Managing Your Inventory
The importance of properly managing inventory so that supplies
for all phases of testing in your laboratory are available, accessible and
in-date is critical, not only for providing quality patient care, but for the
fiscal solvency, operational efficiency, customer service and staff morale of
The goals of any inventory control system should include:
• Current inventory information
• The ability to track and account for all inventory changes
• Reorder points and adequate time-frames for timely replacement.
• Monitoring the environment to ensure proper storage conditions are maintained
An effective control system should include the following:
Each item in your inventory should have an item number, a quantity and a
basic description, which includes the vendor name and any other important
details (such as lot number and expiration date).
2. Inventory Updates
Pick an interval of time to regularly check inventory. The interval depends
on how fast your supplies move. Then compare what was purchased/acquired/received
within a certain time period (say, a week), as well as what was used during
that same time period. Your current inventory should be equal to whatever the
count had been the previous week, minus all usage for the current week, plus
the new inventory purchases.
Note: Store updated
documents in an organized manner. Make sure to store your periodic inventory
checks organized according to month. This way, if you need inventory data for a
particular week, you can readily find it. It is also helpful in the case your
accountant needs any information.
3. Maintain the Right
Level of Inventory
Analyze usage data. The goal of inventory management is to keep up with
demand, and this means having enough inventory to meet the projected usage. If
test systems or procedures have been in use for a period of time, use
historical data to predict (approximately) what the future use will be.
Decide how much stock to order and keep. How much you keep
and how much you order depends on your level of usage, the type and variety of
supplies and how much space is available. If you have minimal space, look at
previous usage and ensure you have slightly more than that to meet the projected
demand and be prepared for any unexpected situations. Always choose reliable
suppliers who can get you your inventory quickly and on-time. If you have a
larger space, consider taking advantage of bulk discounts.
Choose a re-order point. The goal is to always have enough
inventory to meet demand, while not carrying too much inventory as this ties up
your capital and space unnecessarily. To know when to re-order, one approach is
to specify a minimum level of stock, at which point you always re order. For supplies
that move quickly, or have the potential to move quickly, set a higher minimum
level. Arrange to have some "safety stock" to get you through
shortages from unexpected events.
The benefits of improved inventory management include the
improved reliability of the laboratory to deliver test results on time, a more
efficient laboratory operation with improved staff morale, improved vendor
relationships, more accurate budgeting and better cost control (reduced
stock-outs and overstocks).