June 27 2013
For many people, when they think about a company's supply chain, they only think about the process in which products or materials get from one place to the other. However, a proper supply chain management system includes a number of other solutions, technologies and outsourced procedures that are not only needed to improve operations but required to fix any problems that arise in the course of doing business.
A recent CIO article examined how outdated technology is starting to threaten public safety. Now before you go running to hills, allow me to explain. The article uses the example of the 2006 E. coli bacteria scare in which contaminated spinach caused a number of people to be hospitalized. The FBI investigated and served warrants but were not able to find the ultimate cause because the supply chain data was incomplete.
After 205 people in 25 states were hospitalized and three passed away, a nationwide recall was started on a particular brand of bagged spinach. The ultimate cause of the contamination has still not been uncovered.
The supply chain becomes a 'tangled web'
An unfortunate fact is that data sharing is not where it needs to be between companies, government agencies or the public. This can happen because of unstandardized product codes, systems that are not compatible or a number of other issues. This is also means that these issues need to be corrected before proper security measures can be put in place.
"As products move between origination, sorting, shipping, re-sorting and repacking before the consumer ever sees them, the traditional supply chain becomes a tangled supply web," the article reads. "In the drug world, companies can exchange some data, but competitive strategy deters them from showing anyone too much information about manufacturing plans or problems."
Technology can improve logistics and transparency
The healthcare industry is one area that must keep a close eye on its supply chain. Drug shortages can cause concern for doctors and threaten the well being of patients that need certain medications to get by. Between 2010 and 2011, there were 429 different drug shortages. This caused the passage of federal legislation requiring the pharmaceutical industry to notify the FDA of potential shortages of particular drugs.
The article features an interview with Andy Keller, a VP of inventory management at Cardinal Health, which delivers 50,000 different types of drugs and about one-third of all medications in the U.S. He mentioned that many providers have started using more advanced analytic and software solutions to improve their logistics and data sharing.
"Some of our suppliers are more advanced than others when it comes to providing accurate, timely information about manufacturing and other product availability issues," Keller says. "We are committed to working closely with our suppliers to enhance collaboration and communication."
Not every business has the resources to invest in the latest logistics and supply chain software and technology. This is where outsourcing part of the supply chain to a third party service that has access to these solutions can become a valuable strategy. From handling the shipping and warehousing of healthcare supplies to sending a letter across the state of Ohio, an experienced business courier service can help any company succeed.