As lab management experts, we are almost always brought in to “make things run better.” Over the years we have come to realize that this is means that we will find a messy consumables inventory program, and little to no cohesive asset management.
We will discuss Asset Management another day, but when it comes to consumables management, what lab manager wouldn’t want to decrease manual operations, paperwork, and lab operating costs? Having an efficient stock room and Inventory management system in place is an often overlooked way to help accomplish these objectives.
Start with taking a look at your existing systems and ask yourself, “Do they make sense?”
Simple things to take a look at and assess in your STOCK ROOM:
1. LOCATION – Is you stockroom easily accessible? Does the distance your staff have to travel allow for inherent delays? Is there an opportunity for materials to get lost or damaged?
2. LAYOUT – Does material move quickly between areas? Is there adequate space for people to operate and get in and get out?
3. INVENTORY MAP – Are locations easily identifiable? Do you have a master list with locations? Can items be located with ease and in a timely manner?
4. SPACE USE – Is there dead space? Are pallets and boxes randomly stacked everywhere? Do you have old outdated material? Do you think you are out of room?
Next - Inventory Management! Being efficient and effective in managing inventory can increase the accuracy and speed of laboratory operations, such as receiving, stocking, inventory counts, inventory moves, picking, shipping, and receiving.
A simple checklist for your inventory management system should include the following:
1. INVENTORY – Are your counts accurate? Is it the correct product? Is your pricing current? Are your mins/maxes set up? Can your existing inventory system customize inventory reports in a way that is meaningful for your lab in a timely matter?
2. STOCKING – Are your labels up to date? Are they easily readable and/or identifiable? Does the product fit on the shelf? Is the product clean?
3. SHIPPING/ RECEIVING – Are packages properly received? Are packages visually inspected for damaged? Do you have a return system in place? Can end users track their orders?
The majority of these questions should have simple answers. If you find yourself clueless or answering “No” to most then maybe it’s time for you to reevaluate your current system. Think big but start small. As contracted lab managers, we often see sites take on too much right from the start, only to revert old habits, simply because the challenge is too great.
Assess your situation, come up with a plan of corrective actions, execute that plan, maintain and adjust accordingly.