So what happens when you find out an item you need is on backorder? My first thought is always, “oh crap…”. It seems like in the past several years, there has been an increasing number of long-term backorders (the most significant that come to mind are plasmalyte, Neo Poly Dex suspension, and more recently Euthanasia solution). Backorders can be a significant challenge for veterinary hospital these days. Let’s look at the 5 steps that I work through after discovering a backorder.
5 Steps to Take When a Backorder Happens:
First and foremost, call your distributor representative! I call my inside sales representative to see a) the status and possible date of availability and b) to see if there is any in another warehouse. A veterinary clinic is assigned to a warehouse based on the location, so the website only reflects the stock of the assigned warehouse, and more stock may be available elsewhere. If it is a long-term backorder or discontinued product, this will change your next course of action.
Next step if you can’t get the product from another warehouse is to check your secondary distributor. It can be helpful to have a “backup” distributor that you can check with in case of backorders. I typically like to have a specialty distributor that I can find specialty dental or surgical items, and a small, more boutique distributor that may have different availability than my main distributor.
After checking with your distributors, the next step is to speak with your veterinarians and leadership team- especially if it is a long-term backorder! Let your doctors know the situation, and when the estimated date of availability is so a game plan can be made. A different brand or type of medication may need to be ordered as a replacement. Example, in the case of the VERY long term backorder of plasmalyte, it is imperative to agree on an alternative (LRS, Normosol-R, etc.). If it is a short-term backorder, the doctors can plan on using sparingly, etc. The main point is, it is critical to have a plan in place!
For the next step, you may want to check with local area hospitals to see if they have an overstock of the item, and you could possibly purchase some. You can also check with your manufacturer representative to see if they have an stock or samples they could give you. In case of backorders, it never hurts to ask!!
The fifth step, and one of the most important, is to communicate this information with you team! Backordered items can be SO frustrating, especially for the doctors trying to practice the best medicine they can. I like to have a backorder board where I list all the backorders that are relevant, the estimated date of arrival, and any substitute product. If it is a longer term backorder, you may want to temporarily inactivate codes to lessen the confusion and to try and keep your counts accurate.
The main point is to communicate with everyone you can to try and make it painless as possible!
Nicole is the owner and founder of Veterinary Care Logistics and the Veterinary Inventory Strategy Network. VCL was born out of the demand by several industry leaders to utilize her inventory system as a model throughout the country.
She currently lives with her four dogs, two rabbits, and a cat named Hei Hei in the beautiful state of Montana. When she's not being an inventory nerd, you can find her in the garden, enjoying the mountains of Montana, or swimming in the ocean.