Still Tracking Your Chemical Inventory by Hand? Utilize Digital Management to Bolster Workflow and Peace of Mind

Digital Solutions

Chemical inventory management can be a tricky task. Properly tracked inventory involves up-to-date records on where specific chemicals are located, and information regarding which laboratories require which items. Other helpful information includes the amount of inventory on hand and a forecast on how much will be needed in the near future. Due to the complexity of chemical inventory tracking, it is no longer possible for even small or medium sized companies to track inventory by hand efficiently.

It is difficult to properly track chemcial inventory unless you have a computer support system
Tracking chemical inventory is complicated if the system is managed manually.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The intricacy of the entire process became abundantly clear recently while I was taking a tour through the warehouse of a medical laboratory. The company handles various chemicals, including reagents and other components necessary for laboratory testing. However, the warehouse was one of the most convoluted messes that I had ever encountered.

The warehouse manager setup his system by dividing reagents into different categories, depending upon what it was used for (cytology, hematology etc.). To keep the chemicals for each category segregated, the manager separated the chemical inventories into a separate room within the warehouse. Outside of the room was a clipboard that listed the on-hand quantity of each item. When an item was added or removed, this clipboard sheet had to be updated by hand. In addition, there was a master spreadsheet that was stored on the manager’s computer and listed reorder points for each item. This sheet was updated based upon inventory counts performed at the end of each month, and then an order was placed with the vendor for the required items.

If you are confused by this setup, you are not alone. The first problem with this process is that it is overly complex and difficult to manage, even when you are only dealing with a few chemicals. It also requires a lot of attention on the part of employees in order to keep the various sheets accurate and up-to-date. This process is also susceptible to derailment from a simple mistake, such as the failure to record an item removed or added to the inventory.  I noted that, for laboratories such as this, there has to be a better method.

Luckily, there is – the implementation of a digital chemical inventory system.  The benefits gained from a system like Accelrys’ CISPro are numerous and invaluable:

  • Perpetual Inventory Tracking – When tracking inventory, it is important to have an accurate understanding of how much inventory is currently stored within the warehouse. This information is necessary to determine reorder points, as well as to close the accounting books each month. A digital chemical inventory with a barcode system will ensure that your perpetual or on-hand inventory is accurate each day.
  • Location Tracking – Not every laboratory has the benefit of a large warehouse, with different rooms for segregating inventory.  Most are working with smaller warehouses, or sometimes even simple cabinets in the laboratory.  Regardless of the size of a warehouse, a digital chemical inventory management system will allow managers to assign a location to inventory. This way, managers will be able to quickly identify and retrieve a chemical when it is needed.
  • Business Intelligence – Part of inventory management is knowing how much chemical inventory you will need in the future. Surprisingly, the past can provide an accurate picture of how much inventory you will need in the coming days and weeks. With Accelrys CISPro, information regarding the quantity consumed can be obtained through system reporting. This information can then be included to forecast inventory needs over the next months or quarters.
Chemical Management means accurately forecasting the chemicals needed in the laboratory
Accuracy is important when forecasting the chemicals needed to keep the laboratory running.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Obtaining accuracy in your chemical inventory can be difficult under any circumstances. It is made more so when everything is tracked with a pencil and paper. Why not make life in the lab a little easier by implementing a digital chemical inventory system today? The short-term benefits will be clear right away, with laboratory workflow becoming increasingly more efficient and consistent. When laboratories are able to speed up discovery and innovation, the long-term advantages will help ensure future success. For more information about Accelrys’ CISPro, please visit our website today.

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