Interview Questions for Materials Management Positions
Q. We would like to know about the related experience you have in Instrumentation Projects ?
Basically I have a total experience of 11 years, in which I have worked in a number different kinds of Projects, which includes Power Generation Projects, Power Transmission & Distribution Projects, Infrastructure Development Projects like Highway or Civil Construction Projects, I have worked in the Oil & Gas sector for very long time. I have experience of working in four different Refinery Projects so far, out of which two were in Abu Dhabi & one was in Iraq.
I may not have a lot of experience in the Instrumentation department particularly, but I think I have a lot of related experience, as I have worked in many electrical projects, and refinery projects as well. Also I am qualified in Electrical Engineering, which I forgot to mention earlier, I have diploma in Electrical Engineering.
What I’ll do is, I’ll tell you about the kind of experience I can bring into, and the kind of Projects that I have worked into since the beginning of my career and the different roles & responsibilities that I have handled so far, and then you can judge if I have right set of skills or qualification or experience that you are looking in a desired candidate.
I’ll start with my qualifications.
My Name is Suman Biswas.
I am here today to apply for the position Materials Manager currently vacate with your organisation.
I have eleven years of experience in the similar domains and have handled Materials Control, warehouse and logistics operations at many Power, Oil & Gas and Infrastructure developments projects in India and Gulf.
My qualifications include
1) Diploma in Electrical Engineering
2) Certification in Logistics & SCM.
3) Certification in Project Management Software like Primavera & MS Project.
4) Diploma in Mechanical Cadd, with Designing tools like Auto Cadd & Solidworks.
I am fluent in Microsoft Office Programs, and have a wide exposure of working in ERP platforms like Oracle 11i, Oracle 12r and Citrix Applications.
Q. Tell us about your career in brief ?
Sir, I have worked in many major EPC projects in India and Gulf, as you can see in my CV.
After finishing my qualifications from Chandigarh College of Eng. & Tech.in 2005.
I started my career from the construction project of (4 X 250 MW) Jindal Super Thermal Power Plant at Chattisgarh, India, as a Trainee Engineer in Materials department.
Thereafter I worked at another power plant construction project in Rajasthan. It was (2 X 250 MW) Thermal Power Plant for RRVUNL.
Then I went to work for a Highway Project in Rajasthan. It was a 90 Kms two lane state highway road project from Baran to Jhalawar district of Rajasthan.
From there I moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE to work in an onshore piping project for Borouge.
It was an augmentation project for their already existing polymer manufacturing plant in Ruwais.
Then I worked in Gasco's onshore project in Habshan, UAE
I went back to India in December 2010 to join construction of IOCL's Paradip Refinery Project in Orissa.
After that I got opportunity to work in two major T&D Projects in States of Orissa and West Bengal. One was for PGCIL and the other was for Govt. of West Bengal.
In Janurary-2015, I moved to Iraq to work in an onshore piping project for Shell - BGC.
Q. Tell us about your job profile, your roles and responsibilities ?
My basic responsibilities included :
Receiving Materials from Vendors.
Inspection and segregation of the same.
Arranging for quality inspections with the quality inspectors or joint inspection with client.
Preparing material confirmation reports for the same.
Identifying all shortages, damages and discrepancies and follow through for resolution to suppliers and buyers.
Establishing a quarantine area for all damaged and rejected materials.
Invoice certification of vendors.
Close coordination with purchase and finance team for any concerns in materials supply, physical as well as documentation or payment issues.
Forecasting demand, reporting list of critical materials to the management on regular time intervals to enable them to take timely buying decisions.
Liaise with buyers, expediters or end users for timely replenishment of stocks, rescheduling deliveries whenever required to avoid over stocking and stock out situations.
Tracking slow moving and non moving inventory. Preparing Aging Analysis of Materials.
Diverting dormant items to other project warehouse or sites.
Coordinate for stock transfers across different project sites. Arranging transportation for the same.
Conducting periodic physical counts. Inventory Reconciliation.
Preparing and tracking materials consumption of subcontractors. Reporting that to management on regular time intervals.
Performing month end reconciliation of subcontractor material in consultation with billing & planning departments or client, and preparing debit notes against over consumption whenever required.
Tracking warranty / Guaranty periods.
Taking care of reverse logistics for unconfirmed materials. coordinating with vendors and suppliers for arranging transportation for the same.
Claiming insurance for thefts and damages at site.
Segregation of materials according to Isometric drawings.
Coordination with client, Materials take off and distribution of the same to different subcontractors, according to the drawings issued to them.
