11 Tips for Inventory Planning

2020 was a year like no other. The world’s true heroes shone through. First responders, hospital workers, and pharmaceutical and laboratory workers all did more than their part. Not only did they contend with a global pandemic, but they fully understood the implications. Personally stressed, their support systems were also strained. Businesses and supply chains were extremely challenged.

The availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) became a real issue at the beginning of the pandemic. With the outbreak of COVID-19, demand for PPE peaked at 20 to 40 times normal consumption levels. Governments and other organizations with robust and active acquisition programs found themselves at an advantage.

With vaccines available and the worst of the pandemic likely behind us, we can begin to assess how to improve inventory planning systems so we may be better prepared for the next emergency.

Best Practices for Creating Your Plan

  1. Inventoried products should always be within their stated shelf life.

    The central concept of life cycle management lies at the core of a robust stocking program. Organizations are well served by maximizing usable stock by tracking expiration dates and replenishing outdated products with new items as needed.

  2. Limiting product options simplifies things.

    A larger number of different products makes the task of monitoring product use and shelf life more complex. Simplify inventory management by choosing PPE designed to fit a broad range of employees.

  3. Track product use to align stock levels with minimum readiness levels.

    Knowing the day-to-day PPE consumption levels and the possible duration of an emergency event can help you determine the optimal quantities of products available for frontline workers.

  4. Include PPE products that match your needs.

    Disposable N95 particulate respirators, including 3M Aura Particulate Respirator 9205+, N95, and the 3M Particulate Respirator 8511, N95, can help reduce exposure to viruses transmitted through inhalation. However, reusable respirators like like 3M's 6500 QL series of half-facepiece reusable respirators or powered air-purifying (PAPR) respirators like the 3M Versaflo TR-300+ assemblies may be more economical and practical in certain situations.

  5. Stock respiratory PPE in sizes that will fit most users.

    Filtering facepieces, elastomeric respirators, and other tight-fitting respiratory protection products must seal snugly to the wearer’s face to ensure that inhaled air travels through the respirator’s filter. Since facial features, face shapes, and head size vary, employees may experience different risks of exposure with a respirator. Fit testing is essential for all tight-fitting respirators to help assure a good respirator to face seal in order for the respirator to function as intended.

  6. Get help from experienced distributors or manufacturers with staggered procurement options, emergency use authorization, product life cycle management strategies, and other product management issues.

    The COVID-19 PPE stockpile management program demonstrated the need for a stock management program based on a resilient supply chain. Flexible supply chains may be able to respond to short-term spikes in demand while maintaining longer-term procurement needs.

  7. Source products from suppliers with global footprints, adequate raw material sources, and production capabilities that can help mitigate export restrictions in specific countries.

    You may be well served by working with manufacturers that have a global footprint and production capabilities. Producers with broad production footprints can provide products from their many manufacturing sites located in different geographies.

  8. Work with suppliers that can meet variations in demand.

    COVID-19 tested supply chains and the public health system. Building capacity, metering consumption, maximizing access to supplies by fast-tracking regulatory approvals, and other flexible procurement methods can help to address spikes in demand.

  9. Source products from companies familiar with emergency preparedness.

    Many pandemic plans lacked the logistics and supply chain components for successful implementation, which also exacerbated the scarcity of critical products. Suppliers with emergency and infectious disease outbreak experience may be able to mobilize resources more rapidly and use their institutional memory to work more effectively.

  10. Partner with suppliers rather than just purchasing products.

    Relationships between organizations and suppliers can range from basic procurement to sharing of global best practices. If the concept of stockpiling is new to you, knowledge sharing in your decision-making process can help you create the most value for your organization.

  11. Demand-planning tools can help with scenario planning and analytics.

    Most emergency plans include roles and responsibilities for disasters and national outbreaks. These plans help leadership have a clear command and control structure and act decisively in a crisis. However, make sure to also include a logistics and supply chain appendix to describe the resources required to accomplish the mission. It also helps to work with organizations that can assist in these critical areas.

This list of 11 best practices for maintaining product stockpiling is a starting point. Contact 3M or other experienced professionals for assistance in developing your individual plan.

We are eager to work with governmental and other organizations to support robust, resilient, and sustainable stockpile programs to protect the health and lives of healthcare and other essential frontline workers who keep our society functioning.


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