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It’s an interesting time in the healthcare industry, and for the supply chain specifically. Each of the following market factors is thrusting the supply chain to center stage and calling on all of us to up our game in the face of more complex operations. These factors include:

 

  • The advancement of new technology, from drones and robots to artificial intelligence and distributed ledgers
  • Increasing margin pressure
  • New and changing traceability regulations
  • Numerous mergers and acquisitions


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Effective inventory management is always a delicate dance between the cost associated with carrying too much inventory and the risk of not carrying enough to fulfill a customer order at the right moment. With ongoing pressure to ship orders within compressed timeframes, there’s no room for error, and competitors are always on your heels. It’s critical to unearth new ways to generate savings and efficiency at every turn. Cross-docking often leads the opportunity list with its ability to minimize material handling costs and get inbound products prepped for shipment at lightning speed.

 

cross-docking specialty items in a warehouse

 

Although the practice of cross-docking has been around for quite a while, many organizations shy away from implementing it because they think it’s more work than it actually is. In doing this, they forfeit cost and efficiency benefits that can help them better meet customer demands, particularly for specialty items.


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Increasingly we are seeing distributors being pinched between spiraling shipping costs and rising customer expectations. Orders are getting smaller and customers are demanding faster and faster delivery methods, all without expecting to pay anything extra to cover the additional costs of the shipping. I thought it might be interesting to reach out to a market-leading regional distributor and discuss what they are doing to figure out this “last mile” transportation problem.

 

Werner Electric Supply Delivery Trucks and Drivers

 

I interviewed Rory Mueller, Logistics Manager at Werner Electric Supply to see how they took this increasingly complex problem and turned it into a market advantage and a key differentiator for doing business with them.


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Not that long ago, distribution networks happily and conveniently operated through strategically-placed distribution centers, delivering, say, a pallet a month through LTL (less-than-truckload) carriers. Things might have seemed complex at the time, but there was no real thought about what could possibly happen next.

 

Distributor being a courier

 

Now, many regional distribution centers (DCs) are being driven to try and take on the task of customer delivery themselves. Why? Because of higher-than-ever customer service expectations and the increasing cost of using commercial carriers.


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I was recently interviewed by Modern Material Handling for the article Health Care Embraces E-commerce Trends. In the article, it is clear that supply chain practices in healthcare have come a long way in the past five to ten years. Historically, the margins in this specialized industry have compensated for lack of advanced supply chain capabilities. Now, though, the industry is no longer standing still due to the increasing pressures on margins, traceability and customer demands.


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A new era of buyers has arrived, and they are focused on the customer experience. It’s not enough to simply deliver a product into a buyer’s hands. No matter the industry, today’s savvy consumers expect a seamless, superior experience that delivers on a company’s brand promise. They want faster service, higher value, and 100% fulfillment. They want to feel good during the buying process. And they want this across all channels wherever they touch the brand.

 

With that in mind, everything a company does from its messaging to the sales process to what occurs after the sale is part of the customer experience. If a company has deficiencies in any area, it could result in a customer having unmet expectations and a poor experience. If they are left unsatisfied, the company – and brand – could suffer detrimental effects.


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Each year, Inbound Logistics researches the supply chain challenges of business logistics managers and measures those against the capabilities of technology providers across the industry to develop a list of the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers.

 

Inbound Logistics’ editors place value on choosing providers whose solutions are central to solving transportation, logistics, and supply chain challenges, and whose customer successes are well-documented.

 

TECSYS is honored to once again be included in this prestigious list, selected for its supply chain platform which is designed to flex to the demands of highly-regulated healthcare logistics ecosystems, omni-channel complex distribution landscapes, and tightly-run 3PL operations alike. As supply chains are gaining their foothold as strategic assets and competitive differentiators in increasingly globalized economies, we, as providers, should not underestimate how the data we synthesize is used to support informed decision-making that drives business performance objectives.


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I recently wrote an article for Becker’s Hospital Review Health IT & CIO Report titled “Offloading IT Headaches to the Cloud is a Win for Healthcare”.

 

It is remarkable how far we have come in the last two years. If I would have written this article then, it might have been titled “Overcoming the Fear of Cloud in Healthcare”, because not too long ago, the benefits enabled by cloud technology were also shrouded in fears over perceived security risks; concerns such as “Where’s my data?“, “Can someone steal it?“, “How do I know it is safe?“. We have all heard and read the stories in the news. But clouds are secure (arguably even more secure than on-premise deployments) because they are deployed, monitored, and managed with security by design.


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In the January-March 2018 issue of APICS magazine, APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi contends that if supply chain leaders bring business success then that makes them business leaders. Mr. Eshkenazi goes on to state “organizations that consider their supply chains as strategic and competitive assets outperform the market”.

 

Indeed, superior supply chain performance does drive business success in very measurable ways.  How can supply chain justify and measure process improvement initiatives using a metric that finance can relate to?  As cash management is a top priority for finance, sharing the Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC) metric allows supply chain and finance to speak a common language when measuring business success.


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I just read a blog post entitled How do you feel when someone mentions predictive analytics? Well, I feel like it’s a good thing. How about you?

 

One commenter replied that predictive analytics = forecasting and that it’s just a different label for the same thing. Well, true enough, given that the verb predict is synonymous with the verb forecast.

 

I submit to you two other synonyms: examine and analyze. An analysis of your historical demand will lead to a better understanding of the numbers. When one understands the elements that drove demand in the past then one can review these elements and assess their validity going forward. The result is a forecast achieved using both quantitative and qualitative methods. This is a very good thing!


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