On average, Baldwin EMC grows by anywhere from two to three thousand meters each year. The co-op is the largest in the state of Alabama, and one of the fastest-growing in the nation.
Not many departments at the cooperative feel that growth more than the warehouse and purchasing team. Every mile of line, every pole, every meter, and more start here, and keeping it all inventoried, maintained and replaced when necessary is a job as big as the buildings that contain it.
According to Tim Hobbs, Baldwin EMC’s manager of warehouse and purchasing, keeping an adequate supply of materials for the cooperative’s operations means always looking ahead and tracking growth trends. “We can’t purchase supplies the moment we need them,” Hobbs says. “We have to keep a running inventory and stay one step ahead of materials being depleted.”
That foresight has proved especially useful this year, when lead times and cost for materials have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions across the globe.
A team of eight make up the warehouse and purchasing department at Baldwin EMC. They work closely with the co-op’s crews, including linemen, meter technicians, right of way crews, and more, to make sure the supplies and equipment needed to keep electricity flowing reliably to the cooperative’s 84,000 meters are readily available.
For many of the Baldwin EMC employees who work out in the field, the warehouse is one of their first stops each morning. So, the co-op’s warehousers and warehouse assistants stagger their schedules to make sure they’re available before the workday even officially starts.
Once a year, the warehouse and purchasing team takes on the enormous task of inventorying every item and all materials stored in all of Baldwin EMC’s warehouse locations.
This process typically takes the team a month of advanced preparation, followed by several 10 to 12 hour days to complete.
“After our annual inventory is finished, we look at our variance, or the amount of materials and supplies we can account for, compared to the amount we purchased,” Hobbs explains. “Typically our variance is low, less than one percent. This tells us we’re doing a good job of keeping track of our materials and supplies, and being good stewards of our members’ financial investment.”
Baldwin EMC’s warehouse team also plays an important role in the cooperative’s commitment to safety by supplying appropriate protective equipment for employees, and routinely inspecting and testing equipment to ensure it’s performing in tip-top shape.
“Safety is our number one goal at Baldwin EMC, followed closely by reliability,” Hobbs says. “The efforts we put in play a big role in both of those.”