3 steps in using applications and data to weather supply chain storms

Natural disasters such as the ones that hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico can limit access to key medical supplies, highlighting the need of building a resilient supply chain.

This year, the United States faced an unprecedented number of natural disasters. As hurricane season came to a close, a total of 15 floods, severe storms or hurricanes had devastated communities, resulting in damages estimated at hundreds of billion dollars.

Harvey, Irma and Maria dominated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico respectively. While the former two states are on track to recovery, Puerto Rico is still struggling to rebuild infrastructure and re-establish a safe and functional environment for its citizens. Because Puerto Rico plays a major role in production for the pharmaceutical industry, the effects of this devastation expanded far beyond the island, and have been felt particularly strongly in U.S. hospitals.

Such supply chain malfunctions can mean irrecoverable losses and financial collapse for the places where these calamities hit, but in hospitals, it can mean real human tragedy. As U.S. hospitals face a dangerous shortage of saline bags and other medical products because of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the ability for healthcare supply chains to adapt quickly and avoid damage has never been more essential.

To cushion the blow, hospitals are using data to optimize their supply chains and achieve end-to-end visibility, resulting in resilient operations that don’t miss a beat in the face of disruptions.

Puerto Rico’s greatest export is pharmaceuticals, accounting for 72 percent of its total overseas transfers. These pharmaceuticals are manufactured by 50 factories on the island, most of which suffered severe damage in the storm. The pharmaceutical delays and dangerous shortage of saline bags resulting from this damage has placed greater importance than ever before on the nimbleness and flexibility of supply chains in the healthcare industry.

Without visibility into supply chain operations, hospitals were left scrambling for solutions. As businesses slowly start to rebuild, it’s now time to plan for the next unexpected event by taking steps to ensure supply chains are stable enough to withstand any natural disaster.

True stability means that a supply chain is both resilient in the face of distress and adaptable enough to pivot in response to unforeseen disasters. The path to a resilient supply chain—and organization—begins with these steps.

Identify and tackle the need. The most important aspect to ensuring a supply chain is resilient to outside forces is finding software that fills the organization’s specific needs, established by those closest to its problems. Once the pain points are determined, supply chain software can act as an essential partner in crossing company verticals to alleviate issues and create seamless supply chain execution. The right technology can determine inventory levels, automate processes, provide visibility into goods in transit and at rest, and perform the predictive analyses necessary to prepare for weather-related incidents.

Leverage the extended team. After securing a software vendor, building a relationship with them as part of your own team is equally important. Strengthening the communication between a healthcare organization and the software provider will provide benefits on both ends. The vendor’s professional staff is there to assist with the organization’s needs, especially when preparing for potential disruptions. Further, a strong customer relationship benefits the software vendor by providing the company with a built-in promotional point person and proof of success.

Gather useful data. Applications can be used to help gather large amounts of data. Not all data, however, is useful—it has to be gathered and applied in the right ways. The software provider is crucial in helping organizations determine the data that will bring the highest value, and interpret it in the correct way. Real-time data is crucial in making accurate reports and keeping the entire team aligned. Constantly updated results enable organizations to identify issues in the moment and pivot strategies quickly in the case of a disruption or disaster.

The pharmaceutical industry holds the lives of its consumers in its hands. Therefore, creating a supply chain that is resilient to disruptions is not only key to a provider’s success, but critical to the well-being of its community. Making full use of applications, and the data they provide, can facilitate the process of managing supply chain disruptions.

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