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Technology best practices for streamlining your supply chain management

Distribution and supply chain management are multilayered. From onsite operations and workflows to distributor selection and maintenance, there's one aspect that touches it all and that's technology use. With the right tech tools at your fingertips, you can expedite and streamline how you manage the supply chain at your primary care facility.

Why technology is essential to distribution and supply chain management

Before we get to a few specific supply chain tips, it's important to understand why it's time to make a change in our back offices — and how this benefits our practices.

Modern facilities should be as digital and mobile as possible to save your business both time and money. Technology can do just that when implemented properly and actively engaged with by staff.

Kellee Taylor, senior product manager at McKesson Medical-Surgical, explains, "You should be able to place orders, track your orders and make payments online. Try to eliminate filing and paperwork for the staff. Save your files digitally as needed and utilize tools such as email notifications and reporting tools," she says.

Jayme White, director of technology sales at McKesson Medical-Surgical, adds, "Taking manual processes out of the supply chain will improve the procurement-to-payment cycle, as the cost of generating orders and completing a three-way match for invoices is not only in time costs but actual costs. Considering the time and effort of each step along the way, automation can positively impact both soft and hard costs. Technology should make it easier to execute each aspect of your supply chain."

Increase efficiency. Save money. Reduce paperwork.

If these goals are on your internal to-do list, let's dig into a few specific supply chain tips and technologies that can help you achieve this ideal scenario for your practice. Let's talk about going mobile, using an order management system, adopting a digital scanner and using tech to stay on budget.

Supply chain tip 1: Create a mobile work environment

Let's be candid. It's not efficient or reliable to jot notes down on sticky pads or fill out manual inventory checklists in a supply room or warehouse, then go to your desk to input the information into your PC. Errors in data transfer occur, and time gets lost in the shuffle.

Adding tablets or smartphones equipped with app versions of the software you're using on a desktop office computer can reduce errors and expedite the ordering process — according to both Taylor and White.

"Going digital saves time and cuts costs in multiple ways. You save on time since ordering online is much more efficient than calling customer service or using other methods, such as faxing in handwritten orders. You can place your orders in just a few minutes, and this allows you to spend more time with patients or doing other needed tasks," Taylor adds.

Supply chain tip 2: Use an online order management system

Although it still happens, it's outdated to log in to individual distributors' websites to place orders, then collect purchase orders and invoices from your email. Consider implementing an all-in-one solution that streamlines the ordering and payment processing for your supplies.

White explains that McKesson SupplyManagerSM, McKesson's own online ordering platform, assists with three key areas of supply chain management to help improve ordering efficiency:

  • Online ordering
  • Cost comparison
  • Customized reporting

This technology also allows users to manage returns, approve invoices, make payments online, review packing lists and so much more. The key here is using one platform to accomplish many tasks.

Take the headache out of ordering medical-surgical supplies & managing your inventory with our robust suite of solutions. See inventory management solutions >

Supply chain tip 3: Adopt a digital scanner system

If your company has multiple locations or various supply rooms scattered throughout a primary care campus, taking inventory is critical to keeping those shelves full. Make it as easy as possible for your inventory manager or supply manager to quickly scan the on-hands and get that data into your order management system so that you can see what you need to order.

"McKesson ScanManagerSM is a handheld scanner that you can walk around your office and scan barcodes as needed. After you've gotten all your items and quantities, simply log into SupplyManager and upload from the device. This will take all the items that you've just scanned and puts them in your shopping cart where you can quickly check out," Taylor explains.

Streamlining inventory and ordering tasks creates more time for patient care initiatives and helps medical personnel have the supplies they need when they need them.

White agrees. "Ordering the right supplies at the right time obviously has an effect on patient care. You never want to be short an item or have the wrong item when a patient needs it. Product standardization also results in safer care. Your staff becomes proficient at using the same supplies and equipment all the time instead of having to learn how to use different things all the time," she says.

"The biggest impact on care comes from the ability to focus on the patient. You're not spending time managing inventory or ordering things. And when you're with a patient, you're not thinking about whether you ordered the wrong thing or paid too much for it. It's all about simplifying your supply chain processes so your entire focus is on the patient."

Supply chain tip 4: Use technology to manage budgets

It's common to have multiple staff put data into an order management system. Although they are aware of the supply needs, they may not pay attention to inflation in costs or fees for expedited shipping. This is where it's critical to use software that offers budget tracking.

"For practices that don't have internal controls over their supply chain, it's hard to know exactly what's going out or what's coming in. You need to be able to match your orders to the needs of your patients so that you're not spending money on things that you and your patients don't need," White explains.

Technology shows where you stand against your supply budget. Without a formulary and standardized ordering processes, employees are simply making decisions without guidance, and before you know it, you're over budget. This can become costly if your staff is buying outside of your purchasing contracts and paying higher prices. The technology tracks your spending against your budget in real time, giving you more control over expenses.

White reminds us, "It's all about simplifying your supply chain processes to drive time savings, eliminate errors and reduce manual processes, so you can focus on other key initiatives like product standardization and contract compliancy."

Are you doing everything you can to improve your distribution and supply chain management workflow? Could additional supply chain tips and technologies be helpful? Consider discussing these ideas at your next team meeting.

© 2021 McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.