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Laboratory Safety & Lab Efficiency

Laboratory Safety & Lab Efficiency

Kanban vs VMI for Lab Supply Inventory Management – What’s Better for Your Lab?

There are several different management methods for operating supply chain systems. When it comes to laboratory supply management, two methods are becoming increasingly common as necessary elements of the trade - Kanban and VMI. The Kanban method and vendor-managed inventory programs (VMIs) both offer uniquely suited solutions to make operational logistics run as efficiently as possible.

What is Kanban?

The Kanban method, or simply “Kanban”, is a restocking organizational method that is designed to manage production flow and reduce inefficiencies in the supply chain. The Kanban method can be used as a means of notifying companies to restock supplies only as they are needed during the production process. One of Kanban's major goals for inventory management is to ensure that stock is never depleted. The Kanban method can be used to signal that materials need to be restocked through conceptual management designs, digital implementation, or by a more “hands on” approach like physical bin systems.

Who is Kanban good for?

The Kanban management method is especially useful for companies that have items that are particularly high in consumption. Kanban matches inventory replenishment with real-time consumption rates, and customers using a Kanban system can enjoy the benefits of empty stock being refilled and tracked promptly.

Advantages of Kanban for Lab Supplies

By only replenishing the inventory that is needed at the moment, companies can boost efficiency and production while keeping inventory stocked, but low. This saves on space, storage, and costs. Kanban is also versatile and can be adapted to fit many different companies' needs. The core principles of Kanban can be applied universally to help lab managers get the most efficient results at all stages of the supply chain.

What is VMI?

Vendor-managed inventory programs (VMIs) are a type of inventory management strategy where suppliers assume the majority of the stress and burdens of the supply chain. Standard relationships between suppliers and customers include transactions where the customer will place an order based on the stock that they have calculated, and the supplier fulfills as directed. With a VMI, the customer is effectively removed as the “middle man”, and the supplier of the good estimates and stocks the inventory directly.

Who is a VMI good for?

VMIs are good for lab managers (buyers) that are overwhelmed with the busy day-to-day operations of running their facilities. VMI's reduce the uncertainty and burdens that are associated with managing operations like restocking, communicating with various suppliers, and fine-tuning any issues that may arise out of the supply chain process. VMIs can suit lab managers that experience frequent out of stock materials, high shipping and transactional costs, and are generally seeking a more efficient and streamlined business model.

Advantages of VMI for Lab Supplies

When implemented efficiently, vendor-managed inventory programs produce several benefits. VMI's reduce the chance of accidentally running out of stock, they keep overall costs low, and they can even reduce excess inventory that would wind up costing the manager more money in the long run. VMI’s also reduce the risk of stock-outs and minimize any complexities involved in sourcing suppliers and storing materials. A well-established VMI can benefit both the vendor (lab supplier) and the lab manager (buyer). A lab manager that is utilizing a VMI can enjoy less headache and hassle on the technical operations side, and focus more energy on the laboratory itself.

Case study - How Our Customers Optimized Their Warehouse Management

Customers that used Lab Pro’s supply chain solutions saw shipping charges that were reduced by an average of 50%, and lab supply savings reduced by an average of 20%. Not only are lower costs an attractive option for laboratory managers, but substantial savings can allow for finances to be reinvested in other avenues to improve general warehouse management. Inventory turns of lab supplies increased by an average of 20%, and the number of orders were reduced by 30%, keeping orders and stock efficient and productive. When the right management solutions are matched to the company, customers can reap the benefits of lower prices, automated manual tasks, more free time, and less overall hassle.

Both supply chain management methods are incredibly useful when applied in the right setting. Kanban and vendor-managed inventory programs both produce a high yield of management benefits, efficient workplace strategies, and cost-effective savings at every turn. Lab Pro offers a VMI program that provides a scheduling system for lean and punctual inventory. Having a specialist manage your inventory saves time, money, and improves overall operations. Lab Pro also provides ample  information on Kanban systems and how they can be implemented to improve your business model - from smaller companies with a more direct approach, to larger organizations that can utilize a technologically adapted version of the Kanban method.

For over 40 years, Lab Pro Inc. has been committed to delivering the highest quality lab supplies, chemicals, and cleanroom PPE apparel to medical device and electronic manufacturing laboratories worldwide. To learn more, visit the biggest Lab Supply showroom in California, or contact us online or at 888-452-2776.

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