Why Schools Are Moving to Vendor Managed Inventory

Making an emergency run to a hardware store when your lights burn out may be fine for home owners, but if you’re running an educational facility, it’s not ideal. School districts and higher education campuses often require items that may not be in stock at general hardware stores, so staying ahead of the curve with inventory management at school is essential. However, with all of the maintenance projects and updates that occur on campus, it can feel like you’re swimming upstream.

In today’s environment, it’s more important than ever to find better, more efficient ways to manage inventory at educational facilities. For many schools, Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), can save valuable maintenance dollars, and help your school become more efficient.

French Gerleman Vice President Mike Kelsch explains how French Gerleman’s VMI program can help.


How do you identify if a school is a good fit for VMI?

The key thing we try to identify is if they have a need for a functioning inventory system. To assess this need, we ask the following types of questions:

  • What is the size and scope of a typical project done in house?
  • Do you insource or outsource your large-scale projects?
  • How large is your current parts inventory?
  • Do you have a centralized and organized system for storing your inventory?
  • Is your current system serving you well, or could it be more efficient?

In many cases, the answers to these questions help us to identify if they are a good candidate for VMI. Education entities generally have multiple buildings and a wide variety of maintenance needs, and it can become difficult for them to maintain the level of inventory needed to keep their facilities running seamlessly.

Can you give us an example of a school’s VMI need?

We recently worked with a major school district in the St. Louis area to determine what inventory system would best meet their needs. We found the majority of their inventory needs revolve around lamps and ballasts. They had these items in their inventory, but when we assess a school’s inventory, we’re always determining whether their current stock consists of the right items. In other words, is their inventory functional? Without proper organization and structure, you can’t tell which items you are running low on and need to restock soon. That’s a big part of VMI.

For this particular school district, we digitally logged their inventory and set ideal inventory levels for each part in stock. This allowed us to turn each item into a barcode ID, and provide them with scannable stickers to easily reorder exactly what they need from the French Gerleman mobile app. This process allows them to quickly replenish their stock and know exactly how many items to order.

For other schools, French Gerleman’s Stock Optimization Program team takes over inventory management, performing on-site services to track and order items and make sure they always have a functioning inventory at their disposal.

What can a school expect from French Gerleman’s VMI?

French Gerleman follows a basic process to set up VMI for clients to make sure it best suits their needs:

  1. Physical Audit – what items need to be managed, and where in the facility are the items located?
  2. Assessment – are these the proper items, and what is truly needed?
  3. Storage Plan – how and where will the materials be stocked in an organized manner?
  4. Ongoing Management – stocking, monitoring and ordering materials performed either by school staff or French Gerleman.

By performing a hands-on audit and assessment, French Gerleman assures that each school’s unique needs are being met. Storage methods and locations are a key part of an inventory plan, and especially critical when dealing with large campuses. Whether we handle all ongoing inventory management or partnering with your maintenance team, having the appropriate structure in place can significantly improve inventory management and reduce stock-outs.

 When is it an ideal time to start planning for/implementing VMI?

Summer is an ideal time for a school to focus on maintenance projects and revamp systems, such as inventory management, to ensure that operations in the new year go smoothly. VMI helps transform your inventory to become functioning and efficient, which helps make maintenance tasks quicker and more efficient to carry out. Stepping back in the summer to reorganize how you manage inventory allows you to dive into the next school year fully prepared.

Do you have a functioning inventory?

Inventory management has changed over the years, and we pride ourselves in making sure our Stock Optimization Program is the quick, easy and efficient for our customers to use. Our goal is to make sure you always have what you need when you need it.

For more information, please reach out to your Account Manager, or contact us today.

Vendor Managed Inventory VMI