SPIRS: Are they worth the paper they’re written on?

SPIRS: Are they worth the paper they’re written on?

SPIRS: Are they worth the paper they’re written on?

I have carried out numerous studies of MRO inventory for companies around the globe, and I question the existence of SPIRs in a spreadsheet form in the new era of digital data.

Peter Eales

Chairman - KOIOS Master Data

Context: Oil and gas upstream projects typically extract material requirements from Spare Parts Interchange Lists (SPILs), sometimes referred to as Spares Parts Lists and Interchangeability Records (SPIRs) or Recommended Spare Parts List (RSPL). These lists are supplied to the owner / operator (O/O) at handover by the Engineering Procurement Contractor (EPC) having been supplied to the EPC by the manufacturer or the vendor of the equipment.

What challenges do SPIRs on spreadsheets create?

There are a number of issues for plant operators that arise from the use of SPIR documents in oil and gas projects. The release of these documents by the EPC is often left until the very end of the project, or not at all, despite financial penalty clauses being inserted in the contracts. This is a real challenge to the operator who wants to reduce the operating risk by purchasing long lead items early enough, and those who want to calculate the size of warehouse they require in a greenfield project.

The format of the SPIR is frequently inconsistent; effectively being a paper form that has been recreated onto a spreadsheet and edited many times. In the end it resembles nothing much more than an optimistic vendor order form. Certainly, it is an incredibly difficult document to extract data from, and as no two forms are constructed in the same way and often have merged cells. Extracting a complete project worth of data is a costly exercise in terms of both manpower and time.

So, what is the solution? 

Case study: ever decreasing O-Rings…

If we look at these documents, it soon becomes clear that they have many drawbacks: they are not extractable; contain only a brief description of the product, often just a noun; they take no account of the equipment criticality; they take no account of the O/Os maintenance capability, or their spares and repair strategy, such as repair or replace. Data quality is extremely poor in these types of documents. In this example, from a single 62-line SPIR document, O-Ring is described four different ways. The shore hardness is also missing from the details, making it impossible to safely order the part from another supplier. For consumable items, it is common for the original part manufacturers name to be omitted from the document.

SPIR Document Example 
OD: 18.5, ID: 15.5, t: 1.5
OD: 16.6, ID: 11.8, t: 2.4
OD: 66.5, ID: 62.5, t: 2
OD: 6.5, ID: 3.5, t: 1.5

I would also challenge the spares actually listed on the form. Interpretation of what constitutes two years operating spares vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some list only basic consumables, as in their opinion, that is all that is required in the first two years, some list a full production BoM (Bill of Materials) that includes such items as pump casing. Neither approach is helpful to the analyst trying to decide what spares to stock in the plant or organize an on-demand local supply for.

The companies that design and manufacture equipment rarely operate them, and EPCs do not always have experience of operating and maintaining plants – so why would they know what spares you need? Asking the vendor how he calculated the failure rates in your application gets an interesting range of answers, although when you ask him if he will take back all his recommended spares that you have not used in five years’ time, you usually get the same answer! To be fair some major manufacturers do track component failure rates in the field, but they are few and far between.

I would strongly challenge the decision to list the “two years recommended spares” on the SPIR. How many plants are designed for a two-year life? As a materials manager working with the maintenance team, I simply want to know all the maintainable items required for the life of the equipment. My task is to determine the spares required to keep the revenue producing assets running for the life of the plant.

When is a spare no longer a spare? When it becomes waste

Commissioning spares is another column frequently found on SPIR documents. Before you buy the commissioning spares check with the EPC, they will probably be responsible for these spares during the commissioning period and will be leaving you a mountain of unused spares, and will usually be asking a hefty price for them on handover. As an owner operator, you will be in danger of overloading your warehouse with spares you might never use or have already purchased.

I do not want to spend subsequent years repeating the exercise to find out what spares I do not have, or which spares I will never use, you know, those spares that were purchased “just in case”.

When reviewing SPIR documents in order to determine the spares required for the operation, the criticality of the equipment, the maintenance capability, and an understanding of the planned consumption also need to take into account. Furthermore, a number of organisations have strategies to run certain non-critical equipment to failure and then replace the complete unit rather than repair the item using the recommended spares. This information is, understandably, not on the SPIR form but is vital in the decision-making process.

