A wise person once asked: Why are the things I look for always in the last place I look? Similarly, people on the plant floor often ask: Why does it take me so long to find the right supplies before I can get back to work? One of these is a fun quip and the other is a serious business issue that costs time and money.
Human nature dictates that workers who can’t quickly find what they need will ultimately order a “personal stash.” When that happens, all bets are off – control and compliance are reduced and expenses are increased. That’s why many companies are opting to implement a structured approach to managing their inventory, which includes the supplies they buy to maintain, repair and operate their facilities.
Generally speaking, there are two basic approaches to inventory management – vendor managed or in-house managed. Either way is fine and it really comes down to what works best for the manufacturer. There are many considerations when choosing the best approach, but perhaps the most critical one is designing the program in a way that streamlines the reordering process to maintain proper product compliance and consumption, while controlling costs. This can be achieved through the right use of technology.
You may not have thought of an eCommerce website or mobile app as a tool to manage company costs. However, whether your inventory solution is managed by you or a vendor, integrating it with an online workflow will enable you to manage spend in real time.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say upon physical review of available inventory, your vendor notices that inventory levels for cut-resistant gloves and stainless steel fasteners are below minimum established inventory levels. What was once a multi-step manual process is now a scan of the labels to reorder the supplies, which then automatically creates an online workflow for the orders. This leads to an email or mobile approval push notification that alerts the approver to the order. Once it’s approved on a desktop or mobile device, the vendor would then be authorized to come back on site to replenish the inventory.
The ability to integrate inventory management and order approval workflow is already possible with companies like Grainger. If you’re not already leveraging a digital solution to manage inventory spend, it’s time to ask yourself if you are really managing spend or just managing inventory.
Another wise person was said: Old habits die hard. The best way to get those workers from hording supplies is to make them readily available to use at the right time. But beyond that, the best way to get a company to help realize savings and assist with compliance is to establish a streamlined digital foundation to an inventory management solution.