The Ebb and Flow of Managing School Bus Parts Inventory

Written by Robert T. Pudlewski I

nventory management is the operational part of the school bus shop/garage that aims to always have the right product in the right quantity, at the right time. When conducted effectively, fleet operators reduce

the costs of carrying excess inventory, while maximizing vehicle uptime. Good inventory management can especially help you

track your inventory in real time, in order to streamline this process. By effectively managing your inventory, you can have

the right products in the right quantity on hand, and avoid products being out of stock or operating funds being tied up in excess stock. You can also avoid damage and obsolescence, or, spending too much money on stock that’s taking up scarce space in a stockroom or on the shop floor.

Good Inventory Management Should: • Reduce costs • Involve the parts dealer, distributor, warehouse and manufacturer, whenever possible, for added support

• Keep track of your inventory in real time • Help you forecast demand • Prevent product and production shortages • Prevent excess parts stock and too many supplies • Allow for easy inventory analysis on any parts life • Allows for multi-location management—tracking inventory across more than one site—if your operation has more than one repair site

• Be accessible right from your retail point-of-sale (POS) system

• Optimize storage area organization and precious em- ployee look-up time

• Offer quick and painless bar code scanning, or parts coding, to speed-up processing

Top 10 Suggested Inventory Management Techniques & Best-Practices Fine-tune maintenance budgeting and annual fore- casting. Accurate budgeting/forecasting is vital. Your annual projected maintenance cost calculations should be based on factors such as historical maintenance ex- pense figures, fleet age, mileage, and an inflation factor, such as annual producers price index (PPI).

22 School Transportation News • FEBRUARY 2019 Use the FIFO approach (first in, first out). Parts and

supplies should be used for repairs in the same chrono- logical order as they were purchased or created. This is especially important for batteries, tires and lubes. The best way to apply FIFO in a parts and supply storeroom, is to add new items from the back, so the older products are at the front. Identify low-turn stock. If you have stock that hasn’t been

used at all in the last six to 12 months, it’s probably time to stop stocking that item. You might also consider different strategies for getting rid of that stock—like a special discount or a dealer/distributor “buy-back” promotion—since excess stock wastes both your space and money. Audit your stock. Even with good inventory manage-

ment practices, processes and software, periodically, you still need to count your inventory, to make sure what you have in stock matches what you think you have on record. School bus operators use different techniques, including an annual, year-end physical inventory that counts every single item, and ongoing spot-checking, which can be most useful for products that are moving fast or have stocking issues. Always track your stock levels. Have a solid system in

place for tracking your stock levels, labeling your parts, and prioritizing the quantities of the most frequently used products. Reduce equipment repair times. An out of service bus

waiting for parts can be costly. Monitoring your parts usage is crucial to understanding its life, such as bus chassis foundation brake part’s life cycle while operating in a hilly urban environment, so you can be prepared to have on hand the repair parts before issues arise. Quality control. It’s important to ensure that all of your parts and supplies look great, are properly labeled, and are kept clean and dry. It could be as simple as having employees perform a quick examination during stock audits that includes a checklist for signs of damage and correct product labeling. Quantity control. Plan enough inventory for specific

interval driven maintenance procedures. Such as PM’s, lube oil, filter changes and brake inspections. Stock control. Knowing the amount of inventory you

have at a given time applies to all items. If you have a large fleet and a lot of inventory, you might need one

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