MINNEAPOLIS — Most experts agree that the supply chain issues we have been facing since the COVID-19 pandemic began will be with us well into 2023. As a small-business operator, you have no doubt experienced shortages of supplies, equipment and parts necessary to run your business. While there is little a small-business operator can do to change the underlying factors causing supply chain issues, there are numerous ways to navigate around these shortages and minimize the impact on your business.
In this column, I’m sharing eight strategies to consider for finding replacement parts to keep your machinery in operation. The focus is on parts, but many of these methods can also be used in other areas. Here are the last four:
5. LOOK AT GENERIC VS. OEM
Similar to the alternate brands I’ve already described, generic parts are often manufactured for high-volume components. While I would generally advise sticking with OEM parts to be confident in their ability to function successfully over long periods of time, generic parts can be a valid option if the OEM parts are not available. Your parts professional should be able to guide you to suitable generic replacements. Some components that are typically available in generic equivalents are drive belts, ironer ribbons, drain valves, pads and covers, bearings, blower wheels and lint filters.
6. SEARCH FOR ALTERNATE SIZES
This type of substitution should be considered carefully with the help of your parts professional. In some cases, substituting a component of a different horsepower—a pump, for example—could be a valid option if the exact pump needed is not available. Machine operation could be impacted by this sort of substitution but it can occasionally be a valid option during supply chain disruptions.
7. TRY SUBSTITUTE MATERIALS
During the design of most machinery, decisions are made regarding the materials used in components based on price, longevity and a host of other parameters. If the component you are searching for is not available in the exact material used in the original component, you may be able to substitute a different material.
Substitutions of this type could impact the longevity of the component, with longer life usually linked to higher cost and shorter life to lower cost. Gaskets would be an example of a component that can usually be supplied in alternate materials.
8. CONSIDER USED VS. NEW
If all else fails and you are desperate to get your machinery back in operation, you can consider trying to find a used component to make the repairs. Many equipment distributors who take used machinery in trade often keep the machinery in order to salvage parts from it. As parts removed from used machinery do not generally have part numbers on them, making sure the part is the exact part you require can be a challenge. If the part being salvaged has been in operation for many years, it may not function properly or its life expectancy could be limited, but it could be worth a try if all other options have been exhausted.
Supply chain issues have been hard on all of us. Hopefully we see an end coming. In the meantime, let’s continue to find new ways of doing things and, possibly, find efficiencies and discoveries that we may not have seen before.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].