We tend to get a bit detailed with our Knowledge shares, but it’s only because we really want purchasing and accounts payable teams to have strategies to reduce cost. Invoice-to-pay can be a profit center, but it requires vendor management at a whole new level. Part of that approach is understanding how your vendor has designed their services. More importantly, how are those services represented on the invoice. Yes, this is going to be one of those deep-deep-dive posts. Understanding this specific service design element can reveal how your uniform rental cost increases by up to 15%.

We’re going to focus on how damage and loss charges relate to the uniforms’ rental cost. Warning, the following may sound obvious. But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not happening on your invoices. Here’s the example. Rick has eleven shirts on inventory. One day, your provider charges either loss or damage on three of Rick’s shirts. Let’s tackle the loss first, because this can go one of two ways. Your provider can wait to see if the pieces show up in subsequent weeks, continue billing the rental charge and not bill the loss now. Or, they can not wait for the pieces to show up, bill the loss now and effectively reduce Rick’s inventory to eight.

The key point is this: whatever your provider decides to do, they shouldn’t bill you both ways. Guess what? Your provider might actually do that.  They’ll charge you for Rick’s lost three shirts and continue billing the rental for three shirts Rick is not using and are not on inventory. See it? And if those shirts take three weeks to be fulfilled, you’re still paying rental.

THEY CAN’T HAVE THEIR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO

Now let’s look at damage. It gets a bit squirrelly here too. First and foremost, whenever you get billed damage, you need to ask your provider to show you the damaged goods. If you are on a garment maintenance program, your provider might say something like, “Since you’re on maintenance, it’s replaced for free, so it doesn’t matter.” It’s not exactly free. You’re still going to pay for order makeup labor charges and emblems. That’s not free. After you’ve established that it’s actually damaged, then the billing will occur. Whether or not you pay the damage isn’t the point here – the point is the same as above. If a garment is damaged, it’s no longer on inventory. If it’s no longer on inventory, then you shouldn’t pay rental for it.

Is this splitting hairs? It probably feels that way. Especially for a category on the tail of indirect spend. And just for a few dollars? Not worth it. But wait. Here again, the service design of the industry makes something feel insignificant when it’s actually not. Your cost might be increased up to 15% because of the vagaries we’ve just described. How would you react if you got a price increase of 15%? Exactly.

GREAT. NOW WE KNOW. NOW WHAT?

Honestly, this IS a difficult piece to manage (unless you’re one of our customers, wink wink). As with other approaches we’ve discussed in previous Knowledge shares, this is about setting a tone with your provider. Show them that you’re paying attention. Let them know that you’re in on the service design. You’re watching closely. You only have to point it out a few times, then your provider will likely stop doing it. There is one exception – your provider’s billing system might be designed to do this. If that’s the case, you either have to figure out how to keep track of it (as well as the resulting credits), or just let it go. As someone on point for reducing cost, you probably don’t like that second option.

Most people don’t like going that far down the rabbit hole. Thanks for your patience. As we said earlier, we really do want you to know what we know. There’s nothing better at creating leverage than getting insider knowledge. We realize that managing this piece demands extra bandwidth, but every little bit helps. If you’re looking to figure out how to manage pieces like this, let’s talk about it.