Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Always Having the Supplies That the Team Needs…and not too many!

Managing the supply chain for a health system is no easy job. Last summer, I commented on the outstanding work of our materials management team led by Kendrick Wiggins and Kevin Edwards. Click here to see where we were last summer.

I recently met our new Director of Materials Management, Brian Reimer. In his role, Brian will oversee the entire supply chain from purchasing to procurement and distribution. Our goal is that our clinicians (and the rest of us!) always have what they need, when they need it, so that we can serve our patients well and move closer to our vision.

Brian has many years of experience as an engineer and supply chain manager in several high volume, fast-paced, technical environments.  He comes to GBMC after a nine-year career at Cardinal Health, a healthcare services company, where he was responsible for the operations of a major medical-surgical distribution center serving customers in the U.S. and overseas. He also possesses years of experience in establishing and executing supply chain solutions that helped to reduce waste and improve efficiency for the Cardinal Health distribution centers.

Brian’s job is far from easy. In the ever-changing healthcare world where new products constantly come on the market, Brian needs to make sure that we get what we need and do not waste resources through unnecessary purchasing. Brian’s most important customers are our clinicians. A couple of weeks ago a number of our units did not have enough face masks to care for patients. Brian needs to own the system for supplying the face masks but he also needs to own the system for learning why we didn’t have enough of them on certain units so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

We have locked, computerized, supply storage cabinets on our inpatient units. They were purchased believing that the technology could help us with assuring that we knew precisely when supplies were getting low to prevent “stocking out." The system requires the user to enter the exact number of things removed every time they use the device. This is difficult to achieve in the hustle and bustle of a busy clinical unit so what the computer thinks is often wrong. A less sophisticated system, called a Kanban two bin system, is used in our physician practices. A necessary supply, let’s say 2- inch gauze pads, are stocked in the cabinet in an exam room in two bins. When the first bin is emptied, the clinician pushes it to the back (or to the front depending on how the cabinet is designed). The person doing the re-stocking then has the visual cue to refill the empty bin. The computer and the counting are then not necessary.

I am delighted to welcome Brian as a new colleague and expert in supply management. He knows that the most sophisticated (and expensive) system is not always the best system. Brian will help us get to a better-designed system by collaborating with the people actually using the system. I really look forward to working with him. Please join me in welcoming Brian to our family!

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