Sales & Operations Planning in Healthcare

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sales and operations planning in healthcareThe modern healthcare supply chain is filled with density, complexity, and layers of cross-regional trade. Recently, healthcare has come under intensive governmental scrutiny for foreign reliance on medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and personal protective equipment (PPE). This so-called “repatriation” of the medical supply chain has hit front-page news, summoned leaders at G20 summits, drawn criticism, and become the talk-of-the-town for healthcare research companies.

Yet, there’s a small problem. Large-scale changes — which are certainly drenched in risk and operational challenges — seem out-of-reach of most healthcare providers, especially in an environment where the majority of healthcare providers fail to adequately handle their existing supply-chain supply.

According to McKinsey, the fragmented and inefficient nature of the healthcare supply chain is costing healthcare providers billions, weakening them against challenges, and putting their patients at risk. The supply chain alone accounts for 25% of pharmaceutical costs and 40% of medical device costs. So, how do we drive tangible value into the supply chain without completely retooling how we approach supply, demand, and cross-border flow? 

What are the areas of opportunity for supply chain managers in today’s environment that exclude massive overhauls? And how can your healthcare organization revitalize its inventory and control to facilitate widespread value and reduce those pesky operational costs?

The answer lies in an already-written playbook. Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) can help healthcare providers take control of their supply and demand today — positioning them to retool their supply chain in whatever way they see fit in the future.

Understanding The Need for Better Supply Chain Strategies in Healthcare

The average pharmaceutical sits in inventory for 258 days, causing 3.5% of all pharmaceuticals in the healthcare space to become obsolete, recalled, or out-of-date before reaching patients. To help put that into perspective, consumer goods operate on an average of 72 days in inventory and 0.5% total waste. That’s a massive difference. You could easily point the finger at regulatory needs, complexity, or demand-side frictions. But the truth is: healthcare providers lack the strategies and tools to maximize the value of their incoming (and existing) inventory.

Based on medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and protective equipment alone, McKinsey estimates that more efficient supply chain management strategies could save healthcare a whopping $130 billion a year. In fact, retailers could see a 6 percent total improvement in efficiencies and costs by adopting better supply chain strategies. That’s huge. When we look at healthcare, that percentage is a mind-boggling 20 percent.

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But let’s turn the page. We know that there are cost-savings and efficiency packed into adopting supply chain technology and strategies. What about patient care? In the United States, around 10 percent of all hospital admissions are related to medication errors. In addition, as many as 440,000 people die each year of these same medication errors, adding billions in costs to healthcare providers.

To top it all off, the overall pharmaceutical supply chain complexity (as measured by SKUs) increases by a whopping 50% per year. So, we have this convergence of factors calling for better healthcare supply chain management. On the one hand, it helps position hospitals to handle the increased complexity, scrutiny, and regulatory headaches of modern distribution measures. On the other hand, it reduces costs and improves patient care practices while saving lives.

So, how do you maximize your supply chain without a multi-billion-dollar retooling or tear-down?

Sales & Operational Planning in Healthcare

S&OP refers to the collation of predictive and demand forecasting, sales, marketing, manufacturing, and supply chain management. So, instead of having each of these units operating in a data-enclosed bubble (or silo), S&OP rallies them all around one common mission — supply chain visibility, security, and viability. The goal is to understand what you have, what you need, and how you move the stock at your disposal. As an example, S&OP can help you understand what pharmaceuticals you have in-stock, which ones you need, and how any black swan events (like recalls) impact your overall supply chain architecture.

This is typically accomplished in monthly meetings. The S&OP leaders will analyze supply, demand, and financials to make critical decisions regarding stock, inventory, manufacturing, and purchases. A common misconception is that S&OP is primarily strategic. It’s not. In fact, S&OP is technology-centric, and the value of your S&OP strategy is only as good as the data and forecasting capabilities you possess.

The benefits of S&OP in healthcare include:

  • Better financial insights: By combining the right supply chain management tools with the increased collaboration across departments, S&OP can help you digest and utilize sales, marketing, and supply chain data to drive deeper insights into your overall inventory ecosystem.
  • Lowered costs: Having end-to-end visibility into your medical supply chain puts you in a resilient position. Not only are you prepared for any supply-side or demand-side disruptions in APIs or equipment, but you understand how and when to move and order products efficiently.
  • Superior visibility: Pharmaceuticals go to waste, medical equipment requires repairs, and PPE needs constant replenishment. S&OP (when combined with the right technology) can help you prevent stock-outs and prevent over-stocks.
  • Increased collaboration: S&OP makes supply chain efficiency a company-wide responsibility. Data is collated between departments, and all systems are responsible for feeding data to predictive technology.
  • Improved patient care: Medical inventory has a direct impact on patient care. From quality-of-care to misuse and mismanagement, S&OP helps you generate quality of care before you even touch a patient.

It’s important to understand that S&OP isn’t universal. There’s no standardized framework for deploying S&OP in your healthcare facility. Your strategies and functionality hinge on your technology vendor. Remember, sales and operations planning is primarily tech-fueled, and technology will be the lever that unlocks collaboration. It’s helpful to create a sales and operations planning committee — who are responsible for reviewing forecasts and making key decisions in the S&OP process. However, strategies are underpinned by your forecasting capabilities, and efficient tech use can preempt many strategic needs.

StockIQ Can Help You Build S&OP Into Your Healthcare Supply Chain

Effective S&OP planning requires forecasting and data. You need to understand the scope of your supply chain, inventory needs, and overall inventory health. We can help. At StockIQ, we provide world-class supply chain management technology that can help you create hierarchical forecasts and drill-down deep into group and category-level inventory supplies. Contact us to learn how StockIQ can transform your medical supply chain.

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