Operations focus: Stocked up

Features - Operations Focus

Maintaining a well-managed, extensive inventory system that tracks wear parts effectively varies from one operation to the next.

July 14, 2014
Megan Workman

The motto, “One size doesn’t fit all,” is appropriate not only for the variety of wear parts available for machines used in C&D operations, but also for the systems incorporated to manage these parts.

With the mix of materials crushing equipment handle, from concrete and asphalt to shingles and rocks, it is certain that some parts will wear down quicker than others.

Ryan Newman, director of parts sales for the three manufacturing facilities of KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens (KPI-JCI/AMS), based in Yankton, South Dakota, says jaw crushers, cone crushers and impactors need wear parts replaced more often than other machinery due to the damage caused by crushing heavy material.

“Hands down our impactors and crushers take more parts. The violent nature that those machines perform is why they have more wear parts on them, because of the job they are doing,” Newman explains. “You’re taking a steel machine and big rocks and making them into smaller rocks, either by squeezing them or throwing them against something to break them. Impactors just eat parts, that’s just their nature,” he adds.

As particular parts are exposed to daily wear and tear, operators, dealers and manufacturers should be aware of how much inventory is available at any given time. Maintaining a well-managed, extensive inventory system that tracks wear parts effectively varies from one operation to the next, Newman says.

Some like KPI-JCI/AMS store parts on shelving accessible by forklifts that are tracked using computer software, while others use boxes to house wear parts and rely on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to record and update inventory levels.

Manufacturers such as Irock Crushers rely on dealers to have parts available when the company’s headquarters in Valley View, Ohio, is out of a specific part, says Jason Barnes, parts manager for the manufacturer of screening and crushing equipment.

Concrete crushing operators including Leonard Cherry, president of Houston-based Cherry Cos., require suppliers to keep track of the demolition and recycling company’s inventory.

Cherry says its crushing equipment manufacturer, Lippmann-Milwaukee, based in Cudahy, Wisconsin, has a policy with the operator that ensures wear parts are delivered on time. He says, “We have a fairly large fleet of equipment, and consequently we buy lots of wear parts. We have them confirm what they will keep in inventory for us.”

If Lippmann-Milwaukee didn’t have a wear part in inventory that the company needed, then, Cherry says, “The freight costs to receive those parts are on them. We believe the cost opf the carry of the wear parts should be on the supplier not on the end user.”

Broad spectrum

As Newman says, managing a wear parts inventory system ranges from one operator to the next.

“It’s a broad spectrum from the end user all the way to the factory,” Newman says of managing a complete inventory system. “There’s no magic; if you want to do it right, it’s got to be done on a case-by-case basis for each customer.”

Newman says KPI-JCI/AMS, which designs, engineers and manufactures a full line of crushers, screens and track-mounted equipment, sells most of its products through independent dealers, a majority of whom are available 24/7 for support. At the company’s headquarters in South Dakota, Newman says “millions of dollars” in inventory is stored at that facility, while KPI-JCI/AMS dealers have “millions of parts” in stock.

He says having independent dealers located across the nation helps the company cover more regions.

“Dealers are the first line in the support system for us,” Newman asserts. “We like the independent dealers to distribute parts because it allows us to do more with less. It’s more cost-effective for us to have independent dealers versus thousands of people running around.”

Newman says many dealers are native to the areas in which they serve, providing “local distribution parts in [customers’] backyards.”

For an emergency equipment situation, Piscataway, New Jersey-based Construction Crane & Tractor (CC&T), the local dealer for Rubber Master, headquartered in Austria, offers a “hot shot” service to deliver parts overnight, says Mike Chenet, president of the company’s Folcroft, Pennsylvania, operation.

CC&T, which covers eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, stocks wear parts at its New Jersey and Pennsylvania locations. If the parts order arrives early enough in the day, Chenet says same-day delivery is possible.

Barnes says Irock is capable of delivering wear parts needed throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania by truck. “The other thing is we can help a customer get a part locally,” he adds.

Joe Logan, president of Logan Aggregate Recycling Inc., Richmond, Virginia, explains that his company relies on nearby dealers to stock wear parts that it doesn’t use as often as other pieces. It takes one day for a requested part to be shipped from Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic Inc., based in Kernersville, North Carolina, he says.

“The parts we don’t use as frequently we rely on our dealer to stock them and we will have them shipped from the dealer to the jobs site; so far it has been a one-day shipping point anywhere in Virginia,” Logan says.

