What Is Spare Parts Management?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Spare parts management is the maintenance of key spare parts at strategic locations so they will be available when needed. Decisions about which parts to keep in stock and where to keep them require a careful evaluation of current and future needs. In some cases it may be more cost effective to order a part when it is needed, while in others, it is necessary to keep a spare part on hand to prevent down time in the event of breakage or problems.

One important aspect of spare parts management is good inventory control.
One important aspect of spare parts management is good inventory control.

One important aspect of spare parts management is good inventory control. A facility that maintains spare parts needs a well organized storage area with a detailed and accurate inventory of the parts present. As personnel use spare parts, they must log their activities. This will allow an inventory controller to reorder parts if necessary, or to consider evaluating a piece of equipment if it keeps failing and requiring repair services.

Automated systems equipped with barcode scanners allow management to track spare parts quickly and accurately.
Automated systems equipped with barcode scanners allow management to track spare parts quickly and accurately.

Personnel making decisions about which parts to keep on hand can weigh a number of factors. One aspect of spare parts management is part availability. If a company knows that it can always get a part within four hours, for example, because a distributor pledges to keep it in stock, there is no reason to maintain it with other spare parts. If there are concerns about the length of time required for delivery, or unusual parts that may not be available when the company needs them, it is necessary to keep a spare. Likewise, if downtime will be extremely expensive, the company needs a spare. Some parts may expire or acquire damage in storage, and they should not be kept in stock unless the company knows it will use them.

Customer satisfaction is a key component of spare parts management. Companies need to determine if having a part in stock will provide benefits in the form of shorter turnarounds and less risk of downtime that would make the costs of storage, inventory controls, and so forth justifiable. For some companies, spare parts may not make a significant difference in customer satisfaction, and it will be more cost effective to order replacement equipment when necessary.

Spare parts management does not just concern factories and large companies. It can occur on a household level as well. Many households keep things like light bulbs, screws, washers, and other basic supplies around for performing quick repairs when something breaks. These spare parts will take up space, but they can be very convenient to have around.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


At a company, who would usually be in control of spare parts management? Is there usually a parts database in the company computer for anyone on staff to access?

I purchased an elliptical online and within two months it had broken on us. We want to get a replacement part for it as it looks pretty easy to fix but we aren't sure who to talk to about getting the part we need. We tried calling the company who made the elliptical directly but the office is always closed, so we are thinking of trying to contact a different supplier. We really need to know who to ask for though when we call.


It always amazes me how organized some companies need to be when it comes to spare parts management, especially those companies that deal with used parts. My camera recently broken and finding the piece for my camera was surprisingly easy considering it was an older model and the part I needed was quite small.

A lot of stores online that deal with camera repair have fantastic spare parts organization and as long as you know the make and model of your camera you can find what you need. If you don't know that's usually OK too. You can just send the repair company a photograph of your camera pointing out what is broken. The company can often tell you a part name by sight, so you don't have worry about anything if you can't recognize it.

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