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How to Relieve Labor Shortage Challenges with Vendor Managed Inventory

It’s been almost two years since COVID-19 turned our world upside down triggering supply chain shortages that continue today. While some of these shortages may be due to poor planning, most of the supply chain problems are due to a cascade of bottomless events creating major strains on worldwide distribution channels, the most extraordinary being the labor shortage. Now more than ever, procurement leaders are teamed up with their HR counterparts leveraging cooperative purchasing to help attract and retain talent. 

A record-high 4.5 million people, or 3% of workers, quit their job in November alone, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Specifically, the labor shortage has disproportionately impacted trade/technical workers. Nearly every state and local government entity is challenged with recruiting and retaining the workers needed to keep buildings, vehicles, and equipment running. Many point to not being able to compete with private sector pay when it comes to hiring skilled trade workers right now.

Add this to the fact that new entrants into the trade/technical workforce have been steadily declining due to generational preferences toward working in other industries like information technology and healthcare. The result – short-staffed departments, and team members pulled from priority work to manage day-to-day concerns. 

How to Combat Labor Shortages

Given today’s challenges, not forecasted to subside anytime soon, public procurement organizations need to serve as strategic problem-solvers for the departments that depend on them. The solution lies in leveraging a cooperative purchasing organization to get immediate access to solutions like Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), which takes some of the legwork out of the time-consuming nature of monitoring and stocking maintenance inventory. In other words, reaping time and money-saving benefits while enabling skilled technical staff to spend time on the work that needs to get done to ensure all systems are up and running seamlessly.


Consumable maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) specifically touches almost every operational aspect of the public sector. It’s all those consumable maintenance items – drill bits, specialty adhesives and chemicals, electrical components, or a broad range of fasteners – that mechanics or engineers expect to be there when they reach for them. The problem is they’re considered to be “nuisance items” meaning they're easily lost or miscounted, numerous in nature, hard to keep track of, and easily disorganized. An empty drawer or shelf due to mismanaged or neglected inventory could keep a critical piece of equipment offline for days in today’s supply chain environment.

High-service VMI is the best way to squeeze every minute of productivity from your vehicles, equipment, and machines and make every minute of your mechanics’ time available for value-added work. While today’s labor shortage impacts every public organization, procurement operations that use cooperative contracts to connect with suppliers that offer products such as service-intensive VMI, are less impacted.  

To learn more about Lawson Products, cooperative contract. click here.

Why Solution Shields from Negative Impact 

Vendor Managed Inventory is more than ensuring the right products are on hand when they are needed. Lawson Products, a distributor of fleet and facility maintenance products in North America, serves state and local governments, school districts, and colleges and universities. The company offers cooperative contracting solutions through OMNIA Partners, Public Sector. With less staff and time available at every level, Lawson’s inventory management solution: 

  • Eliminates time spent taking inventory and re-ordering small parts. 
  • Minimizes time spent looking for products. 
  • Reduces unplanned trips to off-site stores looking for parts. 
  • Provides product application advice and on-site training. 
  • Lessens project downtime by having the right parts stocked and ready for use. 

How it Works 

The process starts by understanding how you buy and perhaps finding a cooperative contracting vehicle compliant with your sourcing requirements. Then you’re assigned a dedicated Lawson representative as your single point of contact who works to lower your total cost of operation by increasing productivity and efficiency. Your rep works with you to understand your day-to-day and special project needs, design organized storage systems, and establish a re-stocking schedule based on usage.  

Imagine the most efficient system of clearly-labeled bins and cabinets, based on how your fleet garage, facility, grounds, and water treatment maintenance shops operate. It doesn’t end here. Lawson reps are on site as often as every 2-3 weeks, managing your inventory just your department end-users would. But now they don’t have to -- everyone gets this time back. 

The pandemic has added a layer of sourcing complexity to an already challenging supply chain. Working with a comprehensive line of products and services and the ability to source hard-to-find products, your Lawson rep will recommend assortments and products for the specific applications of your end-users, based on their budget and performance needs. Reps also provide on-site application support and technical advice. 

While some suppliers in the MRO space are divesting of value-added services like vendor-managed inventory, now is the time to consider different options that meet procurement (and the departments that rely on their services) where they are. One thing all procurement professionals seem to have in common, even before the pandemic, is too much work and too little time. Let’s work together to gain labor shortage relief today and beyond with Lawson’s service-intensive VMI. Lawson Managed Inventory is more than filling bins and cabinets. It’s a combination of the right products, reliable service, and technical expertise from a dedicated representative working for you, saving you time and money. 

Checking Inventory

About Lawson Products & OMNIA Partners

Lawson Products is a leading distributor of fleet and facility maintenance products in North America. We serve state and local governments, school districts, colleges, and universities with our contract available through OMNIA Partners, Public SectorIn addition to offering a broad line of maintenance and repair products, Lawson offers site-level inventory management services and technical support. To learn more about Lawson Products available through OMNIA Partners portfolio, vendor-managed inventory, and cooperative contracting solutions, contact Christina Nielsen, director of government accounts, Lawson Products, at