How to Enhance Your Medical Supply Chain to Handle any Disruptions
Medical supply chains have been pushed to their limits. Skyrocketing demand for products, material shortages, labor issues, and transportationdelays have all revealed how fragile supply chains are for our industry. Hospitals and other medical facilities have dealt with product gaps, allocations, and have had to search desperately for viable alternatives for the products they normally used.
The question is, can medical operations strengthen or enhance their supply chains to better weather future disruptions like the ones we've experienced in 2020 and 2021? The answer is yes, and the way to accomplish it is through a multi-source approach.
A multi-source approach to your medical supply chain
Global supply lines are more dispersed and travel greater distances than at any point in history. Providing effective healthcare in one part of the world often hinges on events and developments on the other side of the world. The ability to serve and help your patients is vulnerable to operational risks and unpredictable disasters.
The way that healthcare facilities can mitigate the effects of disruptions is to have multiple options, preferably in different regions. These options can take the form of either different suppliers, or suppliers that have manufacturing capabilities in different regions. For example, at Welmed we manufacture and source materials for Disposable Medical Products across a variety of countries including China, India, Mexico, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and here at home.
Having a multi-pronged approach helps ensure we keep our customers' supply chains moving more efficiently, even if events abroad make it difficult.
Here are the primary ways to develop a multi-source approach for your medical supply chain:
- Large pool of suppliers—This method relies on having many different suppliers, so that you aren't as vulnerable to disruptions related to a single medical supplier.
- Small pool of vendors with flexible operations—This option involves having a few suppliers for your products that have the manufacturing and distribution flexibility that we mentioned above.
- Having a backup vendor—This approach entails identifying and vetting an acceptable supplier to use in case of disruptions or surges in demand. Vetting a back up vendor will help you avoid counterfeit supplies in times of need.
Which type of medical supply chain is best for your operation?
There are advantages and disadvantages for each of these multi-source approaches to your hospital supply chain. It's true that having a large pool of medical suppliers can shield you from possible disruptions, however dealing with many different vendors can create more work and make quality more difficult to control.
Having a backup vendor that steps in if another supplier of yours is having problems can sometimes be an effective way to mitigate unforeseen product gaps. However, the problem is that when you do need them, they may not fully understand your needs, you may not be their top priority since they are just a backup supplier, and they might have an inferior product. Although not the preferable way to enhance your supply chain, if you do go this route, make sure the vendors have already been vetted to avoid counterfeit supplies during surges in demand.
The safest bet to protect your medical supply chain and healthcare facility from allocations, backorders, and other disruptions is to have a small pool of trusted, flexible suppliers. More than just a single supplier, but not so many that managing them becomes difficult.
Working with a few companies that you know and trust will hedge your operation against problems with one of them. Plus, if they have manufacturing and supply capabilities based in different regions, then you can help protect yourself from supply issues in a specific part of the world.
How to choose reliable medical suppliers
Enhancing your hospital supply chain means finding multiple, trustworthy, reliable partners. Above all else, you have to look at their track record for quality and delivering products when they say they will. When choosing medical suppliers, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they have manufacturing capabilities or partners in different regions?
- Are they proactive about finding alternate products to offer potential solutions
- Will I have direct access to their team, including leadership, if I need it?
- What do their customers say about them?
- Does your supplier strategically capture your supply needs for direct integration into production plans?
- Do they have their own team of quality inspectors or factory employed inspectors?
Enhancing your medical supply chain means finding reliable suppliers with high quality products. The key to withstanding the most difficult disruptions is to have multiple resilient and flexible partners that go out of their way to ensure the medical products you need.