Invistics Blog

Invistics 2018 Upcoming Conference Tour!

02/28/2018 : 0 Comments  


In an effort to stay up-to-date on new strategies, ideas, and solutions in the industries that we serve, we will be attending the following upcoming conferences. Feel free to introduce yourself and say “hi” to our team, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our company and solutions.

Upcoming Itinerary:

2018 NADDI Healthcare Facility Rx Diversion Summit
Date: 4/24/2018 – 4/25/2018
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport
Website: NADDI Website

2018 ASHP Summer Meeting & Exhibition
Date: 6/2/2018 – 6/6/2018
Location: Denver, Colorado Convention Center 700 14th St
Website: ASHP Summer Website

2018 NASCSA Conference
Date: 10/30/2018 – 11/2/2018
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona , at the Hotel Valley Ho
Website: NASCSA Website

2018 IHFDA Annual Conference
Date: 10/22/2019 – 10/24/2018
Location: Dallas, Texas, at the Embassy Suites, Dallas-Frisco Hotel
Website: IHFDA Website


Silos and the silo effect

02/16/2018 : 0 Comments  

Growing up in Illinois, I had crisscrossed the “prairie states,” met my share of co-op farmers, and seen plenty of silos. I never gave much thought to the gigantic storage tanks. Until three weeks ago.

It took a trip to rural Georgia and a conversation with a silo manufacturing company to develop an appreciation for the importance of silos in our lives.


Crabapple Silos – photo by Stephanie True Moss

While traveling through a former farming community, I learned that the farmers who originally inhabited the area built several large brick silos for harvest storage. Homes were built near the silos and up sprang the towns of Roswell, Alpharetta, and Milton, Ga. Today, these historical silos stand as a “link with the past” and have created a sense of pride for the community.

By sheer coincidence, two weeks after visiting the Crabapple Silos, I had a conversation with the largest maker of agricultural silos in North America. During my conversation with a senior manufacturing executive, I learned silos are extremely complex to design, build, transport, and assemble.

A vice president at the company mentioned that even though making silos is complex, even more complicated are the “intellectual silos” that are a daily occurrence in manufacturing plants.

The phrase “silo effect” has become popular in business and especially in manufacturing. It commonly refers to a lack of open communication and common goals between departments in an organization. This “silo effect” gets its name from the farm storage silo. Each silo is designated for one grain or specific product.

To a manufacturing executive, a lack of communication and “silo thinking” causes departmental breakdowns and a lack of free-flowing ideas from other departments. The net effect is confusion and a disruption of efforts toward common business goals.

The “silo effect” is caused by a remarkably small number of people who gradually drain the silo‘s grain. Its negative impact can be huge on the performance of the total team; eventually leading to a loss of business. However, I’ve seen clients successfully deal with these “silo effects” within the walls of their company. I’ve sat in on several Pull Design Workshops and have personally seen this transformation occur.

It takes a concentrated and ongoing process improvement program. During these workshops we gather the thoughts of the leadership team and then, in one to two days, work with them to develop a course of action to reduce the “silo effect” and develop a sustainable process improvement program. The result is improved productivity, right-sized inventories and more working capital. Often workshop attendees see improvements in customer service, too, once the strategies are implemented.

What are you doing to break down organizational silos? What’s been successful for your organization?
Post by Bill Z.


Webinar with IQVIA: Best Practices in Sample Management

02/12/2018 : 0 Comments  

Webinar Summary
To effectively and efficiently distribute samples through your field force to prescribers you need a formalized approach that ensures the optimum amount of sample product is at the right places at the right time. Balancing the needs of your sales representatives, the prescribers they call on, and your overall sample marketing objectives with full regulatory compliance can be challenging.

