Effective Material Management: Key to Utility Success

Authored by Mr. Rahul Kumar
Deputy General Manager – Materials Management, Tata Power-DDL

Materials Management plays a critical role in the integration and management of materials across any organisation. Physical Verification, Tools Handling, Safety Parameters, Tracking & Controlling, Material Handling, Material Handover, Proper Preservation, Timely Delivery of Material- Location Based, Customer Satisfaction, Material Checking, Colour Coding & Marking, Quality Checking, Documents Checking are some of the key functions of material management.

In the Utility space, it can make or mar the reliability and quality of the service offered to the customers as large amount of materials have to be managed across several locations with perfect coordination.

At TATA Power DDL, with a consumer base of 7 million and an area spanning 510 sq. kms. availability and delivery of material is crucial in order to ensure world class services.

Bygone Era Practices:

In earlier times, warehouses were located at different locations and the monitoring and controlling of inventory across all these locations was done manually so ensuring delivery of right product to the right people at the right time was a hassled process.

All the users were expected to visit the stores personally with manual reservation for material collection with requirement of manual labour and supervision on daily basis. The reservations were then collected and recorded in a register and then issued one by one on the basis of priority. This was a very time consuming process and involved a lot of person hours leading to productivity loss as there was no way to capture and plan correct material requirement for further procurement or optimum maintenance of level of inventory. This also led to lack of communication and absence of a channel to address and meet the requirements of the consumers. And as times evolved, the reservations and record system was maintained online. A contract was made with logistics for a fleet system for services like stacking, material loading, unloading, transportation and other warehousing activities.

This led to establishment of a proper system in place for material delivery at all locations, starting from operations& maintenance material and later project materials& stationery also with well-defined timelines in place.

To strengthen the Material Management process we have setup ‘Store Connect’, an online platform to communicate real time with our customers and address day- to-day concerns in a systematic manner. Listed below are some of our best practices that can be useful in the utility space in order to further improve customer service and redress user concerns in a systematic and timely manner over a large geographical spread:

• Material delivery at user’s door step
• Timelines for Material delivery
• Drastic transportation cost and man hours saving
• Low risk of material pilferage
• Auto alerts to user regarding material delivery
• Timely resolution of user concerns and issues through Store Connect
• Systematic approach and proper escalation mechanism

Following were some of the benefits derived from Store Connect:

• Service Reliability with a service level guarantee (O&M and EODB within 24 hours, Projects with 72 hours)
• Drastic Reduction in cost and logistics due to timely alerts and proper schedule in place
• User Satisfaction
• Better Communication through auto alerts
• Auto resolution of day to day problems & queries
• Easy identification of scrap & nonmoving items through pictures
• Customer focus: regular location wise co-ordination meetings
• Location based responsibility centers
• Appointment of Nodal Officers for specific department
• Easy way to collect customer feedbacks and suggestions

Besides the monetary benefit, the initiative has also contributed towards the environmental good, the initiative has led to an Annual Reduction of 50% in carbon emissions due to lower frequency of travel by vendors/indenters and paperless planning.