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Study Notes: Inventory Control

Inventory control is based on the following factors.

  • Stock usage - based on historical data and experience.
  • Stock control - including security of stocks against pilfering, leakage etc.
  • Record keeping - computer-based with timely data input.
  • Shelf Life - needs to be managed to avoid wastage.
  • Stock on hand - rule of thumb for how much stock to have on hand at any time (often one month’s supply).
  • Hazardous chemicals - keeping these to a minimum consistent with effective running of assays.
  • Ordering system - must be simple to use and manage, and relies on the laboratory staff informing. someone of stocks running low or placing the order themselves.
  • Supplier capability - long or short are the delivery times.

A number of these factors may be contradictory. For instance, consider the following.

  • Ten litres of concentrated sulfuric acid is a large amount of a hazardous chemical but if this amount were used every fortnight then the ‘stock on hand rule of thumb’ would require 20 litres to be stored!
  • An enzyme may have a shelf life of two weeks from receipt. Keeping one month’s supply would not make sense in such a situation.
  • Erratic demand such as 90% of hay fever testing being conducted in Spring may mean that a higher stock level is kept on hand in September - November than in the rest of the year.

Regular stock checks should be performed to monitor stock losses, to check that there is sufficient stock available and to ensure that all stock is stored in a safe and efficient manner. These stock checks will ensure that the laboratory will never run out of chemicals or materials. If you do run low on a particular item, it should be brought to the attention of the Laboratory Supervisor so that the chemical is reordered.

Safety is a part of inventory control and bulk chemicals should never be stored in a laboratory. A separate chemical store is used for this purpose and should include or contain the following features.

  • A secure lock to prevent unauthorised entry - for safety and to reduce pilfering.
  • Dry and well ventilated.
  • Fume hood - if applicable.
  • Lockable poison cupboard.
  • Fireproof cupboard for volatile, flammable liquids.
  • Gas cylinder store.
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