Register to learn the key components of a robust sample allocation solution and how these components address how to:

1.) Optimize inventory levels for each step in the drug sample delivery chain
2.) Achieve visibility into the flow of samples within the supply chain
3.) Link the supply of drug sample manufacturing with delivery
4.) Find the right balance among inventory levels, customer demand, costs and cycle times

Paul Hamby, Group Director, Compliance for IQVIA
Tom Knight, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Invistics

Register For the Webinar: Registration Link


Porter Survey: Drug Diversion in US Health Care Systems - Are We Doing Enough?

01/08/2018 : 0 Comments  

In 2017, Porter Research conducted a survey about the theft of narcotics by US healthcare workers. One-hundred fifty health care professionals, representing over one-hundred forty health care organizations, were asked about drug diversion in their organizations. Because the respondents were close to the problem, they recognized the impact of drug diversion and the resulting fallout on the safety of patients, healthcare workers, and hospitals. The survey assessed the consistency, effectiveness and efficiency of drug diversion prevention programs across the United States, with a details into the methodology, resources, and technology employed to prevent diversion.

Download the Porter Survey Results Here: Porter Research Survey Results


Forecasting Leads to Improved Inventory?

12/04/2017 : 0 Comments  

Lora Cecerce, founder of Supply Chain Insights, posted a very insightful article in Forbes called “Does Better Forecasting Improve Inventory? Why I Don’t Think so Anymore”.

Inventory has always been necessary in supply chain management to buffer against supply and demand variability. With the advent of high-mix manufacturing and the need to produce a longer tail of SKUs with more equipment changeover, this is more true than ever before. Lora, in her recent analysis of planning benchmarking for large mult-nationals, states:

“A mistake that I see companies making over and over again is improving forecasting, but not improving inventory levels because of the lack of a holistic focus. After the implementation of a forecasting system, and getting basic functionality in place and providing a reliable forecast with minimal bias and accuracy, there is only minimal value in continuing to refine the forecast. Most companies do not have a forecasting problem. Instead, they do not know how to use the forecast to drive inventory strategies.

Why do I state this so boldly? The forecast is always wrong. This is true by definition. Improving it by a few percentage points on forecast accuracy is not going to drive the improvements in inventory that most people think. While most companies focus on the numbers, it is understanding the probability of demand and translating it to supply strategies that makes a difference.”

Lora counted four trends that lead her to rethink how inventory should be managed.

Cycle Stock is the Opportunity for Most Manufacturers

“Cycle stock is most effectively managed through the successful implementation of production planning. (Cycle stock is the management of stock required to cycle through production runs and procurement buys effectively. It involves complex logic on batch size, change-overs and production sequencing.) With the rise of item complexity, improving production planning becomes more important. This planning technology is tricky to implement and many of the technologies are not up to the task; but doing it well is essential.”

One of the cornerstone of Invistics’ solution is to view Inventory holistically as a combination of Cycle Stock and Safety Stock. It’s very common for companies to order materials in large quantities, often to meet a bulk discount, but then to skip the next step of figuring out bulk discount savings vs cycle stock inventory management costs. Even if you save 20% by ordering a years worth of product X in bulk, you must account for the holding, movement, and obsolescence risk of that left over inventory as it sits in your warehouse for the next year.

Download our Whitepaper to Learn More: Optimizing Cycle Stock, Lot Sizes, and Rhythm Wheels in High-Mix Manufacturing

Inventory is the Most Important Supply Chain Buffer, but Requires Design

“The most important buffers–shock absorber for volatility– in the supply chain is inventory and manufacturing capacity. The reduction of cost and improving asset utilization is usually the charter of the supply chain team. As assets become more and more utilized, manufacturing loses the ability to buffer volatility through manufacturing capacity optimization. In parallel, with more and more manufacturing outsourcing, companies lose the capability to buffer through the use of manufacturing capacity. As a result, inventory becomes the critical buffer to absorb demand and supply volatility. Designing the supply chain and making conscious choice about push-pull decoupling points, cycles, and late-stage postponement helps.”

