MRO Stores and Reliability

Published September 21, 2012

Our family has a home on Long Beach Island along the Jersey shore (beach house to some) and, no, it is not “The Jersey Shore.”

We have a 24-ft. Harris with an inboard motor that we use for skiing and fishing. Everyone agrees that it is important to have a reliable boat when you want to go fishing. “Hooray… it started again”; and, when you do go fishing, it is deemed reliable. However, the level of reliability needed (angst) when you are ready to return to the dock is greatly augmented. You hope that the motor will start so you do not have to call USA Tow Boats again.

Each year something else breaks. What happens over the winter to a part that works perfectly when the boat is winterized and then malfunctions when the boat is launched in the spring? What causes a sitting part to decide to just not work? Which of the winter months is selected by the parts to decide to fail before spring?

Our crack boat mechanic comes to look at the problem (work order) and finds that he does not have the part (stock out) but can substitute one that will work. The estimate for the correct part is 10 days to two weeks (It is always that).

Meanwhile, he points out that there is another part that looks like it will fail sometime soon. He could fix it, but he does not have it in stock either (another stock out). The window of pleasure is so small for us so we decide to hold our breath and hope the sub will work. We go fishing, but our confidence/reliability level is really low; we decide not to turn the motor off and come back early with no fish. Boat unreliability and stock outs have caused us to fail in our mission which was to provide fish for dinner.

Not to be dissuaded, we bought a 17-ft. skiff as back up so we could tow ourselves back in when needed. We achieved reliability but, had to duplicate our assets to do so.

Here is my point: Companies should not have to buy back up “skiffs” to achieve reliability. Companies invest substantial sums in Reliability Programs and fail to recognize how the unreliability of the typical MRO stores operation depletes the very reason for the investment. All sophisticated predictive maintenance programs cannot function properly if the correct parts in the correct quantities are not available.

Reliable engineers should recognize that MRO stores must be a part of their reliability programs.

The boat will not start and the company will not catch fish unless the MRO stores operation is programmed to be world class and is connected to Reliability efforts.