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PPE Inventory Management: Tracking for Success

January 5, 2022

It’s important to evaluate any business policy or process on a regular basis to ensure that you’re on track to succeed. One of the most integral processes to the smooth running of an organization is inventory management.

Why is inventory management important?

Supply chain disruptions across North America and around the world caused by the pandemic have magnified the critical role of inventory management. Inventory management is the part of supply chain management that aims to always have the right products, in the right quantity, available at the right time.

An inventory tracking system is especially important to keep up with ordering personal protection and infection control products. Medical grade PPE and consumables continue to be in high demand as new variants emerge and public safety measures remain in place. Now more than ever, labs, care facilities and medical and dental practices need to utilize inventory tracking systems to determine optimal reorder points, so they don’t run out of necessary supplies during crucial periods.

Here are a few measures you can take to implement an effective tracking system for your facility or practice that will help ensure you’re never caught short of supplies and that inventory data is accurate and up to date.

Set up an inventory ledger

The most basic method of tracking inventory is to set up a manual inventory ledger. You can create a spreadsheet or use a physical notebook. Any time you order and make use of an item, record it in the ledger. At the end of the day, use the data in your ledger to update your total inventory numbers.

Beyond a basic manual tracking system, there are a variety of specialized inventory management software programs available, and many accounting programs have an inventory function that you can use for this.

A good manual or software-based inventory ledger should record information like:

• Product name

• Date of purchase

• Product expiry date if applicable

• Quantity purchased

• Unit price

• Total price paid

• Total amount paid

• Date of use

• Quantity used

• Quantity of remaining stock

Organize and store items systematically

Storage is perhaps the most important factor to consider in your PPE and infection control inventory management strategy. These products exist to protect staff from hazards, so keeping items pristine is second to none. Products should be stored as recommended by industry guidelines including avoiding sunlight, contaminants, and unsecured environments to prevent compromising them.

The more organized your inventory, the better your staff can work as they can use items without having to guess where they are kept. It also helps determine when a particular item is running low.

Use the FIFO approach – first in, first out

Items should be used in the same chronological order as they were purchased or received. This is especially important for certain PPE and infection control products with a finite shelf life. The best way to apply FIFO in a storeroom is to add new items from the back so the older products are always accessible at the front.

Audit stock periodically

Even with good inventory management software, periodically you still need to actually count your inventory to make sure what you have in stock matches what you think you have.

Be mindful of compliance

Storing PPE and infection control products the right way is just one part of the equation. Compliance also matters if you want to get your inventory tracking right. PPE usage should always be tracked the moment an item leaves your inventory. This is critical as many products have a specific lifecycle that determines how long they can be used before they are no longer safe or effective. N95 masks, for instance, should only be used up to eight hours for optimal protection.

Sterile PPE items should always be kept in their original packaging to prevent contamination. Check if sterile packages are intact when they arrive to avoid stocking compromised PPE.

Determine when to order more stock

Look at historical usage trends to get a sense of demand for different items. Once you have your tracking system in place for a few months, you should start to notice demand patterns. Looking at the data in your inventory software, or manual inventory ledger, can help analyze patterns and predict future changes in demand so that you can order stock in a timely manner.

Consider setting Periodic Automatic Replenishment (PAR) levels. A PAR level is the minimum or maximum amount of stock you’ve determined you need for a certain product. How you set your PAR levels depends on how quickly you turn over stock, and how long it takes to reorder and replenish it.

Use purchase orders

Many businesses purchase inventory simply by calling up a supplier, sending them a payment, and waiting for their inventory to arrive. But as needs grow in size and complexity, you’ll need an organized system that ensures purchases are ordered, budgeted for, and fulfilled properly. POs are a great way to make sure that you and your supplier are always on the same page.

Source your PPE wisely

Sourcing from the right company is another important aspect of PPE inventory management. You want to work with a supplier like MHCare Medical that has a track record of providing high quality, medical grade PPE and consumable products, reliably and on time.

Don’t cut corners here as you risk compromising the health and safety of staff and patients. It’s best to work with a reputable supplier like MHCare if you want the best products in terms of safety and effectiveness, delivered when and where you need them.

Cultivate a supplier partnership

Treat your supplier like a partner. Your MHCare representative can tell you if certain items might be hard to find, warn you about seasonal differences in the availability of materials, help find alternate solutions to your needs and save you costs. The more information you share, the more we can help you plan ahead. Like you, we’re trying to reduce uncertainty, avoid bottlenecks and prepare for unexpected events.

Confirming that you have the right supply partner, tools, procedures, and strategies in place to manage your PPE inventory is critical to maintaining compliance and eliminating safety risks to your staff and patients.

MHCare Medical offers protection and infection control products for, hospitals, schools, doctors, dentists, hygienists and other medical  professionals. Contact us today to learn more.

*This article is not meant to be taken as medical advice. Please follow the advice of your local health authorities when making decisions about your own health and the people around you.
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