Why Supply Chain Needs Sophisticated Simplicity Today

By Dave Rolston | July 6, 2017

When you develop a new program or process, one of the first key questions you will likely field is addressing data. We all need it. But lots of data can often feel overwhelming with no easy insights. The trick is figuring out how to turn all that data into information that answers any of the following questions:

  • How can I make this easy to understand?
  • What trend is this revealing?
  • Can this help me measure ourselves over time?

In a recent post, I shared an eye-opening statistic about how healthcare spending in the United States is projected to reach nearly five trillion dollars by 2021. This means we can’t afford to revert to comfortable and outdated approaches of simply purchasing what’s needed. Today, supply chain has a seat at a value analysis table to present what’s available within the organization and from the vendor community.

Supply chain is a value chain. With more eyes across the organization looking to and expecting supply chain to come to that table with more ways to impact the bottom line, there can be a lot of pressure to create impact…but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Experts Can Help Co-Create Value

M&A activity has changed the healthcare landscape as we know it. With more supply chain teams needing to look at perioperative inventory or diagnostic inventory for instance, you start to hear common themes in customer conversations like, “I’m in charge of this new area now.  We didn’t have responsibility for this area before and I’m not sure what’s going on there. I need to bring a level of our process into this area.” Think about it. You’re dealing with products with expiration dates and lot numbers. If you’re used to commodity supplies, these new information requirements don’t always apply to historical processes. One approach can be leaning on strategic partners who understand the ins and outs of supply chain logistics, so you can mutually design solutions to create value and cut through the complexities.

Bad Results Don’t Always Mean Failure   

You can’t be so cautious to say everything your team tries will be a wild success. You have to swing to hit. You also don’t want to fall victim to the “whose bad idea was it?” game.  If something clearly isn’t a good idea, take control of the situation and decide to stop. Stop investing anymore energy. If you have two other ideas you can measure that might drive better outcomes, take your energy and apply it to those new ideas now. This is a great example of new thinking going on out there.

Supply chain leaders also don’t need to restrict themselves to committing to a five-year plan, for example. Ask yourself, “Is there something we can implement over the next 60 days and prove the concept?” Keep short term in alignment with your long term strategy.  Then challenge yourself to consider how to measure it on an annual basis or even longer term.

A supply chain office isn’t a for-profit entity, but…

If supply chain starts thinking of itself as a business unit, leaders within that team will start to say, “How can I be a better business? I have to come up with some new ideas.”

By stepping back to see the big picture and identifying ways to simplify processes and approach, you could surprise yourself with the results and impact. It’s the sum of successes that drive long-term value.

What are you doing to think differently about your supply chain operations?

Categories: Expert Views, Perioperative, Supply Chain

Dave Rolston

Vice President of Corporate Sales Technology

Dave Rolston serves as Medline’s vice president of corporate sales technology. In this position, Rolston oversees the growth, implementation and administration of technology-related initiatives and operational aspects of acute care corporate sales. In 1993, Rolston started his Medline career managing a software division. He was promoted to IS director in 2001, and in 2004, began working in sales and marketing for customer-facing technology. Rolston is a member of GS1 US and holds a BS from Eastern Illinois University.

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