Key communication

As for the wear parts Logan Aggregate Recycling does switch out on a monthly basis, Logan says the 100-percent-mobile company stores them in a 7,000-pound cargo trailer that travels to every job site.

“The trailer is key to us; it’s like a little shop on wheels,” describes Logan. “Customers like the trailer too, especially on job sites because they have their own deadlines to meet and they want the material we’re making, so uptime is important. They like to see we’re organized and we have a trailer with all the spare parts.”

Logan explains that the nearly 5,000 wear parts housed in the trailer are stacked on pallets, in labeled boxes and itemized with a part number. Wear liners and spare bearings, for example, are marked with a manufacturing part number and stored next to boxes of nuts and bolts and all of the company’s air tools—impact wrenches, guns and grinders.

“As we grew as a business, we learned what critical parts we need to keep,” Logan says. “We don’t want to spend that money and have it sit in that trailer for a year; any wear part we keep in our trailer is usually turning on a four- to eight-week basis.”

When a wear part is retrieved from Logan Aggregate Recycling’s trailer on any given workday, Logan says employees inform him as soon as it is used and he notes the action in a spreadsheet.

CC&T also uses a container to store parts on-site, but it is meant for customers with demanding projects. Chenet says a number of jobs today are occurring at night, such as airport-based projects, and “their time frame is critical so if we can help expedite uptime, then that’s our main focus.” The company charges operators per part that they remove from the container, he says.

Chenet explains, “If you have a job that is a 24-hour job that is running for 60 days, then it’s critical to be able to have parts available even more so than normal. For high-usage jobs that are in critical time frames, we have put parts in a container at the location so [the operator] has them at his fingertips.”

For a typical wear parts request, CC&T has a department each in sales, rental, service and parts that handle inventory, Chenet says. When a customer calls, the company’s parts manager checks a computer for availability, part location and bin number, then makes the sale, he says.

“There is communication and coordination to have an understanding of what level of inventory the customer should be carrying and what level the distributor should be carrying,” Chenet says.

At Irock, wear parts inventory worth more than $1 million is stored in numerical order on 14-foot-tall pallet racking and accessible by forklift. More than 100,000 blow bars are stored there, according to Barnes. He adds, “We have to have those in stock at all times as they’re an intricate part of crushing itself.”

Barnes has a personal spreadsheet that he oversees while the company’s shipping and receiving manager uses an inventory computer system to handle invoicing, billing and maintaining min-max bin levels. A picker actually retrieves the stored part.

With the inventory software KPI-JCI/AMS uses to manage wear parts inventory, Newman says information such as part identification number with aisle, row and shelf location are displayed.

“It’s a shared duty,” Newman says of managing the company’s wear parts inventory. KPI-JCI/AMS has an inventory control department as well as parts, sales and shipping departments that help with picks lists that come off the printer.

“If it’s on the shelf, it’s out within minutes of the customer calling,” Newman says. “If it’s not on the shelf, it depends.”

He explains that if it is a part that requires a casting, it can take from four to 16 weeks, “in worst case scenario.” If it’s a manufactured part without a casting, Newman says KPI-JCI/AMS set up a dedicated parts bay two years ago at its facility specifically for parts sales. From 60 to 70 percent of noncast parts can be manufactured on that line, Newman points out.

Customer care

Newman says it is important to know what jobs customers are performing as they have different preferences regarding storing and obtaining wear parts. Questions to ask customers include:

  • What type of materials are they working with?
  • What type of materials do they wish to produce?
  • What will they burn through faster in terms of wear parts?
  • How many days a week/hours are they going to be working?

“From customer to customer from year to year, customer’s needs can be different,” Newman says. “If he moves even 50 yards inside the same quarry, a lot of times his needs will be different. Our distribution really needs to meet the needs of customers for the next day, month and season if possible.”

Chenet agrees. “We’re a very niche-focused dealer, so it’s important that we have what our customers need.”

He says CC&T tends to “over-inventory parts” more than other dealers might. “We do that because we don’t want a situation where a customer calls for parts and we don’t have it,” he explains. “It’s always important for customers to have wear parts on hand.”

According to Newman, balancing stock levels and customer needs is an ongoing challenge. “Inventory is a double-edged sword,” he says, “You want to have everything, but from an end-user perspective you have to marry that with the reality that you don’t have the money to stock everything you need.”


The author is associate editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be reached at mworkman@gie.net.