“There is a difference between Clark Kent and Superman. The problem is that we ask these people to be Superman more than we expect them to be Clark Kent,” explains Dr. Randy Bradley, industry expert and associate professor of Supply Chain and Information Systems at the University of Tennessee.
Dr. Bradley sat down with Tecsys’ own Guy Courtin, vice president of Industry and Advanced Technology, on location for an in-depth discussion around healthcare supply chain. Dr. Bradley’s unique grasp on the industry’s gains and losses makes for a great conversation. This latest episode of The Great Supply Chain Podcast offers an honest look behind the healthcare supply chain curtain to reveal the long overdue repairs needed to fix a broken design.
Indeed, not all superheroes wear capes; in healthcare, more than in any other industry, this truth we hold dear. But we’ve somewhat slipped into an environment where we seem to need superhuman powers to run a smooth day-to-day supply chain operation. Where did the breakdown happen?
“The healthcare supply chain is not broken, it is performing as it was designed,” challenges Dr. Bradley. “We are just trying to use it in a way it wasn’t designed to be used and I think that has caused both supply chain leaders and other healthcare administrators to really rethink and try to reimagine what should our supply chain operations look like.”
So how do we create an ecosystem where the supply chain superhero alter egos can take a backseat to smarter supply chain design? Here are three areas that Dr. Bradley identified as ripe for repair:
The healthcare supply chain has been working at the same pace and with the same processes for decades, but the last few years have truly shed light on the fact that the designs need to be reviewed and some major changes are needed.
This is due to a confluence of changes within healthcare but, perhaps most notably, globalization. You can go back to any point in history (more than five years ago) and ask a healthcare supply chain leader about how the global supply chain affects their operations. They may speculate, but they will more than likely say something to the effect of, ‘I’m in healthcare, it doesn’t.’
But today, it does. For example, supply chains are increasingly going direct to the manufacturer at an incredible rate and most of those manufacturers are positioned with global supply chain operations. With the ever-evolving landscape in supply chain and the industry after a global pandemic, healthcare supply chain leaders are realizing that much more of what’s happening ‘out there’ can have adverse effects inside their operations.
Ah, the capeless superheroes. The healthcare industry is a different animal in that the personnel, more times than not, are not in it solely for the money because they all know that they could go elsewhere and earn more. Many enter this field to make a difference in their families, communities and people’s lives; and in my personal experience, most can point to a significant experience that called them to the healthcare industry with a purpose.
This is also true in healthcare supply chain. We are seeing more and more supply chain leaders coming into healthcare who have spent much of their career in other industries, including automotive, grocery, or CPG, among others. These diverse supply chain backgrounds are injecting fresh perspectives into shortcomings of healthcare supply chain design. There is a myriad of examples of healthcare organizations that have embraced innovative ideas from people outside of the industry to render success within healthcare.
‘Partners’ is a term that is used somewhat loosely throughout healthcare. Distributors are partners. GPOs are partners. Dr. Bradley contends that your truest partners are other healthcare supply chain organizations because they share a common goal of supporting the highest level of patient care in their area.
The theory suggests that healthcare supply chain organizations can no longer be entirely dependent on their external partners; while these other partners are sincere in their commitment to deliver, externalizing control presents a risk if they cannot. Instead, the key is to equip yourself with the tools and technology needed to operate effectively and efficiently and overcome adversity even when your partners fail to show up.
The Healthcare DC Universe
In the supply chain industry, we will always benefit from Superman moments. However, if we sit down at our desk, adjust our Clark Kent glasses and redesign for the future of healthcare by focusing on performance, personnel and partners, we may not end up at the mercy of operational Kryptonite quite as often.