It never ceases to amaze me seeing a room full of people analysing SPIR forms and ordering the spares listed – using the column added by the vendor – without taking these factors into account.

I have carried out many studies of MRO inventory for companies around the globe, and the two most frequent causes of non-moving stock is spares purchased for equipment that is no longer exists, and more commonly, spares purchased for equipment where the plant maintenance capability does not exist to repair and item; motor and pump spares are the favourites. It should go without saying that there is no point in keeping a bearing for a motor in a zoned area for your repair shop to use if the repair shop is not approved to complete work to that standard, or does not have a facility to test the repaired equipment. Pump and motor spares are most frequently purchased and remain unused, as most often the maintenance strategy is to send these units out for refurbishment when they fail. So why were they purchased in the first place? Probably because they were listed on the SPIR and the buyer has taken the appealing route of taking the word of the manufacturer regarding the required spares or they have purchased the spares as part of a package.

Why are you still using spreadsheets? 

In the age of international digital data exchange standards such as ISO 8000, it is frankly mystifying that people are still using these outdated methods of creating and distributing the vast amounts of data required for large projects. 

I firmly believe the answer lies in a simple data exchange service.

There is a paradigm shift using new technology and international standards such as ISO 8000. The antiquated process of buyer-led templates is replaced with supplier-led specification delivered in a computer interpretable format. The success of this new method lies in the provenance of data, eliminating any ambiguity and making data easy to extract.

It can be achieved by a simple clause in the contract with the EPC:

“The supplier shall supply technical data for the products or services they supply. Each item shall contain an ISO 8000-115 compliant identifier that is resolvable to an ISO 8000-110 compliant record with free decoding of unambiguous, internationally recognized identifiers.”

This result? Guaranteed data quality leading to a reduction in costs and increased efficiency.

To find out more about the tools you need to unlock the power of ISO standard digital data, visit KOIOS Master Data.

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KOIOS Master Data are experts in this field. Give us a call and find out how we can help you.

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About the author

Peter Eales is a subject matter expert on MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) material management and industrial data quality. Peter is an experienced consultant, trainer, writer, and speaker on these subjects. Peter is recognised by BSI and ISO as an expert in the subject of industrial data. Peter is a member ISO/TC 184/SC 4/WG 13, the ISO standards development committee that develops standards for industrial data and industrial interfaces, ISO 8000, ISO 29002, and ISO 22745. Peter is the project leader for edition 2 of ISO 29002 due to be published in late 2020. Peter is also a committee member of ISO/TC 184/WG 6 that published the standard for Asset intensive industry Interoperability, ISO 18101.

Peter has previously held positions as the global technical authority for materials management at a global EPC, and as the global subject matter expert for master data at a major oil and gas owner/operator. Peter is currently chief executive of MRO Insyte, and chairman of KOIOS Master Data.

KOIOS Master Data is a world-leading cloud MDM solution enabling ISO 8000 compliant data exchange

MRO Insyte is an MRO consultancy advising organizations in all aspects of materials management

Standard based disruptive MDM technology

Standard based disruptive MDM technology

Standard based disruptive MDM technology

Question: what do you call a consensus of best practice?
Answer: an international standard

Here I am writing a blog about disruptive and innovative master data management (MDM) solutions, so why I have started my blog defining such a constraining document as a standard?  Ask your MDM software supplier a simple question, which data quality standard is your software based on? Is it the standard that allows you to exchange multiple language specifications, portable data in other parlance?  Is it the standard that allows for interoperability through the exchange of digital data? Is it the standard that enables the semantic web by creating open, computer interpretable data?

Why are these particular qualities important?  The lack of portable digital data is held up as key constraining factors in four key areas:

  1. the move towards interoperability of public authorities according to a recent EU report [1];
  2. the move towards interoperability of smart cities according to the publically available standard produced by BSI [2];
  3. the move towards interoperability in the oil and gas sector according to the (soon to be published) ISO standard on that subject [3];
  4. the move towards industrial interoperability outlined in the Industrie 4.0 (I40) [4] initiative promoted by the German government.

