What’s in Your Warehouse?

What's in Your Warehouse?

By Bob Beliveau

In our previous post, we delved into the significance of an integrated inventory system and its potential benefits for biotech companies. Today, let’s take a step further and demystify the term “integrated inventory.” We will uncover what this system entails, how it differs from point solutions or conventional Excel-based methods, and why it is a game-changer in managing your inventory.

The Core of Integrated Inventory: Unique Identifiers and Barcode Labels

At its core, an integrated inventory system is like the central nervous system of your operations. It generates unique identifiers for lots, samples, bottles, and more.  This provides considerable advantages. You can effortlessly track your inventory at the point of use, simplifying record-keeping and preventing costly production mistakes. Moreover, the system “knows” whether each lot has undergone the necessary testing to be “Released” for manufacturing use and keeps track of the lot’s expiry date.  So, any attempt to use material that has expired or has not been released is easily flagged.

The Power of Accurate Records: Enhancing Logistics and Materials Resource Planning 

Accurate records help your logistics team ensure that enough of the proper materials are kept on hand.  A tally of available inventory combined with production forecasts and product Bills of Material (BOMs) form the basis of Materials Resource Planning (MRP).  Information on inventory levels when combined with cost information from the company’s accounting system can improve production cost estimates.

Calculating Inventory and Product Costs: A Comparative Insight

Take a moment to reflect on your company’s operation.  How is your company calculating inventory carrying cost and/or product costs?  If your company is like most, it’s an estimate based on averages, potentially putting you at a competitive disadvantage. Companies equipped with integrated inventory systems can precisely determine their expenditure on materials, giving them a competitive edge.

Location Intelligence: Optimizing Day-to-Day Operations

Another benefit of an integrated inventory system is location intelligence. Knowing where materials are stored streamlines the fulfillment of material requisitions by enabling the creation of “pick lists” directing operations to the needed materials.  Moreover, pick lists ensure that the proper size container is selected and that materials are consumed in a first-to-expire order, thereby reducing the potential for waste.

Location Tracking: Balancing Precision with Practicality

When it comes to the granularity of location information, our customers’ needs vary depending on the types of materials they store and where they must be stored.  Sometimes, precise location information is necessary.  For instance, if a customer stores samples in cryotanks, the time the lid is lifted must be minimized to reduce condensation and temperature variability.  In these cases, we often record the precise box and well position of clones so they can be quickly retrieved from the affected towers and boxes.  But often this level of specificity is overkill, and location noted as a shelf, a freezer, or fridge is sufficient.  In such circumstances, the customer accepts having the fridge door open long enough to locate the needed material.  Choosing the right level of inventory specificity and the associated level of record keeping rigor is an important tradeoff to consider.

Exploring Smart Locations: Streamlining Storage and Maintenance

Inventive applications such as “Smart Locations” further enhance the usefulness of integrated inventory systems.  Unique characteristics and rules assigned to an inventory location govern the types of materials that can be stored in that specific location.  For instance, the Quarantine area can be designated as such and released materials can be flagged as being incorrectly stored if their status is incompatible.  Similar rules about storage temperatures can be applied to ensure that materials are maintained correctly.  This feature is becoming more popular as customers embrace the “single label” scheme and move away from the traditional Quarantine and Release label approaches that rely on different color labels along with physical relocation after release.

Your Journey to Operational Efficiency: Embracing Integrated Inventory Systems

Once you begin your journey to an integrated inventory function, many exciting possibilities are available to improve your company’s operations.  If this article piqued your interest, please contact us at sales@bioit.com to learn more. And stay tuned for our next article.