Managing Food Inventory in Your Hospital – The Essentials
Accurate, and up-to-date inventory can be a large challenge in maintaining a successful retail operation. Not knowing what’s on hand, in transit, or near the end of its life cycle is just like flying blind and can be very costly. Developing and maintaining accurate inventory relies on several factors.
Take control of your inventory management practices in order to be profitable and efficient. Maintain your database so you always have an up-to-date inventory snapshot. You’ll also want to keep track of stock levels for each product so you have the right amount of products available to match customer needs.
While many inventory specialists often worry about having too little of something, many forget that it’s still problematic to have too much as well. Having an overstocked inventory is one of many ways profit margins can be eroded. This is particularly so in food service considering your products can spoil quickly.
Inversely, an understocked inventory can also have long lasting negative effects. Internal customers, typically employees of the hospital, will remember for a very long time that one time when you ran out of onion rings. As a result, they may choose a different eating establishment the next time they make a dining choice. This is literally business walking out the door. Understocking an inventory will become even more costly to retail operations as more and more facilities start to implement online ordering practices.
An excellent function of a properly maintained inventory information database is forecasting. The database can generate reports to help you see what has been sold, as well as other pertinent information. Based on this past information, inventory or hospital foodservice software can identify and isolate trends, and then use them to predict what will be needed in the future.
Tracking stock usage over time can help identify daily, weekly, and monthly demand for any particular product. One thing to consider is any possible factors that may skew the data, such as a one-time special promotion. Keeping this in mind will help prevent incorrect forecasts of demand in the future.
It’s vitally important to understand the tools that are offered by your software system. The right tools and reports can truly make life easier for staff and thus improve employee satisfaction. As any good manager will tell you, higher employee satisfaction will result in better productivity and lower turnover.
In a perfect world, we would all be able to design our ideal stock and warehousing areas. However, for most inventory specialists, this is simply not an option and they have to do the best with what stock space they have been dealt. Preparing meals ahead of time can be a great way to save time for staff and customers when things get busy. Though, it’s extremely important to understand the storage needs of each product in order to prevent spoilage. Appropriately defined stock areas will contribute highly to your ability to understand on-hand inventory and keep track of items that need to be sold sooner than later. Adding a preparation or expiration date to each prepared meal can make it clear what’s good and what isn’t. When restocking the shelves, it’s important to remember the adage, first in, first out. The older product should be moved forward so it’s grabbed first.
This is vital not only for your customers, but your employees as well. These factors play a surprisingly large role in customer purchasing habits. If I am a customer, I want to see visually appealing shelves that shine the best light on the products I might purchase. If I am at an eating establishment, this would be the prepared meal. I would then want to consider the surrounding area for appropriate supplementary products; as an example, this might be something to drink or possibly a dessert. If I am an employee who needs to maintain stock levels, it’s key to my success that products are placed in these specifically defined areas and that the stock level is plentiful. These areas are set up to be as easily maintainable as possible without hindering customer visibility.
Inventory management can be an overwhelming and complex initiative. Remember to utilize the resources around you and never hesitate to ask for help from others who have had success.
Article by: Tom Blackmer - SuitePoint! Point-of-Sale Product Manager; Fusion, 3rd Quarter, 2016