Material Presentation Options in the Work Area – Keep Fill

In a recent blog posting I spoke briefly about having the RIGHT material presentation tools in the work area for your employees.  Today, I’d like to expand on that idea as well as begin a multi-blog series on the most common of these tools used in our industry.

Why use material presentation devices in the work area?  This is a common question and the answer is very simply, efficiency.  Be it a skilled tradesman, a mechanic, or a grounds keeper, their role in your organization is to repair or maintain things, and/or to perform some other function that is critical to your daily objective.  Ideally, you would like them completing those objectives as quickly as possible and correctly the first time.  What you really do not want to see, is time spent by these key individuals doing the non-value added tasks to get to their key objectives.  In support of that ideal, keeping the time used to chase a repair part, a planned replacement, or even office supplies is desired.  One way to acclomplish this task while still minimizing risk of inventory loss (as much as possible) is to use very well thought out, organized, and properly maintained work site presentation devices or POU (Point-Of-Use) devices for purposes of our discussion.

The first POU device I’d like to discuss is POU in it’s simplest form, the “Keep Fill” POU.  As pictured with this blog posting, the Keep Fill POU is simply a series of bins (or shelves, or even boxes if desired).  Each of these bins has an individual item in it based on what’s used in the general work area where you are placing the POU device.  There is only one bin of each item typically, and that bin holds an acceptable quantity (based on usage and cost).  The bins are well labeled and typically barcoded to allow ease of refilling them on a set frequency.

What do we put in the Keep Fill bins and how much?  These are great questions and each could have a slightly different answer depending on the POU philosophy that your organization adopts.  Typically, ValuePoint only recommends inexpensive, non-critical, or very high usage items for this type of POU.  This balance ensures you gain the maximum amount of efficiency (by not having your team members running to the storeroom or chasing orders all over) while minimizing the risk of financial loss by individuals who misuse or abuse the opportunity for efficiency (yes it will happen to you).  Placing only high usage items in the POU ensures you minimize “walk time” and gain maximum efficiency for the inventory risk.  Placing inexpensive items also ensures that you minimize that same financial risk, while placing non-critical items ensures you don’t have excess wasted time if the bin runs empty before you refill it on the next planned cycle.  Your organization may choose one or more of these types of material as part of your overall Keep Fill POU philosophy.  That decision depends greatly on the walk time to your local goods storage area, criticality of the work being done, and organizational financial decisions surrounding inventory and transactional cost.

One last critical idea to any POU is MAINTENANCE!  At some frequency, a team member is going to be needed to fill and maintain the overall POU.  It is critical during the setup phase that you carefully plan that process to also ensure maximum efficiency.  Ideally you also DO NOT want the team members who use the material to be the ones who fill the POU areas.  Doing so really defeats the purpose of efficiency in the first place.  Barcoded bins that support the use of scanning are an easy way to speed the refill process by automating the identification of what material is needed, the qty the bin holds, and dispersing the used material (if needed) from an inventory account to a pre-determined expense account as an example.  The POU will also require cleaning and other organizational maintenance with some regularity based on the environment, team member discipline to the process, and change management.

In the end, the mistake made by too many organizations is to underestimate what it takes to setup POU areas and PROPERLY maintain them.  What we typically see stepping into a new client location are POU areas that are overrun with material that doesn’t belong, bins that are not filled, or POU devices that look and operate beautifully but have all the wrong stuff!  As a result they get walked by daily so team members can waste time going all the way to the storeroom to get what they really need and what should have been in POU.  The bottom line is doing it wrong can cost you more than not doing it at all!

Take the time to call the experts.  Let’s discuss how a ValuePoint managed inventory program can bring your organization a return on the investment both from a spend and operational availability viewpoint today.  Not making money SELLING you the material means we can make decisions based on what’s best for YOU.