We recently conducted a survey on inventory management to see how we can improve the inventory management system we created for our customers, StockBoss. We received some interesting responses which brought to light a couple of our favourite things: myths! This called for another round of Element MythBusters. So, what are the two myths that we discovered?

  1. Nothing can go wrong with my existing inventory management system
  2. Excel is good enough for stock management

Myth 1:Nothing can go wrong with my existing inventory management system

Well, if that is true, well done! You are part of the minority who have succeeded in implementing and maintaining a process for inventory management. The truth for most companies is far from this.

QUESTION: Do your scientists suffer from "squirrel cupboard" syndrome (i.e. do they have their own cupboard with their own little stock of consumables?)

Around 43% of people who responded to our survey indicated that they have, what we call “Squirrel Cupboard” syndrome (this is where scientists have their own cupboard with their own little stock of consumables). The more you fall in this category, the more chance you have of accumulating dead stock over the years. The number of times someone has bought a preventive and maintenance kit for a piece of equipment replaced half of the part provided and kept the rest in a drawer “just in case” one day they will need it. It’s like getting to the end of a role-playing game and realizing you haven’t used those precious elixirs you kept for “when you need them”. The hard truth is, when you need that part, you are more likely to re-order one than use an undocumented part stored somewhere by someone in your company.

Myth 2: Excel is good enough for stock management

QUESTION: Are you using Excel to manage lab supplies and stock levels?

Our survey showed that two-thirds of respondents use an Excel spreadsheet to maintain their stock information. This is obviously better than storing an undocumented part in a drawer, but this does not provide much information in terms of traceability and audit trail. The truth is, there are huge limitations to this approach, particularly around the time-cost of manually administrating it. Most inventory management solutions are now able to provide automatic replenishment triggers, audit trails, full reporting…etc. This information is so valuable when you want to know “how much did you spend maintaining this instrument over the past 4 years”?

QUESTION: Do you have an ordering system/platform?

Almost 90% of companies have some sort of ordering system. The next step is to optimize your stock control by introducing a full inventory management system, with automatic re-order points. This will bring 3 clear improvements:

  1. Reduce the risk of running out of the consumables you need
  2. Reduce the risk of overstocking a product, impacting your cash flow
  3. Reduce the risk of using an expired standard/reagent

QUESTION: Has on-site stock availability ever impacted sample analysis?

68% of people admit that they have been impacted at least once for their analysis due to stock availability on site.

QUESTION: Would you like to optimise your stock value and storage space whilst ensuring product availability?

76% of people want to optimize the stock value and storage space in their company.

QUESTION: Have you ever used an expired chemical/standard by accident? 

33% have already used an expired reagent/chemical by mistake. While this number is much lower than the previous 2 points, this is arguably the worst outcome of poor stock management. One in three people have committed this error and the impact of this could be considerable, especially if working in a regulated environment.

So, as you can see, inventory management is something worth investing in. And it can be more affordable than you think, while quickly leading to a tangible return on investment.


StockBoss is our unique approach to stock management. This software solution is already helping many of our UK customers manage stock better. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and tailor the right solution for you. Send a quick email to [email protected] and one of our team members will be in touch to help you find a solution that works for you.