When managing service parts, you don’t know what will break and when because part failures are random and sudden. As a result, demand patterns are most often extremely intermittent and lack significant trend or seasonal structure. The number of part-by-location combinations is often in the hundreds of thousands, so it’s not feasible to manually review demand for individual parts. Nevertheless, it is much more straightforward to implement a planning and forecasting system to support spare parts planning than you might think.

This conclusion is informed by hundreds of software implementations we’ve directed over the years. Customers managing spare parts and service parts (the latter for internal consumption/MRO), and to a lesser degree aftermarket parts (for resale to installed bases), have consistently implemented our parts planning software faster than their peers in manufacturing and distribution.

The primary reason is the role in manufacturing and distribution of business knowledge about what might happen in the future. In a traditional B2B manufacturing and distribution environment, there are customers and sales and marketing teams selling to those customers. There are sales goals, revenue expectations, and budgets. This means there is a lot of business knowledge about what will be purchased, what will be promoted, whose opinions need to be accounted for. A complex planning loop is required. In contrast, when managing spare parts, you have a maintenance team that fixes equipment when it breaks. Though there are often maintenance schedules for guidance, what is needed beyond a standard list of consumable parts is often unknown until a maintenance person is on-site. In other words, there just isn’t the same sort of business knowledge available to parts planners when making stocking decisions.

Yes, that is a disadvantage, but it also has an upside: there is no need to produce a period-by-period consensus demand forecast with all the work that requires. When planning spare parts, you can usually skip many steps required for a typical manufacturer, distributor, or retailer. These skippable steps include:  

  1. Building forecasts at different levels of the business, such as product family or region.
  2. Sharing the demand forecast with sales, marketing, and customers.
  3. Reviewing forecast overrides from sales, marketing, and customers.
  4. Agreeing on a consensus forecast that combines statistics and business knowledge.
  5. Measuring “forecast value add” to determine if overrides make the forecast more accurate.
  6. Adjusting the demand forecast for known future promotions.
  7. Accounting for cannibalization (i.e., if I sell more of product A, I’ll sell less of product B).

Freed from a consensus-building process, spare parts planners and inventory managers can rely directly on their software to predict usage and the required stocking policies. If they have access to a field-proven solution that addresses intermittent demand, they can quickly “go live” with more accurate demand forecasts and estimates of reorder points, safety stocks, and order suggestions.  Their attention can be focused on getting accurate usage and supplier lead time data. The “political” part of the job can be limited to obtaining organization consensus on service level targets and inventory budgets.

Spare Parts Planning Software solutions

Smart IP&O’s service parts forecasting software uses a unique empirical probabilistic forecasting approach that is engineered for intermittent demand. For consumable spare parts, our patented and APICS award winning method rapidly generates tens of thousands of demand scenarios without relying on the assumptions about the nature of demand distributions implicit in traditional forecasting methods. The result is highly accurate estimates of safety stock, reorder points, and service levels, which leads to higher service levels and lower inventory costs. For repairable spare parts, Smart’s Repair and Return Module accurately simulates the processes of part breakdown and repair. It predicts downtime, service levels, and inventory costs associated with the current rotating spare parts pool. Planners will know how many spares to stock to achieve short- and long-term service level requirements and, in operational settings, whether to wait for repairs to be completed and returned to service or to purchase additional service spares from suppliers, avoiding unnecessary buying and equipment downtime.

Contact us to learn more how this functionality has helped our customers in the MRO, Field Service, Utility, Mining, and Public Transportation sectors to optimize their inventory. You can also download the Whitepaper here.



White Paper: What you Need to know about Forecasting and Planning Service Parts


This paper describes Smart Software’s patented methodology for forecasting demand, safety stocks, and reorder points on items such as service parts and components with intermittent demand, and provides several examples of customer success.