I recently joined in a round-table with supply chain professionals from non-acute care organizations, listening to them discuss top-of-mind issues coming up during this year of extreme supply chain stress. There were some lively discussions about things like:
- Managing Just in Time (JIT) inventory when supplies haven’t been readily available. Organizations are working hard to move to JIT inventory processes but noted that right-sized inventory may be a more appropriate goal.
- Setting up and managing pop-up supply locations. Organizations are working to manage internal supply rooms to better control PPE products.
- Handling current procurement and inventory management needs either manually or with legacy systems not designed to handle today’s materials management challenges. Many organizations have been pushed to the limit with their manual processes, and have felt the pain of low visibility to storage locations. “We don’t know how many we have of what item or where.”
The group debated whether it’s the right time to upgrade procurement systems, and what surfaced was that it’s never been more important to build more automated processes using accurate data, so in turn, organizational visibility to supplies (in inventory, being consumed, in-transit or on back-order) can increase. And while it’s certainly a difficult time to make changes – especially with so many organizations experiencing both financial and human resource constraints – it was widely agreed that it’s a great time to build better, stronger, more resilient supply chain processes. And most importantly, they have the ear of executives to get resources to make this happen.
I started to think about those people in organizations still managing supplies with clipboards. What if instead you could:
- Identify looming supply chain disruptions, perhaps before issues escalate?
- Find, evaluate and approve new alternative suppliers to help with product substitutions?
- Fast-track new contracts and ensure purchases leverage contract prices where available?
- Drive all orders through electronic procurement for better tracking, reporting and visibility?
The round table participants came to the conclusion that upgrading procurement solutions could help bring greater automation and accuracy – making a real difference in both supply chain management and system planning.
If you’re in discussions about better procurement strategies for your organization, here’s a quick check list of the functionality you’ll want to consider:
- Item master and formulary product management
- Sourcing and identification of alternative suppliers
- Order and requisition automation
- Proactive back-order management
- Inventory management (including multiple location management, plus ongoing consumption and physical count)
- Invoice accuracy and automation
As we progress through this year of pressure-testing our supply chains (along with our creativity, problem-solving and patience), it’s important to get a handle on procurement. Set goals around building better tracking, control, and spend management, and you’ll be helping your organization build a more resilient supply chain, better able to tackle what comes next.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to talk about this topic!
About the Author
With a substantial background in healthcare supply chain technology, Jeff Lawrence joined Inventory Optimization Solutions (IOS) in 2009 as the Vice President of Business Development. For over 20 years, Jeff has focused on leveraging supply chain technology to build a more efficient and sustainable healthcare industry. With hands-on experience helping providers implement technology to improve business processes, Jeff works in partnership with his customers, sharing best practices to increase automation and improve overall business results. Jeff’s career has included roles in business development and sales, along with finance, implementation, operations, and strategy development. He brings a strong blend of customer focus, business strategy, innovation and execution, which helps IOS quickly and efficiently deliver inventory and supply management solutions to provider organizations throughout the continuum of care.