The Importance Of Parts Inventory And Supply Chain In The Jan/San Industry

By Joe Tehan, Imperial Dade – Distributor Contribution

Joe Tehan

Keeping your janitorial equipment in peak operating condition is an essential part of being able to clean and maintain your facility. But, for many, the simple task of keeping equipment fully operational has been challenging with the ongoing supply chain issues, including manufacturer delays and shipping issues, over the last few years.

Although the market is stabilizing, it’s not unusual to hear from a manufacturer that a part is 6 months out on backorder.

For many businesses, when a vital piece of equipment is down for extended periods of time, it can be a seemingly impossible task to keep a clean and healthy facility. Not to mention increased expenses due to higher labor costs from unplanned equipment downtime.

In the face of supply chain shortages and volatile markets, how can you reliably ensure that your equipment stays in working order?

The key is to have the correct people and parts on hand to maintain and repair janitorial equipment as needed or, hopefully, before it breaks. In other words, being proactive with parts inventory and preventative maintenance is vital if you want to keep your equipment up and running.

Broad Parts Inventory: OEM And The Aftermarket

It’s not possible to keep every part of every machine in stock, which is why businesses should not only consider original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, but aftermarket parts, too.

An equipment service provider should keep an active inventory of the most common parts used during repairs. This will minimize the impact of shipping delays from the manufacturer.

And for those parts not in inventory or on backorder, providers can look past OEM to the aftermarket. With aftermarket parts, inventory can be maintained to minimize equipment downtime.

The goal is to bring equipment back to its original spec by using OEM parts. Still, there can be situations where aftermarket parts are either the only solution or provide a better product at a better price.

However, this benefit can come at a cost. In some cases, particularly for warranty repairs, repairs using an aftermarket part would not be covered under a manufacturer’s warranty.

It’s a catch-22; do you need to repair the machine quickly or do you want to wait to have the repair covered under the manufacturer’s original warranty? The customer and distributor must decide on which path is best for them.

For example, let’s say that John’s Jeep needs a repair, but his dealer says one of the key parts is on backorder. After some investigating, he discovers that a nearby auto shop is selling an identical part, but it’s made by a third-party manufacturer. The only physical difference between the third-party and OEM part is the logo. Otherwise, these two parts can come with the same code numbers and warranty, but the third-party part can be up to 20% less expensive.

Pro Tip: Aftermarket parts can affect the equipment’s warranty, but the part may come with its own warranty. Always check with your supplier before accepting an aftermarket part.

Now, John’s faced with a choice: repair his car quickly with the aftermarket part or wait and keep the original manufacturer’s warranty intact.

Of course, had John been following a scheduled preventative maintenance program, there’s a chance that the issue with his car would have been identified and resolved before it required repairs.

The Value Of Preventative Maintenance

By maintaining a regular schedule of equipment maintenance and performance reviews, repairs can be minimized.

In practice, this is called preventative maintenance (PM). PM programs are a great way to inspect and maintain equipment on a regularly scheduled basis. If performed routinely, it can prevent unexpected downtime caused by broken and out-of-service equipment, along with other issues like increased cleaning times, lower productivity, and higher costs.

Preventative maintenance is designed to extend the useful life of equipment by catching a problem before it can turn into a more serious, expensive defect.

Many businesses are hesitant to start a preventative maintenance program because they don’t want to spend money on maintaining equipment that hasn’t broken yet. What they don’t understand is that PM will increase the value of their equipment over time.

To understand how it can increase value over time, think of a piece of equipment as a financial investment.

When scheduled equipment maintenance is performed properly, and the equipment exceeds its expected lifespan, you’re getting a better return on investment. But, if you don’t take care of your equipment, and it breaks down before the end of its intended lifespan, you’ve lost money on your investment.

An Alternative Way To Keep Parts In Stock

Another method of dealing with out-of-stock parts and other supply chain disruptions is to stick to one brand of equipment, known as “fleet uniformity.”

By sticking with one brand of equipment fleet, businesses can build up an emergency stock of parts, both new and used, as equipment ages out of service, effectively putting parts on the shelves of one’s facility.

In many cases, this can be the fastest way to minimize the amount of downtime between repairs.

As for larger repairs, or repairs that need to be done by a factory-trained technician to ensure the machine remains in warranty, a highly skilled technician can use the customer’s parts inventory to perform the necessary work.

Imperial Dade is a leading independent distributor of janitorial supplies and cleaning equipment serving 90,000 customers across North America. Founded in 1935, Imperial Dade operates 130 distribution centers and employs professionally trained equipment service technicians. For more information, visit

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