Tight Supply Chain Success Strategies (Part 1)
Textiles: Cecil B. Lee, Standard Textile, Cincinnati, Ohio
Forecasting, forecasting and forecasting. At Standard Textile, we have always encouraged forecasting and planning of linen supplies to be delivered on a regular basis. As the pandemic demonstrated, customers who had scheduled orders were given priority as their orders were fulfilled before new customers.
For new customers or additional needs, the sooner you submit an order, the sooner you will receive your order. We make a great effort to inventory according to the needs of our customers.
Our methods are that we have this month’s order on delivery, next month’s order is in the warehouse, and next month’s order is in production. This process describes the flow of products through our system.
Yes, we have additional standard and broadband products available, but the idea is to do what the customer buys.
In the future, if you know what you need, the earlier the order, the better.
When I ran healthcare laundries, I placed orders for the coming year in September of the current year. This covered my requirements based on my commodity volume requirements for the most recent year.
Obviously I would have swings and product needs, and order it when needed. Nonetheless, when I ordered my bath blankets for the year, it was a commitment to purchase this product. Sometimes I needed them to be kept for a month or two, but I still needed them and they would be shipped in the months to come.
Currently, many laundries receive shipments on a weekly basis. This helps reduce internal inventory and also allows the laundry to take inventory of special items that would take longer to receive in an emergency. You can switch from a bi-weekly or monthly inventory receipt to weekly.
Additionally, it is important to be in contact with your hospitals or senior citizen residence accounts to see if they anticipate an increase in patient volume in the future.
Operationally, a laundry may schedule additional soiled laundry pickups to fill in the gaps.
Buying and receiving inventory has become more common for many. Surplus inventory is cheaper than paying overtime or working overtime
Good luck with your inventory shopping and forecasting, forecasting, forecasting!
Equipment Manufacturing: Charles Spencer, GA Braun Inc., Syracuse, NY
We all run into the inventory problem at some point, and today’s culture of just-in-time manufacturing only makes that more difficult. All the contract language in the world will not bring you a product if it is not available.
For me, it’s really a two-part question: what can I do to avoid hardware shortages, and what can I do when I have them?
Let’s start with the first one. It is essential to have good and open lines of communication with your suppliers. Value them as a business partner and discuss sourcing and product flow before the time comes so that you both understand how and what impacts each other’s operations. Internally, you should always place great importance on inventory tracking and control.
A good warehouse / inventory control program begins with discipline followed by a few data-driven assumptions. Tracking exactly what you are using over days and weeks can help you make very structured decisions about what to keep on hand and what and when your orders will be generated. This helps you anticipate seasonal shortages and also helps you avoid increasing excess inventory.
Don’t just track what you use, but also track the days between when you order from each vendor and the order arrives. This allows you to determine the timeframe you need to place your order.
Some suppliers will allow you to take inventory of goods and pay on a monthly inventory. The advantage is to carry excess inventory to guard against shortages, but the risk here is that if discipline is lost you can have a big monetary blow on the inventory count. Anyone with access must be responsible.
I strongly believe that having a back-up provider for commodities is important, and again the reliability of the provider will determine how much value you place on that back-up provider. As the old saying goes, “Never put all your eggs in one basket. “
Sometimes it is overlooked, but negotiating contracts can also influence your access to assets. If you have a clause that requires your primary supplier to pay some sort of penalty if they don’t deliver, you’ll have more access to their inventory than someone who doesn’t.
Now what to do if there is a shortage of supply. Again, open communication can go a long way in helping you solve this problem, but now, instead of relying on your supplier, it’s often time to go to the customer (s) or even other competitors.
After contacting your backup provider, the news might not be good. It might not just be a manufacturing issue.
Let’s say this is a critical material-of-construction issue impacting an industry. Let’s say there is another global cotton shortage. Contacting the liaison officers to determine if any clients may be overstocked sounds scary, but to me it shows your concern for serving your clients, all of them.
This can be an opportunity to review the stock levels of all customers; this is definitely the time to explore alternative product options with each customer and, if so, to see if there are any who are willing and able to accept a high poly rather than cotton item.
While your competitor may not be eager to help you, they may be willing to help, as they may be wise enough to realize that the time might come when they will need your help. If it is too difficult to work with a direct competitor, there may be others who are more willing who are not quite in direct competition with you as well. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Finally, make sure that with every supply issue that arises that impacts your business, you have a follow-up with your team members to assess how you have responded and what you could do, if any. , to improve yourself if you face a similar problem in the future.
As always, good luck!
Medical laundry: Tammy Barrett, HHS Environmental Services, Bonita Springs, Florida.
Supply management has certainly had to change during this current period. Locking down essential supplies, supplies that are in high demand and hard to come by, is a must.
You should also consider where supplies are budgeted for within the facility.
We have revamped where hand sanitizers are placed in the factory – all other dispensers during this time. We do not place hand sanitizer in areas where hand washing and sanitizing is offered.
Another place we are cutting back is where we find expired soap and hand sanitizer. We know that these areas are not frequented; therefore, we leave them empty.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion with ideas from experts in commercial laundry, consulting services, and equipment / supply distribution.