Demand-Driven Supply Chain: 10 Steps To Take Today


By Sophie Rutherford

In the last few blogs, we’ve talked about what it means to become a more demand-driven supply chain, and we’ve used this definition (albeit, a bit customized for healthcare): “A system of coordinated processes and technologies that senses and reacts to real-time demand signals across a network of suppliers, employees and patients.”  

We’ve talked about how to create the infrastructure that enables demand signals that can be shared up and down the supply chain, and ways to get to better visibility, tighter coordination and optimized performance.  But undoubtedly you’re asking “how do I begin?”

So let’s look at a use case – the OR. 

Knowing this is a difficult area - even just to understand the wide variety of items in inventory - let’s start here with steps you can take to advance your OR supply chain to a more demand-driven environment:

  1. Identify all items in the OR core
  2. Identify what supplies, devices, items are in the OR and but not in your item master
  3. Add all missing items to item master
  4. Cleanse the item master to standardize and normalize data
  5. Take physical inventory
  6. Now, with every item being purchased in the item master, you can build historical view of all supplies. This will help understand things like seasonality.
  7. Bring supply chain practices to inventory management in OR Core, shifting supply chain responsibility from nursing to supply chain staff. While this might be challenged, it’s worth the result: 70% of nurses spend 5-20% of their time locating / managing supplies, which equals between .5 - 2.5 hours per 12 hour shift
  8. Use the analytics you now have for much more accurate supply forecasting
  9. Identify a way to align preference cards to item master – you can’t accurately forecast demand based on OR schedule without preference cards items identified correctly
  10. Establish proper levels for supplies, getting the items your clinical team needs, where and when they’re needed

One of the biggest challenges on this list, of course, is preference card data. It’s almost funny, how notoriously inaccurate preference cards are; but they are a goldmine of data for predictability. If you can update preference cards and get them to a state of greater accuracy, they can significantly help predict demand and drive greater accuracy in your OR inventory forecasting.

The analytics you can generate are used for trending changes in utilization and making the needed adjustments. Once you establish the baseline of product levels, you’ll continue to measure and adjust, or predict change based on variability, such as seasonality, changes in staff, or changes in standardization.

Without preference card items in the item master, it’s pretty simple – there is no way you can collect the data required for demand trending.  But with items in the item master, cleansed and standardized, you’ll have the foundation needed to understand demand.  Once you’ve made progress in the OR, use these steps to make improvements elsewhere in your facility.