Batter up! How MRO has Much to Learn from Baseball

By George E. Krauter

February 16, 2018 at 2:44 PM

Tom Hanks said that there is no crying in baseball; there is a lot of crying in the world of MRO.

At age 8, I became a Philadelphia Phillies fan. My beloved Phills would lose the first game of the season and would remain in last place during my entire childhood. However, being in last place means that there is great room for improvement. MRO seems to be in last place in the scheme of things for management improvement programs; the same holds true as for the Phillies… great room for improvement.

Why does MRO reside in last place in business schemes in many companies?  At an expenditure of less than 10% of a company’s total outlay, improvement opportunities are deemed to be unworthy of consideration: “MRO is what it is; we have no time to spend on any possible path to improvement (whatever that may be).  Just put up with the problems that exist, and move on.”

Baseball teams, however, are always trying to improve their position in their league; they spend the entire winter shoring up team weaknesses and increasing their chances for winning.  Below is a reflective comparison of major league baseball and minor league MRO:


In baseball, the catcher is the on-field operations manager; he manages the pitcher, calls for pitches, positions players, and directs plays to achieve success. His goal is to manage the game to win…Think Yogi…Johnny Bench.


In MRO, many managers from many disciplines have conflicting opinions as to how MRO should be managed.  To be successful…to be world class…all disciplines must be in agreement on the goals of their MRO stores (and how to achieve them) and then get a “catcher” to implement the process.


In baseball, pitching is of premier importance. It has been said that if you have prime pitching, you will be a winner. Baseball invests large percentages of their payroll on pitchers and will give up other position talents to get that needed arm. The pitcher’s duties include analyzing the situations, sizing up the hitters, and executing performance, i.e. throwing the right pitch to the right hitter at the right time to reach the team’s goals (to win!) …Think Nolan Ryan…Sandy Koufax


In MRO, a set of concrete goals are not set for most storeroom managers and thus, they are not in a strong position to optimize potential values on behalf of the plant. Compared to the pitcher in baseball, the store manager has much less esteem in operations and has relatively low value in the eyes of plant management. An increase in perceived value coupled with a clear operational path to the needs of maintenance (the storeroom’s customers) would place MRO store managers in a stronger position to achieve the potential cost recovery potential that exists. How many store managers are included in maintenance management meetings? How many are qualified to be there? Certainly, pitchers are an everyday participant in game strategies.


Each member of the infield must have the talent necessary to be the best they can be at their particular position. The third baseman must have quick reflexes (It IS a hot corner after all) and have a strong arm. Traditionally, third base is occupied by a power hitter…Think Mike Schmidt…Brooks Robinson.

The short stop must have range, a strong arm, have the technique to turn a double play, and be able to tag a base stealer; ability to hit is secondary to his defensive abilities… Think Ozzie Smith…Ernie Banks (“Let’s play two”).

Second base is required to have a player who can pivot and throw to complete the double play, who can react positively to situations, and who can get on base and/or move runners…Think Jackie Robinson… Joe Morgan.

First base is occupied by a big guy, and a big target who can dig out all kinds of errant throws from the infield...How about that Lou Gehrig…Albert Pujols?


Most all outfielders have to be hitters and have strong arms. They must be trained on the nuances of their positions; in particular, the center fielder must be fleet of foot to cover the most ground and have an exceptional glove. They can hit most anywhere in the lineup.


In the traditional MRO store, job descriptions can be interchanged by any of the members (excepting the storeroom manager if one is assigned). In baseball a shortstop would not play first base. There are few skill requirements for the routine functions of operating a “hardware” store. However, to become world class, particular skills should be established, assigned and executed (as in baseball).

The following skills are needed to elevate MRO potential:

  • Inventory management; reaching 98% fill rates with optimum inventory turns. Utilizing supplier’s supply program support
  • Master Data Leadership; providing proper and consistent definitions of all SKU’s…Elimination of all duplications.
  • Purchasing expertise; utilizing suppliers who provide consistent total cost of ownership (TCO) programs.
  • Engineering services; being aware of the need to connect storeroom functions to maintenance goals and to provide data to enhance those goals.
  • CMMS control; establishing a user-friendly system to control all aspects of maintenance work orders, cost charge backs and storeroom functions.

If plant management would realize that these functions are necessary for world class MRO management and take actions to correct the situation (i.e., invest in training qualified personnel to perform these valuable activities), the ROI would be substantial. If the company can recognize that they cannot achieve what is necessary internally (not their core competency) it becomes crucial that they outsource the management of their MRO supply chain to on-site MRO experts.

Baseball has skill requirements for each position on defense and offense; MRO does not and, with some notable exceptions, there does not seem to be any rush to correct the MRO mess experienced by many companies…big and small,

Baseball is strategic; each spring, each team executes plans to improve their standings over last year. MRO is functional; each year is the same as last year with no strategy to improve and little recognition as to what is needed to capitalize on the inherent values that can be realized.

Tags: MRO planning MRO Staffing MRO strategy
Category: Blog Post

George E. Krauter


George Krauter, former founder and president of Industrial Systems Assoc. [I.S.A.] has retired as vice president of Synovos.

Currently, he has initiated, "George Krauter Consulting [GKC]"  for effective reliability and cost recovery for consumers  of MRO materials. George is a recognized authority on the management of the MRO supply chain and support for maintenance reliability programs. His book, "OUTSOURCING MRO...FINDING A BETTER WAY" is available from Amazon and from Reliability

He is published in Uptime, Modern Distribution Management, and Supply and Demand Chain Executive. George has conducted seminars across North America, in Europe, and in the U.A.R. as well as a guest speaker at Temple U., Howard U., Duke, and MIT.

George is a graduate of Temple University; he lives with his wife, Joyce, in Bucks County, PA. All grand kids live within eating distance. He can be reached anytime:

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