The medical supply chain is a complex system involving the manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and delivery of wholesale medical supplies and equipment to healthcare providers. From bandages and syringes to MRI machines and surgical tools, hospitals and clinics all rely on having the right products at the right time to deliver quality patient care. Nevertheless, according to the folk at Ebisu Supplies, inefficiencies in supply chain operations can lead to product shortages, increased costsand, ultimately, compromised patient outcomes. New technologies, though, are transforming traditional supply chain processes and making them more efficient, visible, and responsive to changing healthcare requirements.
Integrating Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics
Artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics are also being used across supply chains to glean insights from data. In healthcare, these technologies help medical supply distributors predict demand more accurately based on things like historical usage patterns, population health data, and seasonal illnesses like the flu. More accurate demand forecasts let distributors optimize inventory levels while reducing waste and shortages.
Transitioning to Cloud-Based Systems
Lots of healthcare supply chain organizations rely on outdated, on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems (WMS) to help manage inventory, orders, transportation, people, etc. Transitioning these systems to more secure, cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms providebetter visibility and more flexibility across the supply network. Employees can then access these web and mobile apps from any location.
The scalable architecture of cloud platforms helps support advanced integrations with suppliers, contract manufacturers, and distributors through APIs. Cloud-based supply chain systems can also facilitate collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem, providing a centralized platform to ingest and analyze data for improved decision-making.
Increasing Warehouse Automation
Automated material handling technologies and robotics are increasingly being deployed in warehouses and distribution centers to improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of order fulfillment. Sophisticated picking systems, automated guided vehicles, robotic arms, and automated storage and retrieval systems can rapidly locate and move medical products to shipping areas, reducing human errors like mispicks.
Sensors and barcodes track inventory in real-time as it moves through automated facilities while connected IoT devices monitor conditions that must be maintained for certain pharmaceuticals and biologics. Automating repetitive tasks allows the supply chain workforce to focus on more strategic activities like balancing service levels and managing supplier relationships. With the ability to process larger volumes of product with higher accuracy, automated warehouses help medical supply distributors meet the needs of their healthcare customers.
Enhancing Transportation Coordination and Last Mile Delivery
Coordinating the transportation of medical supplies from manufacturing to healthcare facilities is complex, involving import/export, multiple freight moves, and final mile delivery. Digital logistics platforms provide real-time visibility and tracking across transport legs while smart routing optimizes loads, models estimated arrival times, and reduces mileage. Geo-tagging, proof of delivery, and sensors that track conditions en-route all contribute data points for machine learning algorithms to refine delivery plans.
Emerging autonomous vehicle technology is poised to transform medical supply delivery from distribution hubs to hospitals and clinics. Demand-responsive electric vans and drones that stage products regionally and complete last mile routes will increase delivery speed and flexibility. These developments will also expand access to medical products in remote and rural areas through point-to-point, on-demand distribution models.
Driven by new technologies, the medical supply chain of the future will be intelligent, connected, responsive, and autonomous. While IoT devices and cloud platforms provide visibility, advanced analytics and AI will unlock data-driven decision making across dispersed supply networks. Automation will reinvent warehousing and delivery while emerging transportation capabilities like drones and autonomous vehicles will enable rapid last mile fulfillment. Ultimately, technology innovations in the wholesale medical supplies distribution ecosystem will ensure quality care is sustainably delivered anytime, anywhere.