In the veterinary industry---more so than other medical fields---practices maintain large amounts of inventory. Delivering quality veterinary care requires practices to respond to a vast array of need and manage inventory for the laboratory, surgery, OTC sales, preventive care, food sales, ancillary services, and the veterinary pharmacy. Not surprisingly, inventory costs account for the second largest expense category. When inventory management is treated as an ordering and stocking task, practices are doing a disservice to the bottom. To have a positive impact on profitability and practice value, inventory management must be dealt with for what it is---a sophisticated and complex office function.
According to Melissa Mauldin, CVPM, SHRM-SCP, instructor for Patterson Veterinary University, many practices have not formulated an effective strategy for managing inventory. Lacking a cogent strategy, these practices are likely to be challenged with inventory glut, inventory shortages and expired inventory, all of which impact the practice financially. A casual attitude toward inventory can have other implications. For example, managing controlled substances without proper documentation, reporting, and disposal procedures in place can pose threats to health and wellbeing.
Mauldin advises managers to be proactive rather than reactive when managing inventory and suggests that the key to improving inventory management starts with an attitude shift about its importance, a commitment to exploring effective inventory management techniques and a conscious and critical review of the practice’s current management strategies.
Gaining Control Over Inventory Management: Getting Started
Managing inventories effectively and efficiently can be challenging since there are so many moving parts. Encouraging feedback about current inventory management practices is a reasonable starting point. Assessing current inventory management processes and systems and discussing how they can be improved is another vital step. By combining observations and impressions with available inventory metrics, a picture will emerge. Every practice’s assessment will be different. These efforts will lay the foundation for identifying and implementing more effective inventory management control.
Finding the sweet spot between too much and too little inventory can be arduous and the steps outlined above are a shorthand version of the effort involved. Furthermore, because there are a number of systems and strategies for managing the inventory, managers can benefit by familiarizing themselves with what is available and creating a unique strategy that best addresses the needs of the practice by culling from various sources and creating an effective hybrid.
Resources to Improve Inventory Management
The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) and Patterson Veterinary University (PVU) recently launched a co-branded series of educational certificate programs to enhance and expand learning opportunities for veterinary management professionals. The series, VHMA/PVU Management Essentials: Strengthening Core Competencies to Advance Management Skills, focuses on several topics, including inventory management.
“Identifying veterinary industry-specific inventory management strategies can be a bit of a challenge. The VHMA/PVU Management Essentials - Inventory Management certificate program outlines a number of strategies in detail that participants can familiarize themselves with. Each practice is unique and there is not one approach that works for all. After delving into the strategies, participants may find that one approach fits their situation or that a hybrid approach that melds aspects of different strategies works best,” said Mauldin.
Continuing education credit is available for these courses and can be used to satisfy CVPM program requirements. For more information on the VHMA/PVU Management Essentials: Strengthening Core Competencies to Advance Management Skills certificate series visit the VHMA website.