Cleanroom Uniform Rental Industry Alert: Suppliers’ Inventory Management Practices Causing Massive Overspend
If you’re a cleanroom uniform rental customer, chances are you’re working on projects that are critical to your business, and your concerns related to your uniform program revolve around 1) having the products you need and 2) knowing they’re being laundered and handled properly so your quality is never compromised.
You probably rely heavily on your supplier to manage your inventories. When you’re running short of one product or another, you communicate the need to your supplier and they make sure to inject additional inventory so that you don’t run out.
But…what is happening to your invoices while this plays out?
We recently started managing a cleanroom account and the history told a story we had seen numerous times before:
- The client was struggling with the fact while employee counts and usage requirements at their facility had been static over the last three years, their program inventories (and associated costs) had roughly doubled.
- Previous attempts at figuring out why this was happening had always resulted in large one-time costs for lost and ruined merchandise, and little to no reduction in the week to week costs.
- And yet, the client knew these basic facts:
- When the new account was set up three years ago, there were 10,000 cleanroom garments being billed on the invoice.
- Three years later, there were almost 19,000 garments on the same weekly invoice.
- Employment hadn’t really changed, but costs had roughly doubled, and now P&L owners were asking why this program had gotten so expensive.
Why does this happen…and what’s the fix?
You might think it would be simple, but reconciling a cleanroom garment inventory is a sophisticated and challenging process. At any given moment, the products in the account reside partly at the customer’s premises (some being worn, some on shelves, some in soil bins), partly at the supplier’s processing facility, and partly in transit. You can’t just tell everyone to STOP what they’re doing so you can count thousands of garments, and you can’t be everywhere at once.
Ask the supplier for a reporting of all inventory in your account, you say? This is problematic, too. Here’s why: the industry relies on scan data that gives you a reasonably accurate representation of what is being washed, but this reporting tells you nothing about garments sitting on your shelves, lost by the supplier, and/or not actually circulating in your account for a host of other reasons. The one place you can rely on “finding” these garments week after week is your invoice.
The fix is figuring out what you actually have, and then from there, figuring out what you actually need. Most of our clients, though, don’t have the expertise or the time and resources to drop the 18 other high-priority projects on their plates so they can try to reconcile their cleanroom garment inventories. If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to call in an expert.