Tracking Materials Inventory

Cabinetmakers discuss how to count it coming in, count it going out, and count it sitting there. June 23, 2006

Does anyone have an easy method of balancing actual materials used with Cabinet Vision? We have a seven man, two girl shop and short of standing beside the machines, I can't reconcile our purchases. It looks like I have to get out and count hinges, drawer glides, etc.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor D:
Is your material growing legs? Do you feel that some is disappearing? Do you order per job or just when things are getting low? I'm using Cabinet Vision also, but have no way of tracking actual item count per job. Except sheet goods. I do, however, track offcuts for optimizing purposes and waste control. I know there are some reports in there that will give you a materials summary, but I have not used any myself.

From contributor R:
I don't bid or optimize through CV. But here's what we do, in case it's helpful. We have a hardware pull sheet we fill out when we get the job. It lists the hinges, slides, etc. We pull this before starting the job. Our bidding process lists how much board and sheet goods the job should require. We have a wood material tracking sheet the guys fill out as they use material. Same for finish material. These amounts get tabulated and entered by our secretary into an Access database we created by work order number. This tells us how much we used and can be compared to what we quoted. Nevertheless, it's not perfect... Some jobs have, say, never used any finish, or 3/4 cherry ply, or... I'm sure everyone in the shop would write down what they pulled.:)

From contributor B:
I have never found anything more effective than a simple KANBAN (Japanese word for sign) system. Simple single or double card systems just work, and there is nothing complex about them. Anyone can do it, and do it right 100% of the time.

From the original questioner:
I am going to look at an Access database, and referring back to the quote… I would like to understand the sign method, or am I just being stupid? Some might be walking out the door, but I doubt it is a significant factor. Probably screws and glue, but I do need to tie it down.

From contributor J:
I don't think it is walking out your front door. Yes, you need to count sheets of ply and such as they are delivered. Yes, you need to run board foot totals on lumber packages. The errors will surprise you. Some lumber suppliers board foot totals will be 15% more than the delivered wood to allow for shrinkage. You need to know how you are being charged. I count banded units of ply. Surprising how many times they are short a board or two.

From contributor A:
I have two sheets for every job we do. The first is a time sheet. I have it broken down by tasks: sanding, milling, finishing, doors, drawers, CNC, etc. This way I know what process take the most time and what to look at for outsourcing and machinery upgrades. The second sheet is a material list. When I estimate a job, I know it will take x hinges and y drawer slides and z lights. When the slide gets pulled off the shelf, the employee writes it down on the materials list. In essence, they sign for it. Same for lumber. If they pull a board of maple, they write down the board footage on the sheet. I factor in about 20 bucks on all jobs for screws, glue, etc. So far this has worked. At the end of the year (or month or week), I can look at the spreadsheet and see how many should be on the shelf. It also helps me on the job estimate, because I can easily go back and see how my estimate matched the actual job cost.

From contributor O:
Is this a question about materials control or Cabinet Vision? I think you should be sure that you understand the concepts of the perpetual inventory system and periodic (physical) inventory system. If you don't understand them, then you should research and learn about them.

The number of people that you employ and their gender has no effect on how you track material usage. The types and volume of materials that you need to track will determine which system you use, as well as which tools (KANBAN, Microsoft Access, in/out cards, or count sheets) to use. If you have a computerized accounting system, then I would expect it to have an inventory system that would allow you to set up your materials inventory and print count sheets and reports.

In my opinion, the periodic inventory system is more appropriate for a cabinet shop. However, this will require you to perform a physical inventory each month (or whenever you create your financial statements). I could see using a perpetual inventory system if your manufacturing software is integrated with your accounting software. It doesn’t sound like this applies to you.