At Invistics, we also stress the design before the implementation for three reasons. 1.) It builds consensus. 2.) It develops a relevant business case to get stakeholders invested, and 3.) it identifies processes and tools that are require to support the new approach. Our workshops begins with sketching out the “As-Is” value streams vs the future “Should-be” value streams, and discusses many of the items Lora mentions such as when to use Push vs Pull.

Technology can Help

“More and more companies are purchasing inventory technologies, but failing to give planners time to plan. This is a mistake. With the rise of the global multi-national. There is more and more need for an inventory planning role to manage the form and function of inventory and develop inventory strategies. Buying the technology and not having clear processes and accountability does not help. We are still in our infancy in the use of multi-tier inventory optimization technologies, but as shown in Figure 2, there is a strong impact when implemented correctly.”

Most high-mix environments will require technology due to sheer numbers. Traditional “rule of thumbs” approaches to inventory management such as “let’s hold 4 weeks of supply for product X” are becoming more and more outdated in a world where demand and supply rates fluctuate quickly. Often times you need a tool that can drill down into the just the items you are managing, to pull data from multiple computer systems, and can give you an accurate solution without tying up IT resources to sustain. If interested, here is a demo of a multi-tier inventory optimization technology called the Inventory Advsior:

Executive Understanding

“One of the surprises for me in the benchmark data is the gap in understanding of inventory strategies by the supply chain executive team. The concepts of planning and the management of form and function of inventory are not well understood. Most executives believe that the answer lies in having a better forecast. They are not able to have a discussion on the form and function of inventory. It takes training. The strategy requires careful definition with finance. However, it is worth it. Inventory turns correlate to market capitalization, and who can argue with improving market capitalization?”

Leadership is the key to sustainability. All the planning and software tools in the world aren’t enough to effect change if your companies management isn’t on board with visible metrics and staff training to ensure the new processes are being implemented with care.

To share with you an example from Invistics past, we completed a new inventory management workshop at a large company where we “capped” inventory using Pull-driven methods. Later on, when we came back to audit the shop floor, planners were still relegating to their old habits and focused only on maximizing machine utilization even when there was no demand for more of the product. In the planner’s eyes, the waste was due to letting a machine sit “unused”, instead of the storage and handling cost of the piles of unnecessary inventory. Leadership is key to bridge such communication gaps.

We hope this blog article was educational. If you have any questions or would like a consultant with Invistics please contact us using the contact button at the top of the page. And oh, a Happy Holidays to all.


DEA Is Cutting Production Of Prescription Opioids By 25 Percent In 2017

10/06/2017 : 0 Comments  













In a notice published Wednesday in the federal register, the DEA finalized a previous order on 2017 production quotas for a variety of Schedule I and II drugs, including addictive narcotics like oxycodone, hydromorphone, codeine and fentanyl. The agency has the authority to set limits on manufacturing under the Controlled Substances Act.

Invistics has a suite of software for Quota Management and Quota Reporting that can help Pharmaceutical manufacturers make the most of their Quota requests.


Survival Tips for Manufacturers

10/05/2017 : 0 Comments  

I’ve been following this discussion for a few weeks now: Top 10 Survival Tips For Manufacturers: What Are Yours?

If you are not a member of Manufacturing Executive community, you probably should be. Here is this great list from Guy Morgan, president of Performance Improvement LLC and managing director of business advisory consultants BBK

  1. Maintain your focus
  2. Reinvent your products regularly
  3. Enhance product and process design
  4. Manage your supply chain
  5. Rethink off-shoring
  6. Improve quality
  7. Diversify your customer base
  8. Embrace globalization
  9. Invest in your employees
  10. Facilitate total productive maintenance

And a Lean mentality naturally supports several of these points. I might change #8 to “embrace  change” – as globalization is part of the changing world we live in. And I would add #11 – “measure the right metrics.”

What are your survival tips for manufacturers?


