The medical device supply chain is fraught with potential issues and setbacks, which is why manufacturers and providers need to implement supply chain software and other data gathering tools at all points in the process, Armin Meissner and Robert Krueger, medical device professionals at Accenture, wrote in a recent Supply and Demand Chain Executive article.
While proper management of all aspects of the supply chain is important in any industry, this is especially true of healthcare, Meissner and Krueger wrote. A late shipment can dramatically hurt a company's bottom line, but the issues that can arise from problems in the medical device supply chain are exacerbated because of the nature of healthcare. After all, not only is the global medical device industry worth about $125 billion according to Hoover's, but the importance of having the right equipment in on time can affect a patient's life and livelihood.
In addition, the medical care industry often has more regulatory concerns than other business sectors. Considering the variety of laws dictating the quality and performance of medical equipment, any slip-up in the supply chain that causes a diagnostic machine to malfunction, for example, can lead to a host of fines and other setbacks that have the potential to dramatically reduce an organization's bottom line, the duo wrote.
"The regulatory pressure in the medical equipment industry is extraordinarily intense," Krueger and Meissner wrote. "Manufacturers of medical products - such as sonograms and X-ray machines - must comply with strict regulations and laws that govern safety and performance. Inaccurate product information in the medical equipment supply chain can threaten public health or induce penalties that either jeopardize companies’ abilities to operate or even put them out of business."
Benefits of increased supply chain visibility
In order to reduce the likelihood of error, it is important for all parties involved within the global medical device supply chain to have access to shipping and tracking data. In this way, Meissner and Krueger said, all the organizations affected can have say and control over the shipment of goods to avoid potential pitfalls.
However, in order to achieve a more transparent supply chain, device manufacturers and healthcare providers need to use one set of tools that collects data at all points and allows any involved party to access and analyze the information, the article said.
"Medical companies should establish an IT landscape that supports supply chain processes,"Meissner and Krueger wrote. "For example, they need to set up product data management and document management systems that store, run and access product-related information and product submission approvals."