Generating daily, Weekly and monthly MIS and statistical reports.
Introduction of transporters and third party logistics providers to transfer asset class inventories to other sites after the completion of project.
Dismantling of whole camps and resale of scrap by calling for quotations from local vendors and preparing comparative statements of the same.
Entering all physical transactions in ERP.
Preparing database of subcontractors and vendors and stakeholders with all their details and their authorized personnel details.
Q. How do you receive stocks ?
While receiving inventory, first of all we check, if we have all the documentary evidences in place. Like the
- Dispatch Reports
- Lorry Receipts
- Tax Invoices
- Road Permits / Way Bills (if the consignments are coming from a different state)
- Copy of Purchase Orders
- Weighing Slips
- Materials Test Certificates or Inspection Reports (Wherever Applicable)
- Guaranty / Warranty Certificates (Wherever Applicable)
We also make it a point to see, if the prices mentioned in the Invoices are matching with the Purchase Orders issued to the vendor.
If some deviations are found, it is immediately informed to the buyer and the vendor.
Then we also check, if the weights mentioned in the invoice is in accordance with the weighing slips.
We also need to check if the supplied quantity is actually available in ERP Purchase Order. If not we have to ask the buyer or the administrator to amend the PO.
Then we visually inspect the material, and raise calls for Joint Inspection with representatives client or consultant.
If they approve the receipt, we prepare the materials conformation report and incorporate the same in stocks.
If not the whole consignment or part of it is moved to a quarantine area, which is then informed to the buyer and vendor for replacements or repairs.
And at last we prepare the daily materials receipt report and circulate it to all concerned authorities.
Q. What is Inventory ?
It is a physical resource that a firm holds in stock with the intent of selling it or transforming it into a more valuable state.
Q. What is Inventory Control ?
When stocks should be replenished and how large the orders should be.
It determines the time and quantity of various items to be procured.
The basic objective of Inventory Control is to reduce the investment on inventories, and at the same time to ensure that the work does not suffers for the want of materials.
Q. What are the basic requirements for setting up a warehouse ?
The best way to choose a new logistics or warehouse facility is to start by thoroughly examining the elements that combine to support the business needs.
First of all the site selection should be based upon the kind of materials to be stocked.
For sensitive Items like electronics, we should have closed shed to avoid direct contact with heat and moisture.
For hazardous materials or flammable products, which require strict storage and firefighting requirements, the area chosen should suit to handle such unique needs.
High value or theft sensitive goods should be stored in a locked security cage.
The facility should not be located in an area that is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, windstorms, floods and other potentially catastrophic natural events
The facility should be easily accessible by major highway and railroad arteries. Additionally if there is a great deal of import and export of material, they should also be close to major port locations.
Freight transportation is also a very volatile and costly component. It often represents 50% of the warehouse operating costs. So the facility should be kept closer to manufacturing hubs and customer base.
Short transit times and quick transportation of goods through the Supply Chain Network continues to be critical advantage.
Labor cost and availability are other key factors to consider when choosing a facility location.
The level of illumination, both inside and outside of the premises should be sufficient.
Potential for expansion should be there.
Nature of local community should be taken care of.
Q. What do you mean by logistics ?
Logistics can be defined as the business planning framework for the management of materials, services, information and capital flows.
It is the process of planning, implementing and controlling the effective and efficient flow and storage of goods, services and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption for conforming to customer's requirements.
Q. How do you keep track of stocks ?
In my earlier companies, we had this Oracle ERP system, where each incoming and outgoing transaction was entered on daily basis.
So, whoever has access to the system can extract reports as per his/ her convenience in real time and real value.
In addition to that, we also prepared separate MS Excel reports for all incoming and outgoing materials mentioning all the important information regarding any particular consignment. like,
- Name of the vendor / subcontractor and address.
- Receiving location.
- Invoice No. / MIV No. (Issue Voucher No.)
- Inventory Class or category
- Materials Description and Item Codes
- Quantity of the material received or issued.
- The basic price, applicable taxes and the total computed amount.
- Transporter Name, Vehicle Regt. No., LR No. (Lorry Receipt No.)
- Details of Way Bill / Road Permit / Sea Permit.
- Name of the person receiving or issuing the materials.
Then we have another Excel file as the consolidated daily stock report, where all the items ever received in the warehouse is listed in a tabular format.
This file is linked to the previous two files (the Incoming & Outgoing) through Excel Formulas like V-lookup, H-lookup, Sum-ifs or Pivot Tables.
