Onboard Spares V’s JIT Procurement

Posted by | March 19, 2014 | Management | No Comments

Carrying spare parts versus JIT part procurement

Unless you are running a round-the-world race campaign it is probably not practical to carry a spare mast like the one in the picture, but assessing the level of spares that should be carried onboard is an important exercise; a dark science involving forecasting the future and assessing risks.

Many yachts carry a simple inventory of spare parts preferring to order replacement parts as and when needed, using a Just In Time (JIT) parts inventory management system, while  other yachts have bilges full of parts, carefully planning for all possible eventualities. What factors should be considered before deciding the best levels of stocks to carry onboard?

  • Cruising areas and local infrastructure;

A yacht based in one of the main yachting centres of the Mediterranean or the East Coast USA is obviously able to get a much wider range of spare parts more quickly and easily than a boat cruising continously through the more remote parts of the island states of the South Pacific.

  • Negotiating discounts for bulk orders:

The mark up charged by suppliers for small part orders can be much higher than the discounts gained by placing bulk orders. We consistently see differences of up to 40% in costs

  • Timeframe:

How pinched is the yachts schedule and how long will it take to get the spare parts on order, delivered, and eventually in the crews hands? Disrupting charters or carefully scheduled owners trips will make the value of that spare part very different. Specialist parts may have a long lead time or may require manufacturing which can cause massive delays

  • Onboard Space and weight available:

How much dry storage space does the yacht in question have for carrying an inventory of parts? There is little point carrying spare parts that are going to get damaged in storage, or overload a vessel and affect her performance under sail or power.

  • Logistics:

What is involved in getting urgently needed parts onboard if not carried? Couriers experience delays and add costs, as do custom fees and import duties and yacht agency fees. That $5 lip seal suddenly incurs $200 of fees and charges and becomes an expensive piece to have not carried onboard. Some components may be considered “Dangerous Goods” by airlines adding to costs and complications and some items such as carbon sail battens for a large main may be too big to put on a regular freight plane

  • Shelf life and Storage methods:

Some parts will deteriorate over time, especially if stored in less than optimal conditions onboard. Vacuum storage bags and desiccation products can assist in protecting and extending the lives of expensive parts that rely on being kept in good shape.


Before the start of each season, we recommend conducting a Risk Analysis of all systems onboard each yacht, carefully considering the cruising plans and other factors including those shown above and the onboard planned maintenance programme. A matrix which evaluates the level of risk of a system failure against the consequences of a failure is a useful tool to assist in deciding what parts should be carried and available onboard at all times, and what parts can be ordered JIT.
There are other options to consider as well as JIT versus onboard spares. A shorebased manager can organise a carefully inventoried shore storage facility, with parts available 24/7 to ship out to the vessel if needed. This option reduces the space and weight of spares onboard, cuts delivery times and allows the yacht to control the spares it has readily available.

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