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A How-to Guide to Set Up Your New Item Master

by | Sep 12, 2019 | Blog Posts

A How-to Guide to Set Up Your New Item Master

-by Lanie Farkas

If you’re ready to build your organization’s first item master, this blog will give you several key ideas to help get you started. First, a bit of groundwork.

Think of your item master as the engine of your procurement processes and complete, well-structured data as the fuel that runs your supply chain from end-to-end. Your item master does not sit in isolation, instead, it drives the processes covering everything from contracting for the right products, to ordering the correct items, to managing accurate levels of inventory (without overstocking or stock-outs), to paying correct prices, and automating your AP processes.

If this is the first time your organization will have an item master, the important thing to know is this: spend time on the front end to build accurate data, and you’ll save enormous time and costs on the back-end, when your new system is up and running.

If you already have an item master supporting your organization today, make sure it’s a single enterprise-wide system that follows best practice processes for efficiency, automation, and accuracy of items and prices.


Here’s the quick start guide to help you tackle this challenge:

1. Start with identifying what exists in your organization today. Your goal is to assemble a spreadsheet of items purchased, quantities and prices over the last 18-24 months (at least enough to represent seasonality)

 – Are item masters residing in different locations?
– If there are legacy item masters, can you pull purchase order history from each and consolidate the data?
– If there aren’t existing item masters, are you able to extract data from your clinical or financial databases?
– Walk your inventory areas, storerooms and cabinets to match items in inventory to items in your history files
– No way to assemble this data? Your GPO or your primary vendors can provide help


2. With a spreadsheet of purchased items, let’s address the data and refine the contents of your compiled data file

– Dedupe the file, identifying and eliminating duplicate items
– Normalize item descriptions with noun first, then adjectives and attributes next
– Assemble current contract pricing, for a foundation of accurate, standard prices
– You want your data to really speed things up? Add UNSPSC categories, which will help reporting and spend analytics

3. Unit of measure can freeze your engine. Whether you’re building a new item master or just improving the one you’ve got, focus on unit of measure to drive accuracy. Our recommendation to all Envi users is –

– Break down to the lowest unit of measure, so “each” equals “1.” For example: 1 box of gloves may contain 100 “eaches”
– Set up conversion factors, so Envi knows how many “eaches” are in a box, carton, case
– This is going to help you understand how many items you buy and in turn, help you negotiate appropriately based on your actuals

4. When your data is ready, you can upload your clean and normalized file into an item master within your MMIS. Your update item file now shows what your organization buys, accurate product descriptions and prices, and you can set a standardized, approved formulary.


To take full advantage of all the work you’ve done, be sure every buyer in your system is directed to your new item master, filled with accurate products, units of measure and prices. Set your business process so each buyer creates only electronic purchase orders, using your approved formulary, in order to reduce costs, standardize products across care settings, and improve visibility and reporting.

Your single, robust item master, supporting your entire system, efficiently fuels the engine of your supply chain.


Learn more about using best practices in data collection and item master set-up here.

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 About the Author


Lanie Farkas
Director of Projects and Implementations
Inventory Optimization Solutions (IOS)


With in-depth healthcare and supply chain knowledge, Lanie Farkas also brought hands-on Envi expertise when she joined IOS in 2006, after being a super user at a large organization with more 50 veterinary labs across the U.S. With a passion for creating a better healthcare supply chain, Lanie delivers real-world, best practice-based expertise to IOS customers. As the Director of Client Services and Implementations/Projects, Lanie is the lead on customer experience from the moment an organization signs an agreement through go-live, including system build, data collection, training and everything fun in-between. She guides IOS customer through the process, making sure they’re ready for success. When she’s not working, Lanie takes her Ducati out for two-wheel therapy and enjoys bringing her bulldog to local veterans’ homes in the Las Vegas area.