workers managing hospital warehouse supplies

The Secret to Streamlining Healthcare Warehouse Inventory Management

The global supply chain shortage has impacted businesses. From manufacturers to retailers, companies have had trouble accessing various products. These include everything from parts and components to food and paper products.

While these challenges can harm business and consumer convenience, healthcare supply chain shortages can be a matter of life and death. For this reason, hospitals, clinics, and laboratories have worked to beef up their warehouse inventory management systems. The goal is to limit shortages and find alternatives when shortages cannot be avoided.

The good news is that there are some proven policies and methods for ensuring your medicines, vaccines, and other healthcare supplies get to the physicians and staff who need them. The information below will not only help to improve supply chain functionality but will also help ensure better health outcomes for patients.

The Benefits of Streamlining Healthcare Warehouse Inventory Management

There are two main reasons to consider upgrading your clinic, hospital, or laboratory’s inventory management: efficiency and accuracy. Hospitals often face shortages of pharmaceuticals from loss, theft, or lack of planning. The same is valid for medical equipment.

On the flip side, overstocking pharmaceuticals is rarely a good use of space. It also needs to be more efficient to ensure inventory.

Healthcare businesses also must keep up with healthcare supply billing, sales, and reporting. These analytics are then used in financial planning and reporting.

Streamlining and otherwise improving your healthcare warehouse inventory management system can improve all these areas of operation. This all translates to the ultimate goal of improved healthcare outcomes for your patients.

Hospital Warehouse Inventory Management Systems

Set up periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) protocols to improve the reliability of the healthcare supply chain. Generally, this refers to any system that standardizes processes for resupplying inventory whenever it drops below a certain level. These come in different forms and with varying capabilities.

Traditional PAR Systems

The simplest version of PAR protocols involves manually establishing an ideal amount of product, or “PAR level.” Hopefully, at set times in a PAR cart situation, staff will count the remaining supplies at a location and determine the appropriate replenishment level. These are difficult to institute in a standard process or workflow. The main limitations of traditional systems are that they are time-consuming for staff and prone to inaccuracies.

Kanban PAR Systems

Kanban systems involve maintaining basic PAR levels in distinct bins. This method is based on usage. It is often referred to as the two-bin system since two supply bins are a typical setup. This can also be referred to as a pull system and is easier to set up a standard work process with few errors.

Kanban systems can work in different ways. Manual systems can look like traditional PAR systems but rely less on best guess counting and moving products between bins, with frequent inventory counting, now just moving empty and full bins. This method may require manual monitoring.

Today, automated Kanban systems that utilize scanning and robust reporting have replaced these outdated setups in many locations. A visual-based system where supply chain staff can see an empty bin and replenish it during regular cycles of standard work. Very efficient and saves valuable time. Again, this allows staff to see what supplies remain in a given bin quickly.

Stockless PAR Management

Particular situations call for stockless PAR management. It works by receiving products directly from a vendor or distributor and eliminating the need for long-term warehousing or other storage. Commonly referred to as LUM (Lowest or Logical Unit of Measure) also streamlines the distribution process and eliminates unnecessary inventory steps whenever products move from one place to another.

The advantage is that it removes the burden of storing large quantities of commonly-used products. This can help to free up storage space that you can use for other purposes.

Stockless PAR works best when your supplies come from one distributor, although that is not necessarily a requirement. The point is that it relies on regional warehouses from which you can quickly request and receive supplies.

It also is helpful for medications and supplies that require refrigeration or other special storage.

Enterprise Resource Planning Management

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are integrated setups that help manage HR and finance and some aspects of product distribution. You can incorporate different automated systems to assist with your medical supply storage setup.

For instance, handheld scanning software allows staff to gauge inventory quickly and have that information distributed throughout the facility, including to computer and phone applications.

It is ideal for both purchase-order and non-purchase-order receiving. It also can help improve labor and route time management and warehouse inventory cycle counts. These analytics also can help keep up with any returns to suppliers or warehouses.

They also can provide benefits far beyond inventory management

  • Information can go a long way toward improving financial planning and accounting
  • Human resources can understand the amount of time these systems save staff
  • They also provide greater transparency for reporting and backend workflow data
  • Robust scanning/reporting add-on solutions can help optimize where the ERPs may lack

Find Healthcare Warehouse Inventory Management Solutions Near You

Now that you have an idea of the available warehouse inventory management solutions, you can determine the right one for your business.

Remember that the best system for your hospital, clinic, or laboratory depends on the number of supplies and the use rate. Also, remember that time is money, and automated systems, or smart scanning technology, can lead to better efficiency and accuracy so that your staff can focus on optimization of PARs and doing their jobs instead of monitoring inventory.

BlueBin’s mission is to help you improve healthcare services by ensuring clinicians have the supplies they need at the right time. We use cutting-edge technology with proven methodologies to improve and optimize hospital supply chain efficiency and reliability. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services or to schedule a free consultation.

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