It might seem a paradox that the disruptive solution to these issues is based on the international data quality standard, ISO 8000 [5], such documents are not normally seen as disruptive, the disruption comes because so few MDM solutions conform to the standard.  In addition to the solutions to the issues outlined above, ISO 8000 insists that messages are exchanged in a resolvable format that allows the receiver to be assured it is trustworthy, and also addresses data quality “from the bottom up” concentrating on accurate property values and units of measure.   As all experienced data quality managers know, the overuse of character, string or text fields in systems is the main cause of subsequent data quality problems.

The KOIOS Master Data cloud software conforms to ISO 8000.  The software positively discourages the use of string fields, encouraging the user to create lists of values based on authoritative sources from the global concept dictionary that KOIOS has compiled.  Where that approach is not suitable the software encourages the use of “representation” to constrain the value to its correct syntax, ensuring data quality is locked in at the lowest level. As all properties used to create specifications must have definitions, not user guides, the chances of loss of meaning when data is exchanged is dramatically reduced, this again is one of the key pillars of ISO 8000.

For manufacturers, KOIOS enables you to post a single version of the digital representation of your product specifications in the cloud, and allows you to control how your customers view your brand and product details, you can even control which fields you share with each customer.

For end-users, cataloguing at source (C@S) now comes alive.  As end-users you are able to import product specifications created by the very people that manufactured the item, without third parties manipulating the data.  These descriptions can be imported into your “PO text” field in full, ensuring your PO text is always understood by your supply chain, and enables you to create consistent “short descriptions” for those items ensuring reduced search times for users of your system.

Data cleaning is thus turned on its head by the use of data that is trustworthy.  Now that is disruptive!


[1] New European Interoperability Framework Promoting seamless services and data flows for European public administrations NO-07-16-042-EN-N. 2017
[2] PAS-181 – Smart city framework guide to establishing strategies
[3] ISO/TS 18101 Oil and Gas Interoperability
[4] Digital Transformation Monitor Germany: Industrie 4.0 January 2017
[5] ISO 8000 (all parts) Data quality – Framework and the exchange of characteristic data

Manufacturers will welcome the introduction of ISO 8000-115

Manufacturers are increasingly concerned about how their master data is being represented on various websites, web stores, and in the systems of distributors and product end-users. Organizations collect master data from other organizations and reference and manage that data in their own systems in order to perform transactions; so, who owns that master data?

The global data quality standard, ISO 8000 is helping to resolve these issues.  The creation of a computer readable and portable product specification has been covered by ISO 8000-110 for a number of years now, but this month sees the publication of ISO 8000-115 covering identifiers.

Manufacturers will welcome the introduction of ISO 8000-115

The introduction of ISO 8000-115 asserts the manufacturer’s intellectual property rights to the product specifications they produce.

Most commonly an identifier is a reference to a data set managed by the owner of the identifier and, as such, it is an alias for a master data record.  Identifiers are widely exchanged by governments and commercial companies to refer to data used to describe individuals, organizations, locations, goods, services, assets, processes, procedures, laws, rules and regulations.

Identifiers play a crucial role in supply chain management and product lifecycle support as they identify physical objects using serial numbers and asset tracking numbers, and items of production using model and part numbers.

Verifying and validating the quality of master data depends on an ability to identify the owner of data and any use restrictions on that data.  This verification and validation also requires an ability to resolve identifiers to the data sets that they identify.

Part numbers are often designed to include some form of classification and often contain coded characteristics of the item. While part numbers are not necessarily unique, it is not unusual for companies to use part or model numbers as brands.

Several initiatives have been developed designed to create universal part numbers.  Most of these consist in adding a prefix that uniquely identifies the manufacturer or supplier who issued the number. The most common are bar codes such as the Universal Product Code (UPC) or its replacement, the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), issued by GS1, formerly a joint effort between the US Uniform Code Council (UCC) and European Article Number (EAN) International. The basic principal of the UCC/EAN UPC and GTIN numbers is central control of globally unique manufacturer or supplier prefixes associated with an understanding that the manufacturer or supplier controlled suffix should be unique to that manufacturer or supplier.

