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Applying Supply Chain Best Practices From Other Industries

Parampalli concurs, but adds that attitudes are shifting; more device companies are considering adoption of best practices from other industries. He says most commonly, that means OEMs are more willing to use collaborative warehousing and joint distribution to reduce costs, invest in technology to improve visibility, engage in transportation mode optimization, develop a renewed focus on cycle inventory and lean manufacturing, harness otherwise unstructured data and utilize more contract manufacturing.


WNS recently conducted an in-house study of supply chain advisors and management to determine how the supply chain will evolve over the next decade. Parampalli noted a larger focus on data.

“Unstructured data will be extensively mined and funneled back for supply chain management process improvement,” he says. “There will also be an estimated 50 percent increase in supply chain configuration (unique combination of customer segment, channel and product type). This will call for more sophisticated and accurate master data management.”

Alphatec is utilizing WebOps to handle its scheduling and visibility. Plunkett says that the software allows his company to schedule a surgery and subsequently achieve full transparency and visibility so that they’re not forced to pay for an expensive courier service at the last minute. The software allows the company to track equipment from schedule through surgery.

Duffy says that Cardinal Health frequently looks to other industries for inspiration, including guidance on use of data.

“A key lesson from retail is the implementation of common data standards, such as GS1, as a critical step in building a foundation for the efficient sharing of information across trading partners,” he says. “Cardinal endorses GS1 standards for common location (GLN) and product (GTIN) identifiers and believes the industry-wide adoption of these standards in healthcare will enhance supply chain visibility, drive opportunities for cost savings and improve patient safety.”

Steve Downey, Senior Vice President, Healthcare at OHL, a 3PL, echoes Duffy’s comments, noting that opening a package to discover the contents is a time drain. Instead, he suggests capitalizing on the use of GS1 labelling or UCC-128 labels. The process would work like this, he says:

It starts with your Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) transaction to the customer. When the customer sends their EDI order, you send back an advanced ship notice, or 856. Within that 856 is all the information about the shipment, including part numbers, lot numbers, serial numbers, expiration dates, deliver to addresses, etc. Then you print a UCC-128 label, which barcodes a single Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) reference number and contains some key human readable information. Upon receipt, the receiver scans the label and all the shipment contents are now visible from the ASN. If there are multiple cartons or pallets, all of that shows.

“Imagine being able to take a pallet full of supplies and know exactly what is inside, without opening the cartons,” Downey says. “If orthopaedic companies started implementing UCC-128s on their shipments, providers would absolutely see the value in it.”

Creating a patient-driven supply network is achieved by connecting technological solutions throughout the entire supply chain. Capturing data at the point-of-use and providing real-time access and visibility simultaneously to all trading partners in the chain has driven dramatic improvements, Duffy says.