Significance of Diversion in Hospitals and Health Systems

07/10/2017 : 0 Comments  

The Significance of Diversion in Health Care:

Numerous investigations and studies have found that roughly 10% of U.S. Health Care Workers (HCW) abuse controlled substances, a rate that matches abuse within the U.S. population. The latest data released in 2007 by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that an average of 103,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides a year were abusing or dependent on drugs. Most drug diversion by HCWs is not discovered, and when it is discovered it is often not reported or prosecuted. Precise data on drug diversion in individual hospitals is difficult to obtain, due to the clandestine nature of diversion, as well as the culture in place in many health care institutions that leave diversion undiscovered and unreported.

The estimated cost of just Controlled Substance drug diversion and abuse to public and private medical insurers is $72.5 billion a year, much of which is passed to consumers through higher health insurance premiums. (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2009) The overall economic cost of drug abuse in the United States is estimated at $193 billion in 2007 (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2016).

Drug diversion is a significant crime with multiple-victims – patients, HCWs, hospitals, and communities:

  • For patients, diversion can lead to them receiving substandard care from an addicted HCW whose job function is impaired by drugs. The HCW might also divert prescribed pain medication away from patients who require them. Also, there have been multiple documented cases of diverting HCWs infecting dozens of patients with Hepatitis, HIV, or other blood-borne infections when the HCW uses a shared syringe to divert the drug.
  • For HCWs, nearly every hospital has employed people who became addicted to a drug, and many facilities have dealt with the overdose death of a HCW, often on hospital premises. Beyond general risks to health, drug diversion often ends with civil malpractice actions, loss of professional licenses, and/or felony criminal prosecution for theft and fraud. Annually, hundreds of HCW forfeit their training and medical license following diversion and subsequent addiction.
  • For hospitals: there is significant financial damage when drug diversion occurs. Stolen drugs must be replaced without reimbursement, with additional costs due to absenteeism and turnover by addicted HCWs. When drug diversion stories hit the press, hospitals see millions of dollars in lost revenue and fines. For example, Massachusetts General Hospital paid a $2.3 million settlement to the DEA when its employees stole thousands of pain pills. These stories also damage to the hospital’s reputation in the community and harm employee morale. In cases where HCWs have entered falsified administration data and payers were charged for diverted drugs, these fines can involve the False Claims Act or Medicaid fraud, with triple damages.
  • For communities fighting drug abuse: HCWs could divert drugs for personal use or provide for others. In 2014, a review of more than 200 prosecutions since 2008 for drug diversion by HCWs discovered just 15% of the prosecuted HCWs were stealing drugs for personal use. Shockingly, many of the involved doctors, nurses and other HCWs were diverting on a large scale, for profit, sending thousands of unprescribed pills to drug abusers in the community.

Problems with Current Methods to Detect Drug Diversion:

Current approaches to preventing drug diversion in hospitals include three complementary techniques:

  1. 89% of US hospitals lock-up narcotics and other addictive drugs in Automated Dispensing Machines (ADM) like Pyxis and Omnicell machines.
  2. Most hospitals run “Anomalous Usage” reports that compile ADM data to flag HCWs with unusually high Controlled Substance usage, using commercial off the shelf software (COTS) like Pandora or RxAuditor. Unfortunately, these reports contain significant errors, both Type II “false negative” errors, in that they fail to detect actual drug diversion cases, as well as Type I “false positive” errors, in that the reports flag normal events as possible drug diversion. In short, Type II false negatives let diverters get away, while Type I false positives rob hospital staff and supervision of precious time investigating innocent people. Hospitals typically set an arbitrary threshold of 2-3 standard deviations to define “anomalous” usage, and this arbitrary approach guarantees 0.3-4.5% of HCWs are flagged as potential diverters, most of which is Type I error.
  3. Many hospitals implement Controlled Substance Diversion Prevention Programs (CSDDP) to limit diversion, with investigation teams, training, and other administrative approaches.

