The Veterinary Inventory Management Group on Facebook has some wonderful and talented members. It has been such a pleasure getting to know them. I wanted to share some of their genius with you! I’ve interviewed two incredible members this week; Stephanie and Daniel. You’ll learn some of their tricks to managing their inventory and how they manage to successfully juggle it all.

Stephanie A., LVT

Director of Hospital Operations, Omaha, NE

Tell me about yourself. What is your role in the veterinary care team?

I am currently working as an LVT/Director of Hospital Operations and Inventory Manager, not in any particular order.

veterinary inventory manager

How long have you been managing inventory? How did you start managing inventory?

I’ve been managing our inventory for the last 6 years, but I’ve been a practicing LVT here for the last 13 years.  I started with inventory when I was pregnant with my son, working as Lead Technician; I was having some complications that made working as an LVT on the floor difficult.  Our Inventory Manager at that time had been wanting to step away for some time, so it just seemed like an easy transition to make.  I soon found out that we had not been using our PMS to manage inventory, we had never compared prices on meds, and we just generally had no idea what was going on with inventory in general.  I bought some books, took some webinars, and started fixing things one at a time!  I sent back box after box after box of expired or overstocked items, got rid of duplicate drugs or products on the shelf, educated the staff on why we used the products we did use, adjusted the cost of meds to industry standards for our area.  It was a long process, but we were able to decrease our cost of goods the first year by a very significant margin.  When I found out what we hadn’t been doing for such a long time, I realized that I had been working here for 7 years and literally never ONCE thought about cost of goods, or how we get our products.  Our staff is now educated on how that portion of vet med works, because I firmly believe it affects they way they think about their workplace.

What is your favorite part about managing inventory?

My favorite part about managing inventory is the puzzle of finding drugs during countless backorders, watching the cost of goods go down with the effective changes you make, and all around just the knowledge I’ve gained about drugs, and products, and supplies that are out there.  I’m 100% self-taught, so I messed up a lot in the beginning – sometimes I still do – but because of that trial and error, I’ve learned a LOT of cool things.

What information or knowledge has been most helpful for you?

The most helpful things that I’ve found would be a toss up between some of my reps, and just good old-fashioned research.  I think it’s important to have a strong working relationship with your reps, especially the ones that you buy A LOT from, or your higher-dollar “A” category items from.  Not only do they have a wealth of knowledge on what you buy, but they’ve also taught me invaluable info on vaccines, or NSAIDs, that I’ve been able to pass on to the staff.  They also have a vast network of their own colleagues that have VAST product knowledge.  VetCove has been extremely helpful as well.

What advice would you give to others inventory managers out there?

Things are always changing.  Backorders are an ever-present spot on the horizon, prices fluctuate, PMS glitches and marks your Rimadyl up to $5 a pill and changes the expiration date on it to 2001 – you have to stay diligent – create a system for yourself!  You also have to empower your team on the floor to understand that they way they USE the inventory is related to the financial success of the practice, which for us, goes right back to the staff in profit sharing.  They can better do their jobs, and frankly enjoy their jobs, when they have the right tools to work with.  No one wants to fill a med, then find that we have 8 of the 10 pills left on the shelf, then have to tell their client, “you’ll have to come back for the last 2!”  If your staff understands their role in inventory management, then your clients will also greatly benefit from it as well.

Daniel E., LVT

Side note: Since Daniel joined, he has consistently been the top contributor in the Veterinary Inventory Management Group!

Tell me about yourself. What is your role in the veterinary care team?

My role in our hospital is a lead licensed veterinary technician. I graduated from Penn Foster in July 2016 and attained my license in August 2016. However, I passed the VTNE first attempt one year early from graduating, since we can take it early in my state. My roll with our hospitals (we have 2) is a hybrid roll. I am Inventory Manager and lead floor technician in surgery. I split the time by spending 1 day managing inventory, and 3 days working our floor… and find myself going in for a few hours cumulatively throughout my 3 off days. Apart from Inventory duties A-Z… I also manage our laboratory equipment which consists of 13+ lab machines, several centrifuges and 5 microscopes. I also am the “mechanic” for all of our equipment from the autoclaves to all 3 dental machines, etc. I seem to be a jack of all trades. My weakness is managing our computers, network, and software. Impromed Infinity is a BIG system. I am NOT a fan of proprietary software I will add. I have found intelligent inventory to be one step away from being useless since I buy from a dozen vendors.

How long have you been managing inventory? How did you start managing inventory?

I have been with our company since October 2008. I started managing inventory within my first year of working with the company because I saw the need for a more aggressive approach. I came from Pet Retail background where I managed most inventory, as well as virtually all livestock for a very busy local independent pet shop. That experience is what set my bar!

How do you balance being a veterinary technician and inventory manager?

This is difficult, however not impossible. During my 3 surgical days, I find time to enter incoming invoices in between cases. We have VERY cohesive teams at our practice which ensures a rapid, smooth work flow… allowing us to multitask.

What is your favorite part about managing inventory?

I am a stickler for organization, and I love the thrill of the “hunt and fish” in finding hard to obtain products. I enjoy the deep relationships I have made with our sales reps and my forums as well!

What has been the biggest challenge or roadblock managing your inventory?

The most common answer here I would assume is time. However, budgeting can be quite difficult when you suddenly need unexpected equipment as well as repairs performed. I do not struggle much on back ordered items… that has become my specialty. And as always… running out of an item that didn’t make the “want list”! Another topic is trying to please all practitioners. It is difficult to tell some of them “NO” when they want a line of products stocked that have proven to be poor performers. Keeping our practitioners (all 12 vets and 4 LVT’s) cohesive and on topic can be difficult.

What information or knowledge has been most helpful for you?

Definitely, hands down, the Inventory Management Forum! This forum has become my family and my group of best friends! Aside from that, the VetLogic policy and procedure manual has been a fantastic aide.

What advice would you give to others inventory managers out there?

Speak up, reach out, and above all… maintain good personal relationships with vendors and sales people. Secondly, mind the budgets. Third… attend CE and Conferences. Also don’t forget about the wealth of information available on VSPN.

Thank you to both Stephanie and Daniel for sharing their inventory journey. You can join the Veterinary Inventory Management Group on Facebook here or find out more about the Inventory Management Policy & Procedure Manual here.

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