Lean Approach to Spares is a 48 Hour Success

Recognising the importance for a fast turn around in spares orders for its marine window wiper systems, B.Hepworth realised that their current system was not meeting their customer needs. B.Hepworth's marine customers need spares quickly so that ships are not delayed in dock. A ship without working wipers can't sail.

Thinking about it from their customers view point, Hepworth set the business goal of shipping spares product within 48 hours. To do this they recognised that a new system would have to be developed using Lean principles, so they turned to Andy Taylor and Oneflow to help.

With a system now in place, Hepworth hope not only to be able to deliver added value and service to their customers but to turn this into a competitive advantage.

The Objectives

The objective for B.Hepworth was clear; develop a system that could ship customers' spares orders from receipt to despatch in less than 48hrs. In the current system, spares orders were mixed in with OEM manufacturing leading to delays and tracking issues.

The new system was required to make this process clearer and treat spares as a separate value stream.

With shipping companies potentially facing ships being held in dock whilst awaiting repair, a system that could despatch spares to anywhere in the world in less than 48hrs would deliver excellent customer service and bring added value to B.Hepworth's customers.

Project Approach

As the spares operation crosses all elements of the business, from sales to manufacturing to despatch, it was key that cross functional team was engaged. With existing processes in place for the spares business and a new challenging target of 48 hrs, the old systems and methods had to be challenged in a Lean way.

Communicating the need for the project and its benefits helped the team buy into the changes required. By using a systematic approach to focus the activity, the team were able to overcome the issues and use their knowledge to find the solution.

The project had three key elements; Analysis, Design and Implementation, covering these main steps:

  • Process mapping, measuring and identifying the wastes in the current system
  • Study of spares demand
  • Designing the new system - order processing, fulfilment process, delivery, and manufacturing
  • Set up of new system - information flows, physical system, stock
  • Training
  • Trialling and testing
  • Launch

The Action

The team completed several actions at each stage, starting with the analysis stage;

  • Study of the current process identified the 7 wastes and opportunities to reduce the fulfilment lead time
  • Demand study showed Pareto affect of low number of part number = large percentage of all orders
  • Analysis of critical spares from customer view point (i.e. what stops the ship)
  • Study of demand of orders per day - how many orders, how many parts, order size
  • Calculated how much stock to hold against demand and replenishment time
  • Calculated the resources required: space, manning, equipment, to set up a dedicated 48hr cell

With this stage complete, the team had a clear set of specifications for the system and set about designing and implementing a dedicated process and facility:

  • Set up dedicated 48 hours spares cell (stock, equipment, packing, despatch)
  • Defined and made the order information flow visual
  • Created a standardised daily timetable and sequence of events
  • Put in a visual management system to control stock, process orders and to highlight issues
  • Set up a Kanban and replenishment process back into main manufacturing
  • Ran trials and training with the team and refined the system

The last actions to complete the implementation process and to make it as easy to use, and reduce lead times for the customers, was to put the system on to the internet, complete with a parts catalogue, pictures, prices and an ordering form. Click here to see the system.


B.Hepworth now have a system running that is shipping up to 5 orders a day with demand for the service increasing with some clear benefits.

  • Shipping spares orders in 48 hours down from the original 6 weeks - 92% improvement
  • Tracking spares orders is clear and visible
  • A system that responds to customers' needs and demand
  • Reduced existing WIP and number of open sales orders against spares (reduced the number of system transactions)

The system is now part of everyday life at B.Hepworth with shipment on time in full within 48hrs regularly running at 100% on time in full.

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