So, whenever some new information is added or some new data is fed to the base files, it automatically gets updated in the stock report. We have to press the update button of course.
Q. How will you coordinate materials ? What are the jobs of Materials Coordinator / Expediter ?
When production schedules are crucial for a company's success, a materials coordinator / expediter is the professional who oversees the operation to ensure that right goods, documents or products are available and serving their proper function.
Coordinating, expediting and managing the uninterrupted flow of materials, parts and assemblies between different sections and units of organisation.
Reviewing production and shipping schedules and confers with department supervisors to determine materials requirements to identify overdue materials.
Requisitions materials and establishes sequential deliveries to departments, according to job order priorities and material availability.
Examines materials delivered to production departments to verify conformance to specifications.
Arranges in plant transfer of materials to meet production schedules.
Computes amount of materials required to complete job orders.
Compiles and maintains manual or computerized records, such as materials inventory, distribution status and location of materials.
May arrange for repair and assembly of materials or parts.
Creation of master vendor list.
Keeping track of all new orders.
Liaise with buyers, expediters and end-users for timely replenishment of stocks, rescheduling deliveries whenever required to avoid overstocking and stock-out situations.
Close coordination with purchase and finance teams for any concerns in materials supply.
Q. How do you dispose scrap ?
Scraps ordinarily are those items which can not be effectively and purposefully put to use in an organisation.
These are empty broken drums, worn out tools and irreparable materials, steel cut-outs, used and damaged machinery parts, equipment chassis and metal body parts, faulty and rejected materials, turnings, bearings etc. They do not have a market value.
All such items are located, collected and enlisted.
They are segregated and stocked category wise, i.e. copper, aluminium, brass, steel, burned oil, worn out tires, heavy & light melting scarp etc.
Then we quotations from local vendors. Prepare a comparative statement, get it approved by the Project Manager, and send the same to Head office for further approvals.
Only after getting consent from Head Office, we start the scrap disposal process.
Each and every category of item are weighed or counted and recorded separately, in presence of an approved committee and Sales Invoice are created by Accounts.
Q. What is Buffer Stock or Safety Stock ?
Buffer Stock is a term used to describe the level of extra stock that is maintained to mitigate the risk of stock-outs due to uncertainties in demand and supply.
It serves as an insurance against stock-outs.
This extra stock is used as a buffer to protect organisations from stock-outs caused by inaccurate planning, poor schedule adherence by the suppliers or due to unavoidable circumstances like curfews, labor strikes or transport agitation etc.
Buffer stock refers to the amount of physical stock that a company holds in hand to protect against unexpected supply and demand variations.
Choosing the right amount of this type of stock can be a difficult balance between waste and shortfall.
The amount of safety stock an organisation chooses to keep on hand can dramatically affect their business.
Too much safety stock can result in high holding costs of inventory.
In addition, the products which are stored for a long time can spoil, expire or break during warehousing process.
Too little safety stock can result in lost sales and thus a higher rate of customer turnover.
As a result, finding the right balance between too much and too little safety stock is essential.
Q. What is Lead Time ?
Lead time is the latency or delay between the initiation and execution of a process.
Lead time is the time it takes the supplier or manufacturing process to deliver the ordered units.
It can also be described as the time difference between placing an order and actual receipt of the inventory ordered.
Q. What is Re-Order level (ROL) ?
The Re-Order Point (ROP) or (ROL) is that level of inventory which triggers an action to replenish that particular inventory stock.
It is normally calculated as the forecast usage during the replenishment lead time plus safety stock.
Re-Order Point (ROP) or (ROL) is technique to determine when to order, it does not address how much to order.
It is calculated keeping in mind the Historical Project Data, in collaboration with Project Control, Production, Procurement and logistics teams, to accurately understand how much quantity of a particular item is going to be used in a certain period of time, and how much time it will take once it is ordered, before the same can be finally delivered.
One can be adept in the same with experience.
In real life situations one never encounters zero lead time.
There is always a time lag from the date of placing an order and the date on which the materials are actually received. As a result, Re-Order Point (ROP) is always higher than zero.
A firm needs to place an order when the inventory reaches ROL, so that the new goods can arrive before the firm runs out of the goods to sell.
The efficiency of replenishment system affects how much delivery time is needed.
The decision on how much stock to hold generally referred to as order point problem.
That is how low the inventory should be depleted, before it is reordered.
The two factors that determine the appropriate order point.
