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Veterinarian Practice Inventory Management

September 11, 2017

Managing the inventory of a veterinary practice involves more than just keeping the shelves stocked. One of the largest expenses, inventory costs often consume between 12 to 15% of the overall practice income. Unless inventory is managed appropriately, the practice stands to lose.

What Is Inventory Management?

Understanding the manner in which products and services flow in and out of a practice is essential to meeting its needs. Inventory management oversees this flow.

In a typical veterinary practice, the inventory on hand will include items such as:

  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Medicines and ointments
  • Consumable clinic supplies
  • Over-the-counter products, such as shampoos, flea and tick products
  • Pet food
  • Collars, leashes, pet clothing.

Problems With Not Knowing What Is in Stock

Without precise inventory information, erroneous purchasing decisions may be made. Not having an item on hand at the moment it is needed could find the practice facing a loss of retail revenue, as well as clients, when situations such as the following arise:

Clients expect their veterinarian to be able to provide their pet with the care it requires. If the animal has a wound and the clinic is out of antiseptic wash and gauze pads, the client may question the competence of the practice and decide to take their pet elsewhere.

When clients originally purchased a product through the practice, they expect to be able to restock their supply of retail products, such as dog and cat food. If the product is not available, they will purchase it elsewhere.

Mobile veterinary clinics are at a distinct disadvantage if their inventory of supplies is not accurate. Animals that require immediate treatment could suffer if the unit has not been restocked and is missing supplies.

Inventory Manager

One approach to implementing effective veterinary inventory management involves the hiring of an inventory manager. Focused on inventory control, this position is assigned the responsibility of managing all inventory needs that involve the pharmaceuticals, hospital, clinic, and office supplies.

The role of an inventory manager:

  • Provides one person responsible for inventory issues, which eliminates confusion and decreases errors such as double-ordering
  • Pays attention to the items used within a specific time period and when bills are due, which helps to maintain good financial flow
  • Develops a professional relationship with distributors
  • Understands how to stock an item and how to set a reorder point, which guards against running out of the item and protects the cash flow of the practice
  • Determines a method to accurately inventory product using, for example, a manual inventory count as well as a computerized system of inventory management software
  • Devises standard operating procedures to track inventory usage and trains staff to follow these steps
  • Completes annual reviews and updates of pharmaceutical and hospital supplies.

There are many advantages to having an inventory manager. When one person is responsible, staff know who to go to when there are inventory issues. Confusion and common errors can be eliminated, such as:

  • Double-ordering
  • Stock shelved in the wrong place that causes items to go unused
  • Unchecked expiration dates and inappropriately rotated stock, which causes inventory that needs to be trashed. 

Without the information that comes from understanding its needs, a practice may find itself in a daily struggle that could have easily been resolved if they had managed their inventory appropriately.

Covetrus North America can direct you to more information that may be helpful to you in your role as office manager of a veterinarian practice. Contact us at 855-724-3461.



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