Managing inventory isn’t a top priority for most municipal managers, but it will ensure you have what you need when the next emergency arises.


Managing an inventory of clamps, couplings and other necessary repair parts is an issue all water utilities need to control. With a small inventory, utilities can save on space and money, but if there is a hitch with deliveries or a sudden spike in demand, installers won’t have what they need for repairs.  

Municipalities often have tight budgets, so keeping a large inventory on hand is often not an option. This is especially true in smaller municipalities where space for inventory can be very tight. 

This balancing act between cost and space can be tricky, but with these five tips municipal utilities can ensure they have the repair products they need while keeping storage costs down.

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Evaluate your need

Before deciding on how much inventory you need, take a careful look at the cyclical demand for repair parts and other materials. Look at your orders over the course of the last three or four years. Do you notice periods when the demand for certain clamps or couplings is high and other periods when it’s low?  

See if you can manage inventory based on past records and decide which products should be in high supply and which ones can be lower. A good understanding of the size and types of pipes in the ground will also give you a better picture of the parts and tools you’ll need on hand.

Use repair products that can be used in a number of applications

If you store clamps and couplings that can be used in a number of applications, you won’t need to keep as many in stock and space is reduced. Full transition couplings that fit pipes of varying types and sizes within your water or wastewater infrastructure save space and help you stay prepared for multiple scenarios. There are also products that have the versatility to either join or repair pipes.  

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Consider the weather

Weather can play a key role in when repair supplies will be in high demand and how fast you can obtain them. Repairs are frequent when the ground shifts during the spring thaw. The same is true at other times of the year when the weather is harsh, such as hurricane season on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Keep in mind that orders will be harder to fill when weather conditions get in the way of quick deliveries. It only takes one snowed-in regional shipping hub to delay orders across the nation.

Streamline your purchasing

Use software programs for both inventorying and ordering. Small utilities may rely on a paper checklist or simply go by memory, which is unreliable. Make it easy to keep track of supplies and ordering so there is no confusion. Assign a number for each product you order and keep track.

Put one person in charge

Delegate one person to be the purchasing manager to ensure multiple orders aren’t placed unnecessarily. The designated purchasing manager should keep track of inventory and be informed of any changes in supply needs. A good purchasing manager will also ask vendors if they offer discounts for buying in volume or for paying the entire invoice within a specified amount of time. 

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Regardless of the size of your inventory, managing it properly will make you more efficient, keep costs down and ensure repair parts are available when crews need them. F

About the author

David Wheat is the materials manager at Krausz USA in Ocala, Florida. 


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