Getting More from MRO

Knowing the capabilities of maintenance, repair and operations suppliers can help manufacturers keep costs down.

Increasing profitability has never been more challenging -- or more essential. That's why many manufacturers, along with their purchasing agents, are looking for business partners who can offer a high level of product and service support coupled with the ability to reduce operating costs, notes Tom Armold, vice president of marketing and strategic accounts for Applied Industrial Technologies.

Evolving beyond their traditional role as a supplier of needed parts, well-rounded maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) suppliers have started taking on the role of consultant, working closely with manufacturing companies to find solutions that will keep their plants operating more smoothly and profitably. Armold offers the following ways that an effective MRO supplier can help manufacturers realize some often untapped cost-saving opportunities:

Multiple purchasing channels.
Providing the ability to purchase parts and equipment electronically can serve to reduce transaction times, Armold says. A full-service MRO supplier will not only embrace the latest technology, but also continue to provide access to its parts and services to customers who prefer existing electronic purchasing methods, or the personal touch of one-on-one discussions.

Quantifiable value
Effective MRO suppliers can offer purchasing solutions that positively impact the bottom line. Armold says customers should look for a partner who can back up a broad inventory of parts and equipment with expertise and technical know-how, and document the value of the relationship.

Inventory optimization/management
Streamlining a storeroom through inventory support and inventory management expertise and, specifically, identifying excessive, redundant and obsolete parts can result in significant savings in both money and time, notes Armold.

Energy management
Manufacturers should look to their MRO suppliers for energy-saving tips regarding both new and existing equipment. In addition to assistance from a local utility company, a knowledgeable supplier can offer energy- and money-saving advice, from developing a motor management system to determining the right time to repair or replace.

Training
Good MRO suppliers will develop a thorough understanding of a customer's business, which can help manufacturers diagnose repeated equipment failures. In addition, qualified distributors can provide customized, in-plant maintenance training that focuses on increasing uptime (without having to sit through a sales pitch).

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