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What are the Responsibilities of an Inventory Control Manager

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I am vice-president of inventory management. It's an interesting position for me because it's always changing. Lately it has been just a constant increase in areas of responsibility. The department is divided into two parts. The inventory management part is pretty similar to most, and the basic responsibility there is to make sure all of our stock-keeping units are in adequate supply, both components that go into making up finished goods and the actual finished goods themselves. In order to do this, we use sales figures to start plus historical figures and estimates from marketing. On the basis of this information, we place reorders. On the production side, we work very closely with the design and preproduction of our products, so that the production can be contracted out.

We are also responsible for overall quality of the product. I have a manager of quality control and a technician right at our distribution center. They inspect all incoming products on a statistical sampling basis and have been known to reject entire lots. The quality control manager will call me and tell me that he just got a bad batch in. I'll call the supplier, and we'll spend some time going over that. Then at any given time there are always new projects around.

When marketing comes up with a sales plan, it's the materials management group that converts that sales plan into manufacturing schedules. We get involved between marketing and manufacturing because of the need for control of inventory investments. In most companies inventories are the largest single asset of the company. They are worth more than the building, the equipment, and everything else. We are heavily involved, therefore, with finance. We are involved with engineering constantly with indirect change notices on disposition of current inventories, transfer dates, and so forth. We work with manufacturing engineering on the processes that are involved in order to take a raw material and arrive at a finished product. We deal with the port-of-entry function on a day-to-day basis because it's a materials management function to get the answers to the questions that customers ask. If we've done our job right, a customer can call about an order and we should know where the order is and how long it will take to ship it.

On the inventory side, we are responsible for inventory management as well as control of it. That means we are responsible for seeing that we have enough product, that the product is safe, and that the product is what we say it is, both on paper and in reality. That's what I mean about the control part of it. What we say we have on paper must in fact be in the warehouse.

Question - How do you spend an average day?

Answer - There are one or two weekly routines. One is to review the master production schedule with the master production scheduler and the manufacturing manager. We find out if and why there is any deviation from that schedule. In the manufacturing environment, if you understand the master production schedule, you'll know what's going to happen to your inventory. Then you'll have an idea of what's going to happen to your capacities and how well you'll be able to respond to customer demands. That's about a four-hour review every week. The other portion of the job that I have is to review any past-due orders to find out why they are past due and what actions are being taken. These are the two planned activities each week. The rest of my time is spent either on developing new procedures and new systems for the materials management function or on the interaction required between materials management function and the other functions of the company.

Thirty percent of a typical day could be spent on phone contact on the field, continually handling problems in the midst of running he system. If they have a unique situation such as a forecast that doesn't reflect how they are really selling or if they have very large sales-to-forecast deviation, I discuss the problem with them, suggesting they lower safety stocks or change replenishment lead times, or else we talk over the actual mechanical nuts and bolts of running the system including mechanical failures.

Another 30 percent of my time is involved in writing, documenting problems that happen and the changes or enhancements that were made to the systems as a result of having identified those problems. Were the changes valid enough to incorporate? Also, I do a lot of correspondence concerning the software and laying out the flow charts and systems. About 20 percent of my time is spent in administrative duties. I travel quite a bit, so I am continually filling out expense reports. I'm probably on the road one week a month. The other 20 percent of my time is flexible, being at meetings and discussions, sharing information.

Question - How much time do you spend on your job each week?

Answer -I guess I put in a normal eight-hour day. Obviously there are exceptions, and I do a lot of work at home. I bring home a lot of my correspondence to read, and I make little notes on weekends if there are special reports. I don't do it because I like working at home, but because it's nice and quiet. I can get a lot more done in one hour in the evening than I can if the phones are ringing. It's basically a forty-hour week. Once we get into August, when we're planning for our major fall releases and Christmas, then it's back up to ten or eleven hours a day.

I would say that I spend forty-five to fifty hours per week, total. That's office time. I don't really count time I work at home, but there are frequently times I have to do that. I would say that I spend a couple of hours at home just getting ready for the production meetings. It requires some quiet time, so I usually take it home one night a week. I spend a lot of time going over the production requirements, adding my own input, making sure that we are not asking for things that I don't want or things that production can't do anyway.
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