1) Delivery Time Stock (which is the inventory needed during the replenishment lead time)
2) Safety Stock (which is the level of inventory that is held as a protection against shortages due to fluctuations in demand and supply)
ROL = Delivery Time Stock + Safety Stock
Another method of calculating the ROL involves the calculation of
1) Usage rate per day.
2) Lead time
3) Safety stock
ROL = (Average daily usage rate X Lead time) + Safety Stock
From the above formula it is easily deducted that an order for replenishment materials be made only when the levels of inventory is just adequate to meet the needs during lead time.
Q. How do you do Materials Reconciliation ?
We are actually using the continuous inventory or perpetual inventory method in our organisation, so we don't have to depend on physical inventory counts every time we need some information about the ending inventory or physical inventory of an item.
We are continuously updating our records and tracking all the physical transactions in real time.
So, we can provide the balance inventory information at any given point of time, just by looking at updated spreadsheets or ERP system.
Inventory Reconciliation is done on a periodic basis, we perform physical counts occasionally and compare that with our book stocks, to see if it matches.
We are not doing it daily, but this could be done weekly for very high value items, and less often for comparatively lesser important items.
Most importantly it is done when stocks of a particular item are nearing exhaustion.
For reconciling, we basically compare the weights or quantities of that particular item received from various sources, with the actual consumption at different sites or the issues made to different subcontractors.
Try to find out the differences, if there are any.
To resolve that, we can then check the hard copies of transactions recorded in the past.
Further we can calculate the percentage loss, which should not be more than (0.5 %)
Based on that a more thorough investigation can be carried out.
Q. What is perpetual inventory ?
Perpetual Inventory describes systems of inventory where information on inventory quantity and availability is updated on a regular basis as a function of doing business.
Under Perpetual Inventory System an entity continually updates it's inventory records to account for any additions to or subtractions from their physical inventory in real time.
It provides a highly detailed view of the changes in inventory and allows real time reporting of the amount of inventory in stock, accurately reflecting the level of goods on hand.
Benefits of Perpetual Inventory
It improves the record keeping practices, making it simple to calculate cost of goods bought and sold in a certain period.
Perpetual Inventory keeps constant track of all incoming and outgoing supplies, work in progress and day to day sales of goods.
Perpetual Inventory system continually updates the ending inventory.
It allows businesses to see accurate inventory at a given moment, making it easier to know when to order.
The high degree of control can make companies more dynamic, and helps keep up with customer demand.
Q. What do you know about ABC Analysis ?
ABC Analysis is a technique of Materials Management, where the inventory of an organisation is categorized into different classes (A, B and C) in order of their estimated importance.
ABC Analysis provides a mechanism to identify some particular items or stocks that have a significant impact on the overall inventory cost.
It also helps in identifying different categories of stocks that will require different management styles and controls.
Inventory of an organisation is not of equal value.
"Class - A" items can be classified as very important, because of their high value, or usage at some very critical points.
So, frequent value and inventory analysis is required for such items.
Very accurate records and very tight controls should be implemented.
In addition to that an organisation should also establish an appropriate Order Pattern for this category of items to avoid excess inventory at all times due to it's high value.
"Class - B" items are also important, but of course less important than "Class - A" items, therefore they are less tightly controlled and good records are needed.
"Class - C" items are of marginal importance so simplest controls and minimal records are needed for this category of items.
There is no fixed threshold for each class. Different proportions can be applied based on company objective and criteria.
But as a thumb rule
"Class - A" items are 20% of the total volume of the inventory which accounts for 70% of annual inventory value.
"Class - B" items are 30% of the volume of inventory which accounts for 20% - 25% of the annual inventory value.
"Class - C" items are 50% of the volume of inventory which accounts for only 5% to 10% of annual consumption of inventory value.
Distribution of ABC Classes
Volume of Inventory
Annual Cost Impact
20% - 25%
20% - 25%
5% - 10%
Q. How do you allocate work to your staff or subordinates ?
I currently have 8 people working in the team.
I always try to engage one person (occasionally two) exclusively for entering all outgoing physical transactions in ERP and spreadsheets.
During that time, I try to engage them in no other tasks as much as possible, so that they can continually keep up on updating the daily outgoing transactions in Excel Spreadsheets and ERP.
Data Entry of incoming transactions are handled by myself, to ensure double accuracy.
One of the persons is looking after the whole documentation process. He is not technically qualified, so I thought of familiarizing him with all the different kinds of documents related to our trade. Like, LRs, DRs, Invoices, Waybills, MTCs, MRNs, Guaranty/ Warranty Certificates, MIVs, Debit Notes etc.
