I don’t think its unfair to say that materials management often gets second or third billing to the big name objectives of event marketing. Because really, who has ever said that’s sexy? Materials management may be a hard pass at Thirsty Thursdays, but that office wallflower is what mobilizes inventory for you to produce for and deliver to your clients.
Materials management at a small event marketing analytics firm like ours is generally limited to data collection efforts. We hold in inventory a fleet of tablets that we send to ethnographer field staff at client event marketing activations. The tablets arrive loaded with the right survey, its hand strap case, and a charging brick and cable. They come back to our office for a quick refurbishing so that they are ready for the next activation.
Seems pretty straightforward. And it usually is: there is nothing particularly difficult about packing a box and slapping a FedEx label on it. The materials management challenge only arises when simultaneous data collection demands put stress on our inventory. We have finite materials and time in which to dispatch them. How do we continue data collection for clients with what we have?
Option 1: No Materials Management
This is obviously the antithesis of materials management, but it’s worth describing the scenario that inspired the idea in the first place. Without any management regime, there is neither strategic allocation of inventory nor knowledge of future holdings to plan for data collection at other activations. Suddenly, there is an activation to service this weekend and no tablets! Since foregoing obligations to the client is not an option, new tablet acquisitions resolve that shortage, but at an extra-budgetary expense.
Option 2: Materials Management
There are some pretty fancy solutions out there, but a materials management system is not hard to implement. Most of the time, the information needed to strategize inventory already exists, it’s just not collated usefully. In getting tablets out for data collection, we already know: (1) the client, (2) the activation location, (3) the activation dates, and (4) the number of tablets required for the job. A spreadsheet of data for all activations in aggregate against a roster of tablets is a start; add a couple lookup formulas – or even some VBA macros if you’re feeling it – and you’ve got a full-fledged requisition service.
With this in place, we can make informed decisions about the allocation of tablets to event marketing activations to provide the same level of service to the client at no cost of capital. Based on the schedule of activations and tablet availability, we can position data collection efforts efficiently. We can also see where each tablet is at any given moment, which helps move tablets between activations without the shipping time and expense back to the office. Best of all, this has little administrative burden on our staff.
A materials management system also has immediate indirect advantages. It can help with property tax declarations and tax liability estimations. It can help corroborate a depreciation schedule. It can help identify underperforming assets to shed inventory. It can help with insurance claims against lost or damaged inventory.
While this application of materials management is small, the principal of the example still holds: finding low cost and high return in the tangible components of the supply chain. Materials management maximizes the return on our inventory so that, for your event marketing data collection needs, we can do a lot with just a little.