The Needs of Science and Engineering
The work done here at WHOI has many unique characteristics. The focus on ocean research demands our testing equipment be able to withstand the rigors of a harsh environment and still provide a high level of data accuracy expected in more hospitable surroundings. In addition, much of the science done here is cutting edge and has unique instrumentation requirements.
Much of the "off the shelf" instrumentation one might use in other disciplines simply do not meet the physical endurance standards or perform the type of testing our scientist require. Therefore, our engineering staff must invent, modify and develop much of our own investigate instrumentation. This requires a ready supply of parts not normally found in a traditional Stockroom. Our inventory must reflect the electronic, mechanical and raw material needs of a verity of highly technical shops and demanding scientific investigations.
Support For Marine Operations
Our Marine Operations places it's own unique demands on the Institution's resources. Few research institutions require the services of a ship's chandler or must maintain a LIPS thruster. Our inventory composition must also reflect the unique needs of an ocean going fleet.
In addition to the specialized marine parts required, our Marine Operations does not have the luxury of long port lay-overs. Many times a ship will be in Woods Hole for less than a week. This makes timing of the procurement of supplies and parts very important. The ship can not wait for a supplier to ship a part critical to the safety of the ship or the science to be done on a cruise.
Supply Chain Factors
In the 80's, one main focus of industrial procurement was to develop supply chain systems that provided the supply needs of the organization "just in time" (JIT). Materials are ordered, delivered and used within a period of hours or days thus decreasing the overall cost of inventorying large quantities of items.
Commodity based items that have definable usage patterns and strong distribution partners in the marketplace are prime candidates for "JIT" ordering. Our SOS (Speedy Order Systems) programs with Fisher Scientific, Corp Brothers and W.B. Mason are an outgrowth of this business trend.
Unfortunately, many of the items we use to support science at WHOI does not fall into this kind of commodity based purchasing. We purchase items few others use. We require modifications to standard items making them unique. Many of the items we require are one of a kind and are manufactured specifically for WHOI. In some cases, we are the only market for a particular item. We must inventory many of these items to ensure their availability in a timely, cost effective manner.
In addition to the challenges non-commodity based purchasing creates, our location also effects our supply chain management. Being on the Cape precludes us from taking advantage of quick, same day delivery that would develop if we were closer to a major manufacturing center or port of call. As an example, do not have an electronics supply distributor on the Cape. We therefore carry many more capacitors, resistors and switching devices in our inventory. While our location is a major recreational boating and commercial fishing port, there are few vessels in the area that have the same mission or as our fleet. This should be reflected in our inventory composition.
The inventory we maintain in our stockroom must reflect all these factors. We must work to make our inventory dynamic, listening for and acknowledging the changing needs of science, engineering and marine operations. We must ensure the systems we use reflect the current business environment, taking advantage of appreciate technology whenever possible. We need to leverage the Institution's buying power to create cost savings. We are always monitoring our supply chains to create opportunities to better serve the needs of the community. Finally, we must ensure that the Stockroom is a true reflection of the unique character of WHOI.
With the help of the entire WHOI community, we can reach and maintain these goals. Please feel free to contact any of the members of the Stockroom team offer suggestions. We look forward to working with you.