The implications of not having enough PPE are clear. Without the right protection, your people are unable to go on site and stay productive. Depending on your industry, that could result in breaching penalty clauses, reducing billable time, getting behind on contracts or, in the worst case, having the HSE shut your site down.

Equally, too much PPE is a significant drain on working capital, as well as a burden to store. At one recent customer visit, we saw more than half a million pounds tied up in inventory. This was a large sum of capital that could be put to good use elsewhere, sitting idly in a storeroom where supply greatly outstripped demand.

The right inventory management solution needs to strike a difficult balance – not too much PPE and not too little. Of course, the best strategy for achieving that balance will depend on your own unique needs, as well as the way you handle procurement and your usage.

Read on to find out how each inventory management solution works and how you can decide which is right for you.

Next-day (and same day) PPE delivery

The simplest form of PPE inventory management is working with a supplier who can make next-day deliveries. There is no need to store surplus PPE in preparation for future use. Instead, when you realise you are running low on a given item, place an order and get your delivery the very next morning.

Many PPE suppliers can also offer same-day delivery for emergencies or deliver direct-to-site to help your wearers stay safe and productive.

This ‘just-in-time’ approach is the ideal choice for small companies placing orders for limited quantities of stock PPE without branding or embroidering. However, next-day deliveries can only work as an inventory management solution if your supplier has the items you need ready to dispatch immediately – so be sure to ask potential suppliers for their OTIF (On Time in Full) despatch data.

Dedicated or Buffer Stock

Sometimes referred to as a virtual warehouse, Dedicated or Buffer Stock is additional inventory held by your supplier on your behalf. An allocation of stock is ringfenced for your exclusive use and you simply pay for products as and when you order them.

With Dedicated Stock, you can be confident that even the most specialised PPE can be available in as little as 24 hours. If your wearers need mission-critical protection that isn’t a standard stock item, such as respiratory protection with a specialist filter, this approach means you can be sure the PPE you need is available, even when demand spikes unpredictably.

In addition, Dedicated Stock is an effective alternative to delays caused when products require branding. While customisation may take two or three days to complete from scratch, a best in class PPE supplier should be able – and willing - to store hundreds of pre-branded items ready and waiting for you.

This is an excellent choice for larger businesses that need absolute confidence their specialist PPE and workwear will be available at short notice, without the capital expense of buying it long before it is used. However, it is crucial your PPE supplier understands how you work and calculates an appropriate quantity of stock to set aside.

PPE Consignment Stock

If your organisation uses a higher volume of PPE, placing multiple orders every month to keep up with demand is an expensive and inefficient way to do business. Consignment Stock solves this problem by letting your PPE supplier take control of your on-site stock and keep your inventory topped-up.

With Consignment Stock, your PPE supplier audits your stock levels and replenishes your inventory on a regular basis. Whenever you go to your store room, it is fully-stocked to agreed quantities – you never, ever run out.

However, you are only charged once a month for the stock you have used in the previous month. As a result, there is no need to tie capital up in surplus stock and no need to place your own individual orders.

Consignment stock is particularly popular in industries like manufacturing, where there is a high throughput of low-value PPE like hairnets, gloves, and aprons.

PPE Vending

Finally, vending solutions have become an increasingly popular way to manage your PPE inventory. Rather than having a storeroom full of PPE, a vending machine offers more control over the issue of PPE with complete visibility over who is using what.

Vending comes with some unique advantages. With personal swipe cards or ID tags to access PPE, wearer accountability can instantly lower usage by as much as 30%. Vending machines are also easier to locate centrally, giving wearers a visual reminder to take and wear the right PPE. In the most extreme cases, a vending solution could even remove the need for a stores person altogether, creating a significant cost saving.

In addition, a vending system can be used for larger items that would not fit inside a machine. An unmanned store where access is controlled can provide self-service PPE provisioning, even out of hours.

However, vending is not the appropriate choice for everyone. In some cases, vending is adopted as an attempt to solve more cultural issues – eliminating the symptom of high usage, but not truly uncovering its root cause.

With that in mind, perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing an inventory management solution is your supplier. If your supplier comes with a deep understanding of your options - and takes the time to understand your business too - you can get the advantage of advice and guidance on finding the best solution for you.

At Anchor Safety, we know the impact of a lack of stock and the importance of striving to have 95% of all requirement in stock at all times – a magic number that provides assurance and consistent availability.

Forecasting is a key element of this and, working closely with you, we’ll estimate your future use to achieve excellent service levels and ensure that you never run out – or have working capital tied up in unnecessary inventory.

Talk to us about finding the right PPE inventory management solution for your business.