worker checking warehouse inventory on tablet

Hospital Warehouse Management: Ordering & Receiving Best Practices

Inaccurate inventory management records and data in hospital warehouses are ongoing problems.

Consider a recent analysis of hospital inventory usage data. Researchers found accuracy rates as low as 45% in some systems. Other inventory usage data was up to 95% accurate. These discrepancies can cause more significant issues in the future.

Inaccurate data isn't the only inventory issue healthcare warehouse management must tackle. Problems also stem from:

  • Supply shortages
  • Underutilized inventory (wasted space or expired)
  • Vendor closures

The pressure is on healthcare systems to build more resilient supply chain infrastructures. That means, in part, optimizing the warehousing segment of that chain.

Several challenges keep hospitals stuck in sub-optimal tactics. However, it's possible to surmount these barriers. One optimal strategy to improve hospital warehouse management is to utilize an ordering and receiving system.

First, managers need to ask themselves a couple of questions:

  • How can we refine our ordering and receiving best practices?
  • What tools can we use to elevate the accuracy of our inventory data in the process?

Discover how to optimize ordering, receiving, and hospital inventory management.

Hospital Warehouse Management: Overview

An effective hospital warehouse requires a streamlined workflow. The workflow is the process that:

  • Orders products
  • Tracks inventory
  • Stores inventory
  • Distributes supplies
  • Disposes of expired or damaged products

There are two workflow segments: product management and data management. Product management procures and keeps track of:

  • Medical devices
  • Tools
  • Medications
  • Other physical inventory (goods)

Data management involves:

  • Updating inventory data throughout the supply chain
  • Maintaining the data's accuracy
  • Making use of the data with analytics

Unique identifying data enables efficient tracking of each piece of inventory. Analytics model and predict fluctuations in supply and demand.

It also helps a healthcare supply chain build resilience and solutions against unexpected surges in demand.

Challenges and Barriers to Effective and Efficient Ordering and Receiving

Across the board, inventory managers are dealing with similar logistical problems. On top of that, hospital managers face challenges unique to the healthcare industry.

Researchers have studied the problems faced by hospital inventory managers systemically. Studies have identified key procurement issues in diverse countries. Globally, the most urgent barriers to ordering and receiving are:

  • Inaccurate inventory data
  • Reduced or underperforming supply production
  • Poor processes for buying from alternate suppliers
  • Limited collaborative (horizontal) communication
  • Limited communication among hospital staff re: inventory
  • Transportation costs
  • Inefficient quality control mechanisms
  • Conflict with physicians over preferred items or equipment

Inaccurate inventory data causes problems throughout the supply chain. In some studies, suppliers erroneously display items that are out-of-stock as in-stock. The issue is not noted until hospitals order the item.

Taking the time to re-order the item from elsewhere causes delays.

Similar problems with information accuracy and communication occur in hospitals. This includes information shared between point-of-use and inventory storage locations.

Finally, labor and transportation costs are rising. This puts all supply chains at greater risk of problems dealing with shortages.

Hospital Supply Ordering and Receiving Best Practices

Researchers have discovered practical interventions that effectively surmount the previously mentioned barriers. Other interventions mitigate the risks incurred when supply chains deal with challenges.

Studies demonstrate the efficacy of both technological and procedural interventions.

Save Space With Smart Storage

Efficient storage enables hospitals to manage proper inventory levels. At the same time, preventing the risk of excess waste of obsolete or expired medical supplies. Additionally, It makes gathering on-site inventory data easier.

Hardware solutions play a significant role in improving inventory storage. Consultants can advise warehouse management on methods to optimize storage.

One strategy is the "first-in, first-out" (FIFO) method. This organization technique ensures staff chooses products nearing expiration for use first–optimizing the supplies in inventory.

Another organizational strategy incorporates mobile transport carts or PAR carts. This can improve navigation within the warehouse.

Visualize Inventory With 2-Bin Kanban System

The BlueBin Kanban system improves on-site inventory storage and distribution as the average Kanban system reduces the space necessary for supply holding by 25%. Similarly, the system reduces inventory holding costs as well.

The BlueBin Kanban system is a simple, straightforward supply replenishment system–making supplies easy to re-order before the storage center is out-of-stock. It ensures teams deliver medical supplies to the right place at the right time.

Automate Inventory Tracking

One of the best ways to improve the accuracy of inventory data is to automate data gathering. Automation reduces the opportunity for human input error.

Studies of RFID scanning-and-tracking systems show significant returns on investment. Specifically, scanning-and-tracking systems demonstrably improve:

  • Patient safety
  • Cost reduction measures
  • Supply chain management efficacy
  • Distribution management
  • Theft prevention

BlueQ SmartScan is an excellent, automated inventory tracking system. When scanned by the Supply Chain Manager, BlueQ SmartScan automatically adds and updates the inventory and order data on a given item. The data is encoded in the product's barcode or QR code.

The data is contained in a comprehensive virtual inventory management system. On one streamlined platform, in which staff can:

  • Facilitate orders
  • Track chain-of-custody
  • Instigate receipt and PO processes
  • Perform quality assurance checks
  • Process requests

Easily Apply Analytics

Accurate, easy-to-use data makes predictive modeling more effortless and more accurate. Predictive modeling notes potential forthcoming shortages and surges in demand–giving managers time to:

  • Order from alternate suppliers
  • Prepare to pool resources with other hospitals in the system
  • Enact preservation measures

The BlueQ SmartScan system integrates with BlueQ Analytics, which enables predictive models.

It also creates easy-to-read visualizations of:

  • How supplies are stored
  • Inventory distribution
  • Current and predicted supply use in the hospital system
  • Current and expected labor distribution
  • Plus, much more

Management can visualize data to determine trouble areas and areas where inventory may be able to be adjusted to other locations.

Facilitate Horizontal Collaboration

Enhanced information and communication technology strengthens the resilience of the supply chain. It streamlines communication among warehouses, distribution centers, and hospitals.

Sharing data enables a network that quickly adapts to shortages. Mitigating rising costs and building resilience through collaboration.

Consider Suppliers Strategically

Unexpected shortages, like the Covid-19 pandemic, are an ongoing problem for logistics teams. To mitigate the impact of shortages, teams should develop relationships with multiple suppliers.

It's tempting to accept contracts from the lowest-cost supplier each time. But, over-dependence on a single supplier is extremely risky and can be costly in unforeseen circumstances. Use warehouse management software (WMS) to empower strategic negotiation to get the proper contract.

Elevate Warehouse Management With BlueQ SmartScan

Conducting efficient warehouse management is a multifaceted process. However, supply chain managers will see better results with the right tools. Ordering and receiving go more smoothly when robust, efficient systems are in place.

If you're interested in streamlining hospital warehouse management, contact us. Our expert consultants at BlueBin bring you the tools you need to solve your inventory problems.


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