I’ve heard the term “MRO,” but I don’t know what it is or how it applies to heat treating. Can you help?

MRO stands for "maintenance repair operations" and is typically applied to aftermarket components in all types of industries. Aerospace would be a prime example of an industry that would benefit from this type of strategy to keep their fleets flying.

Formally, MRO may be defined as, "All actions, which have the objective of retaining or restoring an item in or to a state in which it can perform its required function. The actions include the combination of all technical and corresponding administrative, managerial and supervision actions."[1, 2]

Maintenance repair operations involve:

1. Fixing any component should it fail in service (i.e. need repair, unscheduled or casualty maintenance)
2. Performing the routine maintenance designed to keep the device in working order (i.e. scheduled maintenance)
3. Preventing trouble from arising (i.e. preventative maintenance)

MRO operations are typically categorized by whether the product remains the property of the customer (i.e. a service is being offered) or whether the product is being refurbished (i.e. offered for resale after repair). Servicing represents a closed-loop supply chain and usually has the scope of maintenance, repair or overhaul of the product. Resale represents an open-loop supply chain and is typified by refurbishment and remanufacture.

MRO environments can show very high variation in demand, repair time and work content. MROs enhanced by computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and lean manufacturing/six sigma approaches often lower the cost of equipment downtime. The basic philosophy of MROs is as follows:
  • Every facility will benefit from having this operation. The size of the MRO function (and inventory) is proportional to the size of the facility and the equipment used to perform its business objectives.
  • Every facility should have on hand the inventory required to perform all preventative- and/or corrective-maintenance activities to ensure that equipment is functioning at expected performance levels.
Keeping the MRO function working efficiently helps keep the facility and its operations running smoothly. MRO inventory can be automated to minimize storage space, utilizing the least amount of dedicated labor, with 100% accountability and management visibility to help assure there are no shortages.

Heat-treat departments, due to the inherent need for planned and unplanned maintenance, benefit from the types of activities involved with the MRO function.