A Positive Prognosis for Reducing Excess Trunk Inventory

photoIt’s an oft-repeated business cliché that efficient customer service and support are characterized as “life-or-death,” but nowhere does this have the ring of truth or resonate more fully than in the healthcare arena. Healthcare service logistics’ accuracy, consistency and responsiveness — in tandem with true 24x7x365 demand — are the cornerstones on which hospitals, laboratories, home-care settings and other medical organizations rely.

Healthcare service logistics and technical support staff must be prepared for virtually any eventuality at any moment with regard to medical devices, equipment or systems. Consequently, technicians necessarily carry a basic “trunk” or “safety” stock to properly service clients. Yet this basic traveling inventory can balloon rapidly in many directions — from specialty replacement parts to defective items, once parts are out in the field, they are likely to stay there — becoming almost unaccountable and virtually invisible to the parent organization.

Excess Stockpile Costs Add Up
It’s an understandable situation — technicians are in the business of keeping medical equipment operating at optimum levels; they are not logisticians by trade. Since they must weigh the windshield time and inherent productivity issues of dropping off or picking up parts against their service obligations, it’s not surprising that excessive field inventory is the result. On an individual basis, cost implications may not seem dramatic, but when multiplied by the total number of field support staff, they can take on great significance. On this large scale, fragmented technical staff, additional inventory replenishment, inventory obsolescence and expiring warranties significantly drive up bottom-line costs. The lack of visibility and accountability reduces the quality of information and any potential part sharing, exponentially increasing the overall cost to serve.

Herein lies the excess trunk inventory dilemma: given the vital role of any medical-equipment support service, how can an organization reduce its field inventory costs and still assure both customers and its own technical staff of uninterrupted, effective response and resolution for crucial medical applications?

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