The Case for Spare Parts

lots of boxes of spare parts stacked and organized in a warehouse

In this post, Jeremy Vaughn, Senior Parts Manager at our precipitator parts warehouse, shares his experience in creating a spare parts plan for various facilities. 

We stock over 475 individual parts at our warehouse in Jacksonville. We are the OEM for over 1,000 Environmental Elements electrostatic precipitator installs in North America and internationally.

My experience as Senior Parts Manager has been great because I’ve been able to take my experience in the field with these precipitators and carry it over to conversations with the customer. If they don’t know what something is called, or if they’re using different terminology, I can communicate and help them understand what they need. On the other side of assisting customers,  I work with the spare parts teams to ship the parts they need and ensure the customers receive them on time to be able to complete the repairs. This can be very time-sensitive if it is an unplanned outage or emergency failure.  

Customized Parts for Better Solutions

When it comes to spare parts, you’re not limited to off-the-shelf solutions. 

I work with a lot of the customers on technical information. They may want to know what something’s made out of, or if they’ve been having a problem in a particular area, they’ll want to improve reliability. . I’ll work with the vendors to find out the materials. If the customer notices that this material fails every six months, they’ll ask if we have a better option. Depending on the industry and application, one material may be a better solution than another. 

I constantly work with our engineering department to make sure that the parts are spec’d out correctly, going back and forth to meet the customer’s needs for their equipment within their budget and relying on the engineers’ recommendations for the best alternative. My job is to figure out exactly what they want, what they need, and what’s going to work the best in their application.

Advice For Keeping Spare Parts On-Site 

I’m working on a project with a customer in Canada right now who’s looking to purchase about $150,000 worth of electrical spares because they’re concerned about extended lead times and supply chain shortages. If your TR (transformer rectifier) fails, they take six to eight weeks (or more) to fabricate and can range anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. They’re looking at keeping one or two in stock on-site. The upfront cost looks high, but for this customer, it’s far less than what they would spend in lost production if they had to wait eight weeks for a replacement. 

Every week I work with customers on recommended spare parts lists. This is especially true for our Canadian customers because if they need something, it never fails that it’s on Friday afternoon, Christmas Eve, or an inconvenient time for something to break. We can expedite parts, but nothing is quite as fast as a zero-wait time by having what they need in their own warehouse. 

I think COVID made a lot more industrial facilities realize the importance of spare parts on-site when suppliers physically couldn’t get shipments across the border. We’ve had truck drivers sit at the border, not allowed to move, and the customer had to send another truck from Canada to pick up the shipment. It seems that customers are being more proactive about keeping parts in stock to overcome these issues.  

You also need a good handle on routine maintenance and expected replacement parts needed.   You will never be able to stock everything for the whole precipitator. However, you can prevent downtime through routine maintenance and stock spare parts for the things that are more likely to break. 

How to Develop a Recommended Spare Parts List 

Each recommended spare parts list depends on the unit and the customer. When these units were originally designed and constructed, they would supply what is called an Operation and Maintenance Manual which included a spare parts list.  

Upon request, I can take that O&M manual and update it with recommendations based on inspections and/or customer observations, update obsolete part numbers, and provide an ideal list for the customer to have on-hand. Sometimes parts are no longer available because original vendors are no longer in business, and I find the best replacement.

It can usually take a few days of talking with the customer to understand their needs and determine the right solution(s) to populate a parts list and then quote the desired items.

It comes down to understanding your equipment, common problem areas, and building a list around your needs and budget. 

Contact us here to request a replacement part or recommended spare parts list, or call our Parts Hotline at 800-PART-EEC (800-727-8332).