Keith Loria is an award-winning journalist who has written for major publications on topics as diverse as veterinary medicine, travel and entertainment. He started his career with The Associated Press and has held editorial positions at publications aimed at health care, sports and technology.
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Inventory management has long been a challenge for veterinary practice leaders. That’s why Inventory Ally was developed: to optimize costs, cut down on product shortages and reduce the time animal hospitals spend on managing inventory. The work paid off at VMX 2024 when Inventory Ally won the seventh annual Pet Pitch Competition.
The Evolution of an Idea
Emmitt Nantz co-founded the Inventory Ally software platform.
“I’ve been in veterinary operations for about 20 years,” he said. “I started in Banfield, managing hospitals, but then I quickly moved into large-scale projects at Banfield. About 13 years ago, one of my first big projects for them was an inventory management solution, and they still use it in their hospitals today.”
Earlier in this career, Nantz created SmartFlow, a cloud-based solution that transforms how veterinary teams manage patient care workflows. SmartFlow is now sold by Idexx Laboratories, where Nantz spent almost four years managing a team doing software onboarding.
“All of that career experience — from root-cause analysis to large-scale process design to the startup software to managing implementation — all came together as an opportunity to kick off Inventory Ally,” he said.
It was late 2022 when Nantz and his co-founders started building Inventory Ally. It came to market in mid-2023 when they thought the time was right for a new inventory management solution.
“We watched a lot of hospital consolidators go from the highest multiples they’ve ever seen to starting to fall, and they needed to make up some of that lost value,” Nantz said.
“The go-to software for hospitals is their practice information management systems, which all have some sort of inventory management solution embedded in them, so the default thinking is the transactional data within PIMS is going to help you manage your inventory,” Nantz said. “But that’s a fallacy because 50% of your inventory doesn’t transact.
“The other big thing is that PIMS use service packages, and it assumes the same static consumption for every procedure, but it varies. So it’s always been incomplete and inaccurate.”
Inventory Ally users pay a monthly subscription fee.
“We use order history data and predictive analytics to guide the replenishment of every product,” Nantz said. “We don’t use the transactional information, and that’s quite a pivot in the inventory thinking.”
Getting Off the Ground
While the pieces of the idea had been kicking around in Nantz’s head for a while, it took some time to get Inventory Ally operational.
“Access to data is far easier than it used to be,” he said. “Being able to access people’s order history is now more available, which gives us the ability to apply algorithms to make it available to everybody.”
Inventory management is a highly competitive space, so Nantz wanted a differentiator because looking for funding can be difficult for a startup, no matter how much the solution is needed.
“We came at this by working with a small group of hospitals — about eight — for about a year, Nantz said. “We used customer feedback and built that loop to optimize the solution on a tight, personally funded budget. Then we started to scale it.”
Nantz said Inventory Ally has several key components that customers appreciate.
“The first, which is most important, is the time savings,” he said. “Most hospitals, before joining Inventory Ally, spent four to eight hours a week managing their inventory. Once they go with Inventory Ally, we give them a curated list of products to count once a week, and we build the order for them. That takes maybe 45 minutes a week. That’s time that can go back to the patients and hospital.”
The second is simplifying the ability to improve inventory turnover. Most hospitals that use Inventory Ally see a 30% to 40% reduction in on-hand inventory, freeing up space and releasing working capital, Nantz said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to have a manual process that wastes time that could otherwise be put towards pets and customers,” he said.
Inventory Ally’s growth strategy is to build strategic relationships with distributors, buying groups and PIMS developers.
“We have a four-pronged approach to build integration with distributors and PIMs and are looking to accommodate both independent and enterprise groups,” Nantz said. “It’s a slow, methodical pace forward to make sure we can accommodate the scale and deliver exceptional customer service every time.”
“As we continue to grow, we will add additional customer success managers and two others to the development team to accommodate the demand,” Nantz said. “When it comes to growing the team, it’s very much reactive to where the demand is recognized. I’m not going to anticipate and hire outside of where our needs are.”