His primary job is to collect all the documents related to any delivery or material issue, making photocopies of the same, getting signatures wherever required and distributing them within the concerned departments and filing them in specified folders. So he is basically doing the job of document controller.
Four to five persons depending on the workload are put into supervising the physical receipt or issue of materials. Like loading, unloading, checking, counting, stacking etc.
One person is looking after all the administrative works, like arranging labors for the day to day works, preparing labor bills, making labor payments, withdrawing advance from the office to meet the opex costs.
He also handles all the petty purchases for daily use. Like fuel or maintenance of equipment, paints, grease or stationary items.
He also monitors the security guards, look after their attendance, and supervises for the housekeeping of the premises.
So, this is how we all get along.
Q. We are looking for somebody who can manage our central stores as well as provide guidance to other regional warehouses, someone with good leadership qualities.
I have actually worked in a similar position, for many years as an Inventory Coordinator based at HO, coordinating warehouse operations of all the Power Projects across India.
I was responsible for coordinating Inventories and store operations across all the power projects.
Like from the beginning, as searching for a suitable site for setting up a new warehouse facility, designing the warehouse layout and planning of space requirements.
Establishing procedures for storing and preservation of materials.
Setting up a transparent Warehouse Operating System, as per the SOP, to maintain a seamless information flow system throughout the organizational hierarchy.
So that right information reaches to right authority at the right time, and work does not suffer for want of any immediate material or emergencies.
Coordinating stock transfers across different project sites, for immediate material requirements, or identifying unplanned demands and conveying the same to SCM/ procurement department at Head Office.
Making frequent visits to different project sites to provide guidance and support, and also in case of any complaints received from the Project Management level about the site stores.
I used to go there, identify the issues or conflicts between the Management and Stores or other departments, investigate any inventory variances or differences in their book and physical stocks.
And then train the local warehouse operators, store keepers, to help them work smarter rather than harder.
I mean often site store personal are not very technically qualified, so my job was to sometimes make them technically aware or educate them about the storage methods or handling or controlling or managing or preservation of the different classes or categories of items.
Educating them about using technology to their aid, like these days we have so many MS Office tools that can help us to process our data very quickly, like various MS Excel Formulas, like Sumifs, Vlookups, Hlookups or Pivot Tables or Macros, these tools can create very customized reports as per different user’s demands.
So you don’t have to create separate reports for different authorities, you can extract any kind of information, just by keeping 2 or 3 base files with a few clicks of a button.
I was also a core member of the ERP implementation team, I was a trainer, I trained all Power Project Store Staffs in Oracle Financials Inventory Module by visiting the Project Sites.
Sometimes I had to interview new candidates, sometimes taking disciplinary actions, reporting any issues further. I even busted two cases of corruption during such a visit during my tenure there.
Q. Define Pipe.
A hollow cylinder of metal, plastic, wood or other material used for conveyance of water, oil, gas or any other fluid substance.
Q. How do you receive or issue diesel ?
Diesel can come in tankers of 8 Kl to 40 Kl.
So, first of all we need put the tanker on rest for two hours at a flat surface or platform, with a shed over it to avoid direct sunlight to minimize the thermal expansion, and also to settle down the bubbles or waves formed in the fuel during transit and to bring the surface of the fuel at an uniform level.
Then we have these different steel scales coming with every tanker, where the measurements are marked in Kl.
We have this water paste, which we apply at the end of the scale, which changes color if there is moisture content in the fuel.
Because water being heavier then oil, settles down at the bottom of the tank.
At the same time we also apply another paste or chalk at the expected level of measurement on the scale.
Then we lower the scale inside the tanker, check the measurement.
Then we provide some sample of the same to the QC lab for further checking the Specific Gravity of the fuel.
If positive results are found, we can prepare for the offloading by connecting the hose to the underground tanker.
For issuance of diesel to different subcontractors and equipment, we have a predefined format, which asks a lot of information regarding the transaction. Like :
1) Date & Time
2) Type of equipment & it's particulars
3) Asset Code or the name of the vendor
4) Quantity Issued
5) Name and signature of the operator
6) Name and signature of the issuing authority
7) Start & end meter reading of the fuel gauge.
Q. What are your strengths ?
I am loyal, I am self motivating.
I always try to attend to details of whatever I am doing, and bring the same to the world in a presentable format, so that it is appreciated.
I value relationships a lot.
I try to maintain a cordial relationship with everybody surrounding me.
I always try to earn the trust of my peers, my seniors or my subordinates.
And I really value team efforts.