Despite these activities and the investment of significant time and money, drug diversion continues. Leading healthcare institutions admit that new approaches are required. Recognizing the ongoing problem, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has updated Controlled Substance procedures for all hospitals. Hospitals broadly agree that current methods to detect drug diversion have two main weaknesses:

  1. Data in the ADM only show part of the equation: the dispensing of the drug from the locked cabinet. Detecting diversion also requires drug administration data in the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), as well as data from other systems such as Wholesaler Purchasing Systems, Internal Inventory System(s), or Employee Time Clocks.
  2. Motivated diverters can game the system with falsified data entries to avoid detection. Moreover, historical anomalous usage reports contain so many “false positives” that overworked supervisors must comb through haystacks of false positives to find true diversion. More advanced algorithms are required to reliably detect diversion without excessive false alarms.

Recognizing these two weaknesses, Invistics is working with the support of the National Institute of Health to develop a solution that can fill the gaps in current Drug Diversion technology with the goal of improving patient and health care worker safety.

Invistics would love to learn more about how we can help your health care system. Call us at 1800-601-3456 to schedule a call or visit our Health Care page to learn more about the Flowlytics solution in Healthcare.


Unique Supply Chain Challenges for Life Sciences

06/28/2017 : 0 Comments  

The Life Science industry has a set of unique set of supply chain challenges that add additional complexity for management. In our company experience the following are all “pain” points for managing a successful supply chain at a pharmaceutical company:

  1. High-Mix of Products – Pharmaceutical companies tend to have thousands of products with many factors such as packaging, languages, dosage forms, and more that add to the complexity of managing a long tail of inventory in the supply chain.
  2. Compliance Regulations – Due to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations over Controlled Substance, Pharmaceutical Companies are required to strictly monitor their drug inventory and ensure their data is “readily retrievable” in the event of an audit.
  3. Expiration Challenges – Expensive drugs expiring before use is a huge challenge for companies managing pharmaceuticals.
  4. Mergers and Acquisitions – Due to the competitive nature of the industry, mergers and acquisitions are very common in Life Sciences. The result is a multitude of disparate computer systems that manage their inventory in different ways, and lack the holistic end-to-end visibility of a complete supply chain.

Alexa Cheater, of Kinaxis’ 21st century Supply Chain blog, wrote a great article detailing a list of 8 challenges that Life Science companies deal with in regards to Supply Chain Management:

Lack of robust sales and operations planning (S&OP) tools

Traditional S&OP tools don’t always account for the specific needs of the life sciences supply chain. S&OP in this space requires volume level planning at multiple hierarchies and provide mix level detail including material and capacity constraints at the site and SKU level.

Solution: Implement an S&OP tool that provides easy balancing of supply and demand at multiple levels of aggregation. Planning functionality should include multiple time dimensions with real-time analysis, and give you the ability for robust scenario simulation to evaluate options.

Tenders, trade promotions and new product introductions

It can be hard to manage these types of demands considering they often don’t exist in legacy ERPs. Given approximately 80% of profit from new products comes during launch, this is a crippling obstacle for many.

Solution: Find a way to get that critical data into your ERPs. Supply chain management software exists providing just such a capability. You’ll also need the ability to model the probability of demand for tenders and trade promotions, including probabilities and priority-assignment. Modelling NPIs as pseudo parts (with their own pseudo demand and bill structures) provides much-needed visibility and analysis to projected fulfillment, revenue, capacity and material availability.

You can only satisfy demands with supplies meeting specific characteristics

Expiry dates, stop-sell dates and batch numbers – you have to account for all of these special attributes when looking at your supply. You may think you’re able to fulfill demand, only to discover you don’t have enough products meeting the expiry date requirements to actually deliver. That’s not a great way to improve customer satisfaction levels, and can lead to greater amounts of excess or obsolete inventory.

Solution: Enable special supply and demand allotment based on these unique parameters and make sure you factor them in when calculating available demand. It’s even better if your technology solution can handle all this automatically, including providing projected excess.

