Guest Column | January 17, 2018

Achieving A Supply Chain That Can With Stand Any Disruption

By Cory Turner, Infor

Supply Chain

Nothing strikes fear and anxiety into the hearts and minds of supply chain departments across the country faster than the local news outlet predicting bad weather on the horizon. From an impending snow storm up north, to a catastrophic hurricane on the east coast, or a raging wild fire out west, the initial reaction within a healthcare supply chain department is panic. Do we have enough supplies? What will we need? Should we order more of everything?

These are exactly the feelings that were experienced in September 2017 by the leaders of Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria was forming in the Atlantic Ocean and predictions were forecasting a severe storm. In fact, it morphed into becoming the second Category 5 hurricane and the deadliest storm of the 2017 hurricane season. The devastation was not only a catastrophic event for Puerto Rico, but for the entire healthcare industry. This is due to the fact that 72 percent of Puerto Rico’s exports consist of pharmaceuticals and are manufactured by nearly 50 factories on the island. Without a truly ‘resilient’ supply chain, a healthcare organization and their patients can suffer tremendously during a time like this.

This leads us back to the initial questions. Do we have enough supplies? What will we need? Should we order more of everything?

We have always relied on the tribal knowledge and the experience of ‘seasoned’ supply chain veterans to navigate us through rough and stormy waters. This type of “gut-reaction” decision making process is exactly what supply chain leaders are being tasked to destroy. The supply chain department within a healthcare organization must be prepared for the needs of their clinicians before they need it. How?

Building a resilient supply chain can be a daunting task. Where do we start? There are steps that can help you on your journey.

  1. Determine the Need: there must be predetermined needs that are being met. Whether those are determined by administrators, supply chain heads or clinicians, the needs must be clearly documented. Without having a set of predetermined inventory levels, the system will go rogue to acquire what is needed. It takes us back to the ‘gut-reaction’ decision making. In 2012, the National Academy of Medicine estimated the U.S. healthcare system “squandered” $765 billion annually, including products that went unused before they expired on shelves.
  2. Find the System: with the amount of software vendors growing exponentially every day, we must be diligent in our search for the perfect package. It is important to find the package out there that is the best suited for our organization and its needs. The true dilemma will be in staying the course no matter the time it takes, because finding an integrated system that crosses multiple verticals within your organization is key to growing that resilient supply.
  3. Develop a Relationship: being considered by a vendor as being a true partner or collaborator, and not just a customer, should be a priority within the selection process. Having a relationship with your software vendor will prove to be a true ‘win-win’ situation for all parties involved. A vendor should be striving to put the customer first in everything, and fostering a relationship that pushes you to succeed will prove it. At the same time, the vendor will gain a long-term customer and spokesperson for their cause.
  4. Growing Useful Data: We have always had truckloads of data, but the data itself will not deliver the outcomes that we are requiring. Beginning to rely on your software partner to help guide you through best practices and benchmarking is a huge first step in this process of growing useful data. We must know, as an organization, what metrics that we choose to live and die by. We should require having as much real time data driving our reporting and dashboard functionality. It should also be readily accessible no matter where we are located or which meeting we are attending. One of the most prevalent complaints from supply chain leaders across the country is that once reports are delivered the data is garbage. We must be able to report and make knowledgeable decisions on the fly and under any circumstances.

Merriam-Webster defines resilient in two ways: the first being “capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture”, and the second as “tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” As a supply chain leader, both are perfect descriptions of how I want my supply chain to be most known for. Our clinicians and our patients are demanding more from us and we should able to answer no matter what the conditions.