Imagine you're managing inventory for a hospital. Your success depends on having accurate answers to questions like : "What items do I have?" and "How much of each item do I have?"
You'll also need a way to keep your answers accurate over time. Hospitals are fast-paced environments, and modern medicine involves a lot of single-use, disposable devices. Inventory levels can fluctuate sharply day to day, even hour to hour.
The solution is the inventory tracking feature of a CMMS software, which allows you to stay up to date on every single item, right down to that last tongue depressor.
Here's how it can work. Whenever new inventory comes in, it's scanned and automatically added to your records through the CMMS. Because the whole system is cloud-based, the information is available from anywhere, at any time. The CMMS can also track when things get used. For example, when the motor goes on an adjustable bed, the replacement parts are indicated in the work order, and when the technician closes the work order, the parts are automatically removed from your inventory records.
That's impressive, but it's also just the beginning. Inventory tracking gives you the answers to a wide range of important questions. The key to answering each question is using your CMMS software to collect and keep the right information about the items in your inventory. Let’s look at some of these questions and how to answer them using CMMS software.
How can I quickly find what I need?
Information Required : Name, description and physical Location.
Not being able to find something is exactly the same as not having it at all.
Make sure to include not only the name of the item, but also a description. Although most people will know the exact name, some will only know what something looks like or what it does. Adding both the name and description also solves the problem of items having more than one name. Tongue depressors, for example, are just as often called spatulas, but they're only ever used for one thing.
If inventory is split up among multiple facilities, make sure to include each item's location. This could be as general as the room it's in to as specific as exact shelf and box, depending on the size and sophistication of your system.
How can I buy more?
Information Required : Purchase supplier contact details, part number serial number and current price lists.
This is all the information you need to quickly and easily place an order when restocking. The real advantage to having this information for CMMS-based inventory tracking is that *you* don't have to place orders; the CMMS does it for you. Once you've set up restocking thresholds, the software can use existing levels and estimated lead times to calculate when to place the next order.
What do I do if an item is defective?
Information Required : Manufacturer contact details, purchase supplier contact details and Warranty lot number
Information about the warranty will be crucial as you decide your next steps. In some cases, you might have to contact the manufacturer while in others warranty claims are handled by the purchase supplier. Either way, having the lot number could save you headaches down the line, because you can easily track down everything else in your inventory that's from the same bad batch, and try to send it back, too
When do I need to restock?
Information Required : Criticality
The level of critically is not written on the side of the box. It's something you have to calculate yourself for each item in inventory. Basically, it's the answer to the question "How hard would it be to run this hospital without this item?"
We can see how this works by comparing a chemistry analyzer with a defibrillator. It might seem like the defibrillator is more critical, because the device is used to restart a patient's heart. A chemistry analyzer, on the other hand, seems less critical. When it's broken, doctors just can't order blood work. But the chemistry analyzer has a higher criticality. There's likely only one chemistry analyzer in the lab, but there are many defibrillators all over the hospital. If one's not working, there are plenty of others that are. If the chemistry analyzer's not working, the whole lab comes to a grinding halt.
Once you have determined criticality, you can set safe inventory levels and reorder thresholds for spare parts. In the example above, you might have plenty for the chemistry analyzer, but none onsite for the defibrillators.
Successful inventory management starts with determining what you have and how much you have of it. But it doesn't end there. By thinking about the questions you want answered, the story you want your inventory tracking to tell you, you can determine the information you need and how to best organize it within your CMMS.
PEW Research Center: Internet & Technology (2017) Mobile Fact Sheet.