Trunk Stock: Finding the Hidden Value

Written By

Joe Hardin
Joe Hardin

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Do You Have Full Inventory Visibility? With the right tools and processes, you could… 

For medical device manufacturers, knowing what is in each sales rep’s trunk stock is an elusive and usually impossible goal. Not knowing what assets are in the field has significant ripple effects throughout the entire business and definitely hurts effective asset utilization.

The Root Cause

The real trunk stock problem originates from a lack of tools and proper processes. The mechanisms to identify, allocate, transfer, track, and replenish inventory at the rep level simply aren’t in place at most organizations. For a majority of companies, trying to obtain trunk stock visibility is simply fighting a losing battle. Fortunately, the tide is turning. Some organizations have already won.


The greatest tool in the world is worthless if it is not used (or used correctly). In order to get inventory accuracy and increased user adoption, the proposed tool must be easier to use than any other means. There are eight advanced features that device manufacturers can take advantage of to solve the problem of trunk stock visibility while gaining full tool adoption.

  1. Easy Receiving. The reps need an easy option on their mobile device to mark shipments as received. This gets rep adoption going and conveys the actual location to the Ops team. This is where real-time visibility begins. The next level of mobile app functionality is where the reps verify items in the shipment — and where they should be able to initiate a dispute if something is missing or extra. The key for all of these capabilities is that the interface needs to be simple and fast for the rep. If it’s not, you can bet the reps won’t use it.
  1. Usage Capture. Usage capture is most efficient when done on a phone or tablet, either via barcode scanning or quick manual lot entry. This usage signal should then be integrated with ERP, EMR, and Billing tools to generate charge sheets, invoices, and POs.
  1. Easy Returns and Label Printing. Getting reps to return product on time is a common challenge. They may keep a product longer than they should to squeeze in just one more case. While it seems harmless to them, low turn rates negatively impact the business. Reps usually do this because it’s easier to sit on the inventory than it is to ship it out and reorder the same items a week later. This problem is best solved by the formula Prompt + Speed + Incentive


Ideally, reps shouldn’t have to create return orders. Your application should know what was requested, used (see no. 2. Usage), and from those, automatically derive what needs to be returned and when. Generating the order is simply a matter of the Ops team confirming where leftover product needs to go next. Once Ops confirms this, the system should prompt the rep to print out a label and get it shipped.


A significant portion of a rep’s time is spent on just a few necessary but not value-added things: driving, finding inventory, shipping inventory, and waiting for surgeries to start. Not much can be done about the driving and waiting, but the time spent looking for inventory and shipping can be reduced through instant product visibility and the ability to print shipping labels from the mobile app these features remove another obstacle to adoption and makes the reps’ lives easier.


Adding a financial incentive for quick return times is a motivator for reps. The caveat is that the effectiveness is dependent on the burden involved. If the reps have Prompt + Speed, in addition to the Incentive, the whole system becomes much more attractive.

Summary: Prompt (automatically generated returns) + Speed (ready-to-print labels) + Incentive (with no hassle) = Success

  1. Rep-to-Rep Transfer. An application that can transfer inventory between reps will reduce the inventory’s journey. This is most relevant for manufacturers whose inventory lives “in the field”. Success lies in the same Prompt + Speed + Incentive formula described in no. 3. Returns.
  1. Actual Location vs. Consignment Location. Using actual location and consignment location tags for an item distinguishes where the inventory is physically located from who owns it. The owned and current location identifier provides:
    • Visibility of “borrowing” of inventory amongst reps. In fact, if you aren’t passing inventory from rep-to-rep currently because of system limitations, this can be a door opener into better asset utilization rates.
    • Complete field inventory visibility.
    • Comprehensive usage and transfers data.
  1. Long-Term Loans. Most systems only offer the ability to manage consignment loans. More robust solutions will distinguish these from short-term (event/case-based) loans. By using both loan types, you can determine precisely what’s “in the trunk.”
  1. Lost & Found Automation. “Lost & Found” is a new concept only found in advanced software. Instead of hitting the ERP every time a cycle count is off, items get tagged as “lost” (missing) or “found” (surprise!). Based on business rules and elapsed time, lost items are matched with found items before reporting final results to the ERP. Items tagged as “lost” or as “found” can still be used and allocated to cases, providing tremendous value through time savings, better visibility, and improved asset utilization.
  1. Automatic Cycle Counting. Cycle counting is traditionally done in a time-based location-by-location manner, but an advanced tool will allow for real-time and continuous counts. Automatic cycle counting and real-time auditing allow normal operations and mandated auditing to occur simultaneously. Though stock levels are constantly changing, each item is consistently tracked. Advanced systems use multiple labels/assignments to enable simultaneous operations and efficient audits.

By combining tracking tools with capabilities for easily receiving product, scanning, transferring to other reps, returning, and printing of shipping labels, the cycle count becomes a routine activity that isn’t so heavily depended upon. Cycle counting can be done continuously or ad hoc as needed. Making cycle counting an automatic function allows for true visibility at all times into all product locations, including the elusive “trunk stock.”

Good news: Movemedical provides all of the tools in one comprehensive platform. Everything needed to gain visibility to your trunk stock (consignment, loaners, and warehouses, too!) and begin to maximize your assets through better utilization. When combining the right tools with the best processes in a user-friendly application, you can get the data you need to manage your trunk stock and so much more.


Learn more about Movemedical. 


Next Steps:

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A good medical device supply chain sales & medical device inventory solutionis worth its weight in gold, a fully integrated medical device specificoperations and sales force effectiveness platform is priceless.

A complete medical device sales & inventory tool should be able to or have:

  • Full Inventory Management
  • Consignment / Consigned Inventory
  • Surgery Scheduling (+ Calendar)
  • Surgeon Preferences / Preference Cards
  • CRM / Case & Opportunity Management
  • Inventory Control & Visibility (All Locations, All Buckets)
  • Active Order Visibility
  • Opportunity/Lead Management
  • Customer/Account Management
  • Sales Metrics / Data (Reps, Leaders, Corporate)
  • Shipping Coordination (FedEx, UPS Integration)
  • Directed Picking & Put-away (Bin Mapped)
  • Auto Product Replenishment
  • Commission Calculations
  • Expiration Notifications
  • Direct Orders
  • Send & Receive Tools (Rep to Rep etc.)
  • Contract & List Pricing (Real-time)
  • Audit/Cycle Counts
  • Reporting & Billing
  • Image & File Sharing
  • Secure HIPAA Compliant Communication
  • Mobile Usage Capture
  • UDI Compliance
  • Barcode Scanning
  • RFID Integration & RFID Reconciling (HF/UHF)
  • ERP/CRM/EMR Integrations
  • Demand Planning Tools
  • Consignment/Loaner Management
  • Pluggable Workflows (Programmatic Integrations, Integrated Prediction Models)
  • Sourcing Matrix Tool
  • HIPAA Compliant Communication (Messages, Calendar, Usage, Notes, Files)
  • Sourcing Optimization
  • Future Stock (Virtual Inventory Assigned to Future Events)
  • Atomic Inventory (UDI Ready, Piece Level Tracking, Serialized or Not)
  • Hybrid Kitting (Skinny Kits, Kit Management, Kit Versioning, Tracking)
  • Cross Boundary Workflows
  • Lost & Found (Automatic Cycle Counting )
  • Merger/Acquisition Integration
  • Par Management
  • Multi-Catalog Management
  • Loan Optimization (1 Loan Per Day)
  • Separate or Combined Sales & Operations Alignment
  • Cost-to-Serve Metrics
  • Turn Ratio Dashboards

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