Expiry dates are associated with specific SKUs

With thousands of SKUs all with individual SKU and batch expiry dates, the odds of those items expiring on warehouse shelves becomes a real concern. It directly impacts availability and inventory excess. Not to mention what it does to your inventory risk and bottom line.

Solution: Calculate projected expiry at multiple levels when planning. And don’t forget to consider inherited expiry from lower level supplies. When a batch of products does expire, make sure to stop considering the quantity as viable and plan for new supply to meet future demand. Your best plan of action is to monitor product expiry by country and affiliate-specific criteria related to allowable shelf life, and set up a system of alerts before expected expiry dates, so you can take action before the item is no longer usable.

Campaign planning

Multiple production line setups often result in poor equipment utilization and way more inventory than you need at any point in time. It’s inefficient, costly and not a great way to run your operations if you want to stay profitable for long.

Solution: Make sure you connect production of the same material when executing through batches. This will help reduce the number of setups and make your production line more effective in the long run.

Transition dates are assigned for SKUs

That means if regulatory approvals are delayed or expedited, the change in dates affects supply and demand.

Solution: You should model transition dates to work to determine what materials you need to produce to account for the change (including lower level materials).

Increased outside pressures

As with any business, there are often outside pressures that have a big impact inside your operations, and those working in life sciences aren’t exempt. Things like shifts in regulations and changes in approvals are beyond your control. As are patent cliffs, which can have a monumental effect on your revenue streams as competitors get license to sell the same products.

Solution: Make sure you thoroughly evaluate supply chain risk and have all available information before making any decisions. Simulate scenarios and evaluate impacts across the entire supply chain, but ensure you compare the results against key performance indicators so you know exactly where you’ll need to make any tradeoffs.

Lot-for-lot planning

It can be difficult to manage lot traceability across all levels of your supply chain, including aligning supply to upstream work orders. Without that alignment, you risk not having full visibility into who supplied what and where it ended up. This becomes vital for accountability and in case of recall.

Solution: Connecting your end-to-end supply chain within a single system will help you alleviate this issue. You’ll be able to plan packaging work orders split from different bulk locations based on quota arrangements and create work orders from bulk locations based on products’ batch sizes. That way you’ll always have clear visibility into your supply chain operations.

Invistics has 20 years of experience serving the Life Science industry. We understand the unique challenges of a pharmaceutical supply chain and build a solution to tackle them. Download our Case Study of Shire and Patheon and learn how we can help.


Inventory Optimization for Measuring and Test Equipment (M&TE) - Post IV – Getting trained on the effective use of the Invistics software

05/30/2017 : 0 Comments  

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that documents the journey of a large electric utility in its quest to optimizing its extensive inventory of measuring and test equipment (M&TE).  In the first three posts we talked about identifying the problem and finding a solution provider.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that documents the journey of a large electric utility in its quest to optimizing its extensive inventory of measuring and test equipment (M&TE).  In the first three blog posts we talked about identifying the problem, finding a solution provider, and contracting and setting up the project.

With a contract in place, and all our IT department’s questions quickly addressed, we were eager to start using the software and obtaining some results.  As with all other aspects of the project, Invistics had a proposed plan for how to best prepare us to get the maximum benefit from the software through a systematic approach to training.

The training consisted of essentially 3 simple phases; software familiarization, data manipulation and analysis, and process optimization.  With each phase Invistics guided us through the process using written instructions, demonstrations, hands-on exercises, and focused coaching.

The first step was to help us become familiar with the software’s features in which we were primarily interested (i.e. Inventory Advisor and Report Manager) and how to submit data for up-load and pre-processing.  This focus was important as the Flowlytics software suite has extensive capabilities, and while all were available to us, we were primarily interested in the Inventory Advisor analytics and reporting features.  Based on our initial cost benefit analysis, use of these modules alone should more than justify the subscription cost.

