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.