- Utility employees have to respond to a variety of situations, day and night. Recording inventory transactions is not often a top priority.
- Many hands are involved managing inventory – from placing orders, to checking in shipments, to loading material for an upcoming job or an emergency, to bringing excess material back to stock, to deciding if material coming back from service is good enough to keep or if should be scrapped. The staff can do their best to report everything and still neglect to report it all.
- While it would be great if everyone did their very best at everything they do, time limitations and personal traits become a factor in the real world. Some employees don’t feel like it’s worth their time to record inventory transactions
Of course each utility will develop their own solutions over time. Our hope is that OpenPoint Map and Web solutions will help your utility gain employee buy-in and ownership that will have a positive impact in many areas of the utility’s operations, finances and management, including inventory management. We’ll work hard, alongside you, to help make good things happen for your utility!
And the community of OpenPoint utilities being built is amazing – people willing to share success stories and lessons learned. Such a powerful thing.
Here are some inventory management ideas we’ve heard over the years. If you have any tips or lessons learned that you’re willing to share, please let us know and we’ll add them to this list!
Maybe you’ll find a new idea or two that will help your utility.
- Discontinue tracking minor, low-cost material, piece by piece. Costs can be charged directly to maintenance and/or allocated through a material overhead as major material is issued. There are exceptions that must be considered. Ask us for tips we have obtained from regulatory agencies.
- Organize low-cost material that is not tracked in a common area in the store room.
- Crew members helping to organize a store room can result in a design efficient for their use.
- Label each bin and shelf with the material number and description.
- Product numbers written on boxes as shipments come in can help. Of course, having a P.O. helps with the utility’s material number on it accessible to whoever’s going to write the number on the box makes this task easier and more accurate. P.O.’s can even be viewed through a cell phone if a paper copy isn’t available.
- Easy to understand material descriptions go a long way to avoid misinterpretations by anyone who is part of the inventory process; from the crew, to supervisors, to a stores clerk, to the office. We have some nice samples we can share from utilities who have updated their descriptions.
- Marking the bin or shelf once material is physically counted is an easy way to see what’s already been counted; saving missed counts and recounts.
- Forms can be used throughout the year for the crew to record material brought back to stock from service.
- Forms can be used throughout the year for the crew to record material damaged from stock and scrapped.
- Direct sales need to be entered promptly to charged electricians, plumbers and others acquiring material from the utility’s warehouse.
- Purchase orders need to be required for all inventory material. Unless there is a rare and extenuating circumstance, inventory material should be charged to inventory and not directly to a job. Purchase orders are typically best created by someone with a first-hand understanding of exactly what was ordered (so the right material number can be assigned). Packing slips should be marked up to indicate the quantity and date received; and then entered into OpenPoint. Entry of invoices becomes more accurate when the P.O. and receipts have been entered properly by someone with an understanding of what was received.
- Construction units are used to streamline the process of issuing material to jobs unless something varies from the norm. This almost eliminates the need for the crew to write down stock numbers and quantities of material used on the job.
- On jobs laid out in advance, the crew is required to report variances between the actual material used and the material that was expected according to the job layout.
- On jobs not laid out in advance, the crew is required to report material used and work performed.
- Sometimes, a utility likes to enter a row, shelf, bin identification into OpenPoint and print reports for physical counts in that order.
- A category can be assigned to each material item. Categories can be customized for each utility.