The Spare Parts Management Hike

The four phases towards the summit

Easter weekend is just around the corner. For most people, that means an extra-long weekend filled with family activities. For me as an ex-pat in South Africa, that is unfortunately not possible. I will probably spend the weekend on my new hobby: hiking. Two weeks ago, my CEO (Jan Willem) invited me to walk the Perdekop trail in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve in Franschhoek. It was an amazing hike with extraordinary views. That morning I realised that hiking consists of several phases which are similar to a typical spare parts optimisation journey. Let me explain the metaphor.

The preparation

The first step is always selecting the right hike. You start with identifying the fitness level of your group, the combined expectations, and the available time. Considering all factors, you choose a suitable trail. In this case we chose the Perdekop trail, and based on the weather forecast, we made sure to bring enough water, snacks, and sunblock to survive the heat.

When I talk for the first time about spare parts optimisation with a client, I always start with the baseline. It is important to first understand how a business operates, how it performs and the maturity level of its processes before beginning an ambitious improvement project. Within Gordian, we refer to it as a quantitative and qualitative scan. We evaluate the ‘as is’ situation and identify areas of improvement. In that way, we ensure to select to right spare parts optimisation journey.

The ambitious start

We got out of the car, looked at the map at the start of the trail: 13.4 km with almost 1.000 meter of elevation. Exactly as prepared. Full of excitement and confidence to reach the summit, we started the hike. The first meters passed by quickly as we walked with a certain youthful frivolity.

In a typical spare parts optimisation project, we begin with a kick-off session. We invite all relevant stakeholders to discuss the relevance of the project, the plan of approach, and what we expect from each party. The concerns of stakeholders are always heard and addressed. We strongly believe that involving people early on is the best way to achieve the desired objective. You will see that a certain energy and willingness to change arise, which is more effective than ruling from an ivory tower.

Collapse and adapt

There I was, halfway up the second peak of the day, completely out of breath, my heart was high, and I was craving water. Clearly, I overestimated my own climbing ability and my body insisted on a short break. I reached for my backpack, took some water, and enjoyed the view for a while. After a few minutes, I caught my breath and regained some energy. I adjusted to a more suitable pace and continued with the climb.

The same principle holds for a typical spare parts optimisation project. There will always be a hick-up somewhere in the project. If the development of the data interface takes longer than anticipated or the speed of running the decision tree for expensive slow-movers is lower, the solution should be the same; Catch your breath, look at the road you covered, identify the root cause and adjust. It does not make sense to convulsively hold on to the initial planning if you experience severe hick-ups. Act flexible and adjust the approach.

Reaching the summit

Eventually we reached the summit and took some beautiful pictures of the amazing view. We could even see Table Mountain from up there. The way back was significantly easier. After a little over 4 hours, we were back at the car, and celebrated our victory at a nearby wine farm. And off course we shared our achievement on Strava to brag to the rest of the world.

The moment you have reached the ‘project summit’ and completed the implementation of your solution, you should also celebrate. This boosts the self-confidence of the team and motivates them to achieve more. In addition, it allows reflection, so you know why it was a success. Use these insights and make plans for your next spare parts optimisation journey to ensure continuous improvement.

If you want to discuss spare part optimisation possibilities within your organisation or simply want to join in on the next hike, feel free to reach out.

Get in touch

Laurens Hellegers
Consultant - Gordian SA
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