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Automation Builds Resiliency and Saves Money

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Blog Posts

Looking back, it’s easier to see the many consequences that rippled throughout the healthcare supply chain over the past year. Let’s shift our focus to building our supply chain systems with more strength and greater resiliency. So what’s the key? Automation.

For most provider organizations, the supply chain is often a mixed bag. You might have several legacy systems helping automate different areas – from patient care to inventory management to procurement to payables. You may have a mix of local contracts and national GPO contracts to help manage pricing.

But when systems aren’t integrated, processes are often manual and workarounds are used to plug holes, it means your team is working harder, spending more hours on supply management, and you’re losing opportunities to save – both time and hard dollars.

5 Ideas to get you started

In keeping up with the day-to-day, it’s hard to find time to improve! Here’s a top 5 list to help you identify the key areas where you can introduce more automation to your supply processes:

1. Do you have disparate systems, with separate data sets? Take a look at what integration is possible among your existing systems. Your technology vendor partners should be able to quickly tell you what integrations have already been created and are supported, and how they can help you pass data across your systems. Disparate systems mean more data errors, more manual labor (like double keying) and less visibility.

2. Start receiving all incoming items. Make sure your procurement and inventory management solution has receiving capabilities, make sure you’ve got a barcode scanner, and just do it. One of the most important steps is to receive all incoming items. It’s going to help in multiple ways.

First, you’ll be able to close out completed POs and improve order management. Next, you’ll be able to proactively manage any backorder situations and identify product substitutions if needed. And finally, you’ll know what supplies are within your organization, so if your supply chain gets stressed, you’ll know what you have and where, especially helpful if you have to move items within your organization to cover gaps.

3. Improve your inventory management processes.
Make sure you’ve done the basics: storerooms and cabinets are well organized, like products are grouped together, bins are appropriately sized, and you’ve got a barcode label on every shelf. Make sure you have a software solution that is specifically geared to inventory tracking for provider facilities. And finally, get your barcode scanner back out to track and replenish items as needed. You need solid inventory management for a resilient supply chain.

4. Item master management. If data is the lifeblood of your supply chain, managing your item master is the heart. Be sure your item master is current: deduped, cleansed, normalized, and obsolete items deleted, so your buyers can find the exact (approved) items they need. Templates will help you point your teams and departments directly to approved, on-contract products. Clean product data in turn, tees up great order management processes.

5. Place every order electronically. While phoning and faxing orders may seem fast, it causes far more work on the back-end. By placing all orders electronically, you’ll drive product standardization, optimize local and national contracts and ensure you’re paying the best possible price, and make downstream processes – like back-order management, receiving and accounts payable – far more efficient.

With more automation comes more visibility. Take your supply chain to the next level and begin evaluating your vendors and understanding where you may need to expand or consolidate. Help your finance team measure P & L for each area of your business. Gain control over unnecessary spend.

So, plan a few steps – even if 
it’s just a few small areas of improvement. Take a look at the places where you’re still covering gaps manually, and brainstorm a list of ways you can reduce workarounds. Everything you do should have the same intention: to build a more automated, more resilient, and far more cost efficient supply chain, that lets your organization continue to deliver the care your patients need.

And of course, if you need someone to bounce ideas off of, to answer questions, or to set up a custom plan to get your supply chain on track, reach out! We love talking strategy and solving problems for our users.