Why Are Expendables And Consumables So Hard To Manage?

The email hits your inbox. 

You glance at the subject line and it readsNeed ASAP for XTY-123.” 

Maintenance is requesting material for this week’s project.

You anxiously open the document. 

Why Are Expendables And Consumables So Hard To Manage?

It’s expendable and consumable material: 

  • 85 bolts
  • 950 pins
  • 247 o'rings
  • 5 switches
  • 6 quarts of sealant
  • An occasional rotable

The request is 100 line items. 

Some items you’ve never purchased, while others are high volume for you but your inventory level does not meet this maintenance need. 

And it’s not that you haven’t done this before. 

It’s just damn difficult. 

Why is it so hard to manage? 

It’s hard to manage because you're dealing with an infinite amount of variables.

I’m no mathematician (yes I am) but let’s take a look at a simple comparison. 

Math problem # 1: 

 X + Y = Z

Ahh, so simple. 

You need 1 part (X) from one supplier (Y) and you get Z outcome. 

Even though it rarely goes this smooth hear me out. It’s an example, people! ;)

This is typical when you have a super efficient supply chain, need very little material, or use tools to make your material life quicker, faster, and less expensive. 

Here’s another scenario...

Math problem #2:

((((x10)+(x1000)) + ((y1)+(y2))) - (y2)) + (y3) + (x50)(y3) / (y4)(y5) = OMG 

Let me explain. 

In math problem #1 you needed 10 bolts and you had a trusted material advisor that shipped and delivered your material on time. 

Simple. Kick your feet up and relax. 

Now, math problem #2 is more realistic to your supply chain. 

You need 10 bolts and 1,000 pins. You have 2 suppliers. You contact both of them and they quote you. 

You place the order.

2 hours later supplier #2 doesn't have the quantity you need so they cancel your order or tell you to send a revised PO. 

You scramble to cancel the order and find a replacement. 

You find one. Yay!

5 minutes later maintenance lets you know you need 50 lamps, so you have to source a partner. 

Once you finally have that all squared away you have to organize the shipments. 

Who knows how that’ll end up. 

The crazy part is, this was only a 3 part math example. 

Now factor in all the material you need on a daily basis and you can see why your supply chain is so darn complicated. 

You add in some HAZMAT shipments, supplier’s minimum order quantities, unresponsive suppliers, and you just added complexity. 

That my friend is why it’s difficult. 

There’s a ton of material, unlimited variables, and you’re not a wizard. Sorry to break it to you. 

Your supply chain is vast and with the wrong focus, you’ll make it even harder. 

Let’s begin to make this easier

Making it easier takes work, sweat, and even some elbow grease. Possibly tears? 

No blood though! That’s an HR thing. 

Let’s start slow. 

First, you’ll audit your supply chain. 
Yes, audit. It’s not as bad as it sounds. 

The cold hard truth is you're wasting resources in 3 critical areas: 

  1. Total material costs are high due to poor sourcing, processing, and chasing strategies. 
  2. You have very little trusted material advisors who have your best interest at heart.  
  3. You’re only looking at the per-unit price and not the total material cost. 

But don’t let those beat you down. 

We’ll start with 7 tips and begin elaborating on them more in future posts. 

But for now, know what they are...

Start with these 7 tips to supply chain efficiency

Expendable and consumable material is hard to manage. There’s a ton of material and a near infinite amount of resources to get them from. 


But staying focused on your goals (reducing cost, time and complexity) should be at the front of every decision. 

Here’s where you’ll start. 

1) Understand what you’re trying to achieve. 

Come up with a clear vision of what you're trying to accomplish. 

Is it reducing cost?

Is it reducing lead times? 

Is it reducing complexity and issues? 

You may factor in all 3 of these. But be clear on what you’re trying to do. 

And make sure you relay this to your trusted material advisor. If they’re good, they should be already asking you these questions. 

Don’t assume they’re Harry Potter or some magical creature. They can’t read your mind. ;)

2) Know what your planned and ad-hoc material is.

We’ll be digging deep into this in a future post you should know what these are and how to separate them. 

3) Be able to report historical consumption. 

If you can’t tell where you’ve been how do you know where you want to go? 

This is an important point. 

Find your past data. We’ll be using it in the future. 

4) Audit your supply chain.

Some suppliers are good, others are terrible, and then there are the ones that provide superior support. 

Lean on the superior. But first, you must know who they are. An audit helps with that. 

5) Develop a better sourcing, processing, and chasing system.

Sending out mass RFQs, processing everything based on the cheapest price, and shipping material from hundreds of cities can be a recipe for disaster. 

Develop better systems that will help you get to where you want to go. 

6) Calculate your total material costs. 

This is a very important calculation. Know it. Understand it. And find ways to reduce it. 
7) Adopt new strategies to help you. 

Adopt new strategies like…

  • Routine consolidations
  • A Vendor Managed Inventory for your high consumption needs
  • Manufacturing and maintenance line feeds
  • Routine task card kitting
  • Maintenance check kits
  • And a ton more. 

As you can now see, this is why aircraft expendables and consumables are so hard to manage

Take these tips and start making your change...today!

And remember, Never Forget Your Wings.