Six Tips for Stress Free Inventory Counting

Make your annual veterinary inventory count more efficient with our expert tips.

It’s that time of year again…for inventory counting. We know that may find yourself thinking, how will we find the time?  What needs to be counted?  Do I have to do this alone?  The computer software is a mess!  

If this is you, you aren’t alone! That’s why we asked our experts for tips that will help you feel confident this inventory counting season:  

Ensure That Your Practice Management Software Is Updated and Accurate

One of the first things to do is identify the steps that need to be taken within your PMS before performing an inventory count. Reviewing the inventory report in advance will identify the areas that need to be corrected, making counting faster and more efficient. When you review the inventory report, make sure to check the following:  

  • Are products in the correct categories with clear descriptions?    
  • Do the quantities on hand show negative or inflated amounts?   
  • Are injectables linked to inventory?   
  • Is the unit of measure correct for each product?  
  • Does every item with a quantity have an associated and current cost?  
  • Do obsolete and inactivated products appear on the report?   

Pro tip: save and print this checklist for when you review! 

Keep Products, Reports and Count Sheets Organized

Having all the products consolidated and organized will make counting much more efficient.  If possible, print out the inventory count sheets by category to keep from flipping through pages to find the item you just counted. Also, communicate about the locations of inventory so items don’t get missed or double-counted. For example, medications may be located in retail, backstock and customer pick-up areas. Consolidating products before you start counting will eliminate inaccuracies and stress.   

Give Your Full Attention to the Inventory Count

If possible, full inventory counts should be done before/after hours to minimize distractions and allow for the most accurate updating in your Practice Management Software. Make sure to count the products by how they appear in the report and how they are sold.  If you dispense per dose, box, or bottle, make sure you are counting in the same measurement. Keep track of any large discrepancies so they can be investigated. Record reasons for adjustments, especially for large quantities and expensive products.   

Get the Team Involved and Utilize Apps

Nothing makes inventory counting go faster than having several people help and using technology.  Have team members with the strongest attention to detail count medications and those with great organizational skills count food and retail items.  Download free apps like Pilleye to make counting fun and quicker!  

Pro tip: It is much easier and more accurate to have the team count, update the sheets, and have the Hospital Manager update quantities!  

Plan Ahead for Next Year

Schedule physical counts routinely throughout the year to avoid such a heavy lift during EOY inventory counting. One way to do this is cycle counting. Cycle counting is taking specific products and counting them more frequently.  It is most often done with Controlled Substances but should also be considered for high revenue/high turnover products.  It is an excellent way to find discrepancies between the physical count and what the computer states you should have on hand.  The shrinkage could be a computer set-up error, missed charged, expiration, or theft.  More frequent counts will identify shrinkage sooner.  

Remember the Payoff

In addition to reducing your stress, efficient inventory counting will result in numerous benefits for your business. As the ratio of inventory spending to revenue goes up, practice profit goes down. Reducing inventory costs, by tightening your ordering routine, shopping for better pricing, and doing inventory counts can make your practice more profitable.  

Pro tip: if you are considering selling your practice, inventory management is extremely important! High inventory costs may negatively impact your hospital’s valuation.   

Veterinary inventory management is a big task that requires continual attention to be efficient. If this is your first inventory count of the year, you’ve got this! It may feel like quite the undertaking but remember to take it one step at a time, stay organized and try to make it fun. Then, make a plan for next year!