, bulky, heavy parts.
Like static shelving, this option can begin to grow the footprint needed quickly. They offer neat and organized storage while also offering a clean environment to store product due to not being exposed to the elements at all times.
We typically find that this type of storage solution is great when parts need to be stored off site from the central parts warehouse. Their size and number of drawers can be configured to work with different desk and workstation configurations.
- Great for small parts and smaller tools
- Offer security and a clean environment
- Great for smaller and off site spare parts stockrooms
- May not utilize entire vertical space available
- Not typically a candidate for larger, heavier product
- Can expand the footprint needed
There are different options available to store, organize and improve your spare parts inventory management. Consider your budget and the other pros and cons discussed to determine what makes the most sense for your spare parts inventory. It is rarely a one size fits all solution. Most environments we are in or recommend utilize a combination of the solutions we have talked about.
Another tip to accompany your search and selection of new storage options is to invest in inventory management software. Parts management systems coupled with organized storage solutions will transform your operations into an efficient and highly functional space.