Service-Level-Driven Service Parts Planning is a four-step process that extends beyond simplified forecasting and rule-of-thumb safety stocks. It provides service parts planners with data-driven, risk-adjusted decision support.

Step 1. Ensure that all stakeholders agree on the metrics that matter. All participants in the service parts inventory planning process must agree on the definitions and what metrics matter most to the organization. Service Levels detail the percentage of time you can completely satisfy required usage without stocking out. Fill Rates detail the percentage of the requested usage that is immediately filled from stock. (To learn more about the differences between service levels and fill rate, watch this 4-minute lesson here.) Availability details the percentage of active spare parts that have an on-hand inventory of at least one unit. Holding costs are the annualized costs of holding stock accounting for obsolescence, taxes, interest, warehousing, and other expenses. Shortage costs are the cost of running out of stock including vehicle/equipment down time, expedites, lost sales, and more. Ordering costs are the costs associated with placing and receiving replenishment orders.

Step 2. Benchmark historical and predicted current service level performance. All participants in the service parts inventory planning process must hold a common understanding of predicted future service levels, fill rates and costs and their implications for your service parts operations. It is critical to measure both historical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and their predictive equivalents, Key Performance Predictions (KPPs). Leveraging modern software, you can benchmark past performance and leverage probabilistic forecasting methods to simulate future performance. By stress testing your current inventory stocking policies against all plausible scenarios of future demand, you will know ahead of time how current and proposed stocking policies are likely to perform.

Step 3. Agree on targeted service levels for each spare part and take proactive corrective action when targets are predicted to miss. Parts planners, supply chain leadership, and the mechanical/maintenance teams should agree on the desired service level targets with a full understanding of the tradeoffs between stockout risk and inventory cost. By leveraging what-if scenarios in modern parts planning software, it is possible to compare alternative stocking policies and identify those that best meets business objectives. Agree on what degree of stockout risk is acceptable for each part or class of parts. Likewise, determine inventory budgets and other cost constraints. Once these limits are agreed, take immediate action to avoid stockouts and excess inventory before they occur. Use your software to automatically upload modified reorder points, safety stock levels, and/or Min/Max parameters to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system to adjust daily parts purchasing.

Step 4. Make it so and keep it so. Empower the planning team with the knowledge and tools it needs to ensure that you strike agreed-upon balance between service levels and costs by driving your ordering process using optimized inputs (forecasts, reorder points, order quantities, safety stocks). Track your KPI’s and use your software to identify and address exceptions. Don’t let reorder points grow stale and outdated.  Recalibrate the stocking policies each planning cycle (at least once monthly) using up-to-date usage history, supplier lead times, and costs. Remember: Recalibration of your service parts inventory policy is preventive maintenance against both stockouts and excess stock.