Are you a materials manager or managed by your materials?

Is the back closet by OR 4 something you prefer to walk by with a blind eye? Are you too busy or reluctant to organize or donate what is in there? This can happen to the best of people at the best of centers.

Many facilities are faced with similar situations and I have helped them tackle this problem as a part of a clinical assessment. In many cases these spaces – the closet, operating room cabinets, and even the administrator or materials manager’s office – have become the storage space for unnecessary and excess products. Supplies that were replaced by newer versions, supplies only used by a specific surgeon who has left the facility, and excess supplies that don’t fit in the other storage areas, have all piled up (now there are twenty-five basins on the top shelf) and have created a daunting task you don’t have time to tackle.

I don’t have a magic wand to make it disappear, but I do have a few practical steps for you to regain much needed space, declutter your facility, and keep more money in the bank – instead of on the shelves!

1. Reduce the number of touch points for inventory

Inventory can usually be found in multiple different locations, which can result in overstocked or expired products due to the lack of visibility and it can require more time from your staff because they need to check multiple locations to find the right supplies. By reducing the number of touch points, you can:

  • Reduce the time it takes staff to load supplies onto shelves and retrieve inventory for case picks.
  • Reduce the time it takes for staff to conduct expiry date checks and inventory counts.
  • Increase the visibility of supplies and decrease potential over-stocking.

2. Custom packs should reflect current clinical practice

Make sure your custom procedure packs represent the current procedures at your facility and are optimized to streamline your processes while standardizing supplies.

  • Surgeons should strive to agree to use the same products to reduce the number of surgeon preference items needing pulled. Ideally all the supplies needed for a procedure, from start to finish, would be in one pack.
  • Any items that cannot be standardized across different surgeons or procedures can be pulled in addition to the custom pack for the most cost-effective process, such as gloves or sutures.
  • Conduct a pack review annually.

3. Keep money in the bank, not on the shelves

A lack of visibility and organization in your storage areas can lead to over purchasing supplies, which increases inventory spend and can add to the lack of visibility into your inventory on hand. By establishing inventory par levels you can:

  • Reduce cost variances due to off contract spending.
  • Reduce mental inventory overload, clutter, and possible disorganization.
  • Reduce the amount of time needed to manage inventory

A clean and well-organized storage space is just one of the many benefits of assessing your inventory practices. To further improve your operations, I suggest looking beyond the storage of supplies and evaluating how/when/and where they’re used. I also highly recommend scheduling an outside clinical assessment – such as the ones I can provide with Cardinal Health – for a fresh perspective on your operational and clinical processes and advice on how to tackle the identified challenges. To learn more about Cardinal Health’s no-cost to you clinical assessment, visit

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