74 tips for reducing equipment costs (21-30)

Updated Aug 23, 2013

construction equipmentIn my last post covering equipment cost cutting tips 11-20, I looked at eliminating buddy jobs, cutting down emergency work and reducing engine idling.  Here are cost-saving strategies 21-30:

21: Manage omissions

Omissions can create common failures that affect numerous downstream components. Omissions can lie concealed or dormant until they trigger events that cause an accident or major failure.  A variety of surveys by the nuclear industry, the aircraft industry, and the National Safety Council point to consistent results:

  • About 80 percent of all events are caused by human error.  20 percent are the result of equipment failures.  In reality, these statistics are conservative.  In some industries, the numbers are closer to 90 percent human error and 10 percent equipment failures.
  • When we break down human errors, we find that 70 percent of all human error is the result of latent organizational weaknesses or errors within the organization, whereas about 30 percent are individual errors.

One of the studies found the following from technician work:

  • Fasteners left loose or incomplete, 22 percent
  • Items left locked or pins not removed, 13 percent
  • Caps loose or missing, 11 percent
  • Items left loose or disconnected, 10 percent
  • Items missing, 10 percent
  • Tools or spare fasteners not removed, 10 percent
  • Lack of lubrication or over lubrication, 8 percent
  • Panels or covers left off, 3 percent

Having someone inspect finished work ensures a better level of quality and stresses its importance to employees.


22: Provide resources

Mechanics or technicians are less productive when they spend time looking for the items or tools to complete the job.  A front-end assessment of the job can help identify most of the tools and parts that need to be available to improve wrench-time.

23: Plan materials in advance for non-emergency jobs

Use planning and scheduling to have materials available on time without having to spend the extra money on such services as FedEx. Wasted labor waiting on parts can be minimized with good planning and preparation.

24: Improve parts inventory storage

Ensure there is an inventory of all items along with their locations and that they have assigned bins. So much time is wasted searching and retrieving parts.  A designated place using a simple coordinate shelf-bin location method can reduce the time looking with the old “I know one is here somewhere” mindset.

25: Secure the stockroom

Inventory accuracy goes down dramatically when storerooms are left unsecured with open access.  A cage with lock and key or swipe card can reduce those losses.

26: Consider manning your stockroom

If you have at least 2,000 to 2,500 line items (individual part numbers or SKUs) you can cost justify one attendant.  Having an attendant reduces the time wasted having techs searching for parts.  It also provides better cost control over the inventory.

27: Establish clear spending levels

Make sure there are spending approval levels to avoid excessive spending and buying.  It should be clear when someone needs to seek approval for a purchase – for example, on an item costing more than $1,000.

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28: Use runners

Use lower cost labor to pick-up and deliver parts.  You are wasting time and money having mechanics and technicians doing this.  More importantly is the lost opportunity as to what they could be doing instead.

29: Eliminate obsolete items

Use “less applied labor” to purge unnecessary parts and materials after a skilled and knowledgeable person has identified the practical use of the part(s).  From my experiences in the field, many mechanics or technicians are packrats and will hoard everything they can because they are convinced they will eventually use it.  The problem is that eventually we can’t find anything because we have everything.  The cost to sit there, especially if the parts room is manned, averages a carrying cost of 25 to 35 percent of the inventory value. Verify that the supported equipment is still in service.  Scrap it or resell it—but purge it.

30: Use barcoding

Barcoding can be quicker and more accurate than writing.  Most inventory programs can support barcoding.


In my next post, I’ll look at turn rates, job staging and storeroom cleanliness.


About the Author

Preston IngallsPreston Ingalls has more than 41 years of maintenance experience and is president/CEO of TBR Strategies, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based maintenance and reliability consulting firm. He has consulted with firms that have won the Association of Equipment Management Professionals’ Fleet Masters Award for fleet maintenance excellence in 2004 and 2009. In addition, he assisted two other organizations in winning the North American Maintenance Excellence Award.