There are a number of drawbacks to GTINs for industrial users.  The copyright owner of the GTIN is GS1, not the owner of the product; the product owner is identified only by a numerical prefix element in the code, so is not obvious to any user; barcodes relate to the package, so one item may have more than one barcode depending on how it is packaged, a useful feature for retail, but not for industrial product end-users; barcode numbers can be reissued, so again in industrial settings where products have a much longer life-cycle, this may cause issues.

The Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) may also face similar issues as Amazon expand their operations into Amazon Business.

ISO 8000-115 is significant because it specifies the requirements for the quality identifiers that form part of an exchange of master data. These requirements supplement those of ISO 8000-110.

ISO 8000-115 is significant

… because it specifies the requirements for the quality identifiers that form part of an exchange of master data. These requirements supplement those of ISO 8000-110.

Verification and validation of master data requires an ability to resolve identifiers to the data sets that they identify.  ISO 8000-115 compliant identifiers have a clear structure for prefix and identifier elements that are both human readable and electronically resolvable, and most importantly, the prefix element clearly identifies the owner of the master data.

ISO 8000 asserts that master data identifies and describes individuals, organizations, locations, goods, services, processes, rules and regulations.  That covers most of the master data that organizations manage.

Characteristics that define master data quality include syntax, semantic encoding, conformance to requirements, provenance, accuracy, completeness, and data governance. The 100 series of ISO 8000 specify the characteristics of master data messages that are generally needed to ensure reliable communication of information between a sender and a receiver.

Data that is factual has no copyright protection under U.S. law; it is not possible to copyright facts. In many cases, an individual data element in a data management system as well as the metadata describing that data will be factual, and hence not protected by copyright.

Information, however, is intellectual property.  Relating different data elements into a specification is a creative decision that may receive copyright protection.  A data element, such as a property value pair, in a specification, for instance the bore size for a bearing is factual.  A series of facts assembled into the specification can be considered a creative decision, and the assembly of the data elements therefore, information.

Collecting information using researchers (or data cleaners) does not give you intellectual property rights to that information.

Next steps for manufacturers, distributors and product end-users

Manufacturers will welcome the introduction of ISO 8000-115 as it asserts their intellectual property rights to the specifications they produce.

  • If you are a manufacturer, you should be checking your PIM or cataloguing system to see if is compliant with ISO 8000-110 and ISO 8000-115.
  • If you are a distributor you should be asking the manufacturers you distribute for to supply ISO 8000-100 compliant specifications for all the products you distribute.
  • If you are a product end-user you should be asking your suppliers, be they EPCs, OEMs, distributors, or parts manufacturers to supply you with ISO 8000-110 compliant specifications for the products you buy, then, in combination with the ISO 8000-115 identifier you can now verify and validate the product data and its provenance.


Author: Peter Eales, MRO Instye Limited

Peter is a member of the ISO working group for ISO 8000 and is registered as an industrial data expert with ISO.


The new paradigm for managing product master data

The management of product master data is having a revolution. The excellent data quality standards ISO 22745 and ISO 8000 from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland,  have changed everything.

In order to adapt organisations need to adopt a new mindset, new tools, new processes, and importantly, people need education and training. Getting this right will lead to significant productivity improvements and an array of other benefits that include: more accurate ordering and a reduction in purchase errors, less operational downtime hunting for the source of supply for spares, greater detail and consistency of product data on eCommerce web sites, shared product specifications throughout the supply chain, less exposure to fraud and counterfeiting through the use of authorized legal identifiers and many more.

Data cleaning is now dead, as is the use of noun-modifiers to define product specifications. Cataloguing at source is the new paradigm. The best entity to describe a product is the manufacturer who designs and builds it, and their product data should be used throughout the supply chain. Doing so means everyone in the supply chain can share the correct product data; load it into their ERP, eCommerce, and/or Punch-out systems; order the right parts from the right supplier at the right time; and cut out expensive, and often inaccurate, data cleaning work. It means purchasing errors are significantly reduced, or eliminated entirely, and the risk of downtime whilst spares are sourced minimized.

The charts below lays out the key success factors organisations need to implement in order to benefit fully . Find out more at www.koiosmasterdata.com