The training started with written guidance from Invistics that included step-by-step instructions on how to perform the basics of accessing the on-line software and uploading and viewing the data.   These instructions were accompanied by a series of webex meetings that Invistics set up.  The project manager and the lead technical specialist assigned to our project conducted the webex meetings and demonstrated what they had described in the written instructions and then let us practice on-line while they monitored our progress.  Their technique in coaching was effective as they didn’t just jump in and correct us when we went down the wrong path.  Instead they asked guiding questions related to what we were experiencing versus our expectations, which helped us figure out on our own how we could get back on track.

The software was intuitive, but as when using any new product, even with clear instructions, there are inevitably questions.  This is where Invistics customer support really shined. Any time we had a question they were never more than and e-mail or phone call away.   And it wasn’t the typical “help” line many of us have experienced in the past.  This was direct contact with the project manager or the technical specialist assigned to our project.   Phone calls were answered in person and e-mails were responded to promptly (typically within a few hours if not in minutes).  It almost felt like we were their only customer.

The next phase involved becoming proficient in data manipulation and analysis.  For this phase the training was on-site at our facility.   We were a little surprised to see that Invistics not only had the project manager and technical specialist support the training, but also the president of Invistics and the sales representative we had worked with during the initial request for quote and contract phase.  What we found was having these others in the training proved to be very valuable and was very much a part of Invistics’ customer focused approach to support.

During the on-site training the technical specialist led us step-by-step through how to manipulate the data and get different reports and graphical outputs.  Going in we felt we knew exactly what we wanted from the software, but it quickly became apparent that we had not fully anticipated its flexibility or ability to parse and analyze the data.  This is where having the others from Invistics present was helpful.  They were able to give us insights into how others had leveraged the software and make suggestions on different ways we might want to look at the data.  One suggestion in particular stood out.  We were planning on analyzing M&TE based strictly on unique manufacturer/model numbers.  The president of Invistics posed the questions regarding items that had the same functionality, yet had different manufacturer/model numbers and if we had thought about analyzing them collectively (e.g. one inch micrometers made by different companies – functionally the same, but under our method would be analyzed discretely).  The solution he helped us discover was based on Invistics’ extensive experience in other industries and involved creating functional “SKUs” that could be applied to similar M&TE.

The other benefit from this intensive on-site training, where we worked through actual scenarios using our own data was, at the end of the day, we had identified specific M&TE where we could reduce inventory and start implementing savings immediately.  Again, this is where Invistics proved to be more than a provider of software.  They were a solution provider.  They not only helped us get meaningful results in the short term, they also challenged us to establish specific measurable milestones to ensure we continued to obtain meaningful savings.   At the end of the on-site training we felt fully prepared to start tackling additional manufacturer/models (and combined SKUs).

The following week, as we started identifying additional items for analysis, we realized that the data in our database was not as clean as it should be.  We had differing spellings, descriptions, and model numbers for identical items.   While some clean up was inevitable, a complete scrub of the data up-front would slow down our progress considerably.   When we explained our situation to Invistics they showed us how their pre-processing routines for data was robust enough to deal with much of the minor discrepancies and how we could easily address other items so as not to slow down our progress.

With these issues resolved we quickly went back to uploading data and pulling results.  During each of these initial uploads the technical special at Invistics was monitoring and providing suggestions on how we might simplify work on our end by leveraging the capabilities of their software.  Any questions we had were immediately responded to as we worked as a team to streamline the process.  After a couple of additional iterations we became very comfortable uploading data, using the analytics, outputting graphic and tabular data, and utilizing the results to make preliminary decisions on specific adjustments to the inventory.  It quickly became apparent that the savings we were identifying, just during the training phase, would more than justify the subscription cost.

In part V of this blog we will share how the Invistics software allowed us to communicate clearly with our customers and provide them with information in a format that they could relate to, and made it easy for them to embrace the proposed solutions.