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The world has become more sensitive to the need for service and accuracy in supply chain management. From headlines about inventory shortages in retail stores to nearshoring and trade wars in manufacturing, the precision of supply chains has never been more relevant to our daily lives. In the healthcare world, the difference between a delayed shipment and an on-time delivery could literally mean life or death.

As the healthcare world evolved, technology played a leading role in creating the bedrock of success. Whether it’s the digitalization of patient records or earth-shattering advancements in medicine, innovation has guided the industry toward progress and results at breakneck speed.

This rapid evolution of technology has grown a sensitive supply chain network that is needed to support potentially volatile and expensive goods. Medical equipment has become some of the most valuable cargo shipped. Vaccines and therapies require vigilance and strict compliance in handling and delivery. Meanwhile, the healthcare industry is also facing rapidly changing customer expectations, more cost scrutiny and fewer resources than before, making it challenging to balance inventory levels and cost, even for commoditized goods such as cotton swabs and bandages.

How have medical supply chains, ranging from device manufacturers to chemical companies, handled a litany of new variables in their logistics operations? How have the winners of today’s marketplace used their supply chain to create an advantage in the marketplace? They do so by embracing the same disruptor that fueled its rapid change – technology.

Visibility is More Than Tracking Freight

With stringent compliance requirements and high expectations for service, freight visibility has been a core component of healthcare supply chain management and execution for a long time. When dealing with medical equipment, vaccines, scheduled substances (particularly opiates), and more, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries have sat on the bleeding edge of supply chain visibility to secure their freight across its journey — some have even become a leading voice for active temperature control monitoring.

But is pure “where-is-my-freight” management the end of the conversation for healthcare supply chain visibility? The simple answer is “No.”

If the COVID-19 pandemic indicated anything, it’s that the demand for medical supplies and medical products is not always static and uniform across a service area. And simply knowing where a load is at a point-in-time can’t help your company handle dynamic decision making and proactive management against real-world demand. If your freight visibility capability can only tie a load number to a geofence, how does it provide real value?

Visibility is the Foundation of Next-Generation Execution

Your forecast needs to be accurate, that’s why it’s one of the most laborious parts of your planning season. On top of that, consider how damaging it is to your budget and ability to service your needs when your forecast is wrong. It results in costly expedites, hospital bypasses, alternative vendors and lost relationships.

The frustrating part is you likely have the inventory in your network. You planned ahead and even have safety stock – but where?

Leading real-time visibility platforms provide granularity into your supply chain. The insights go beyond “where’s my freight” and can answer more specific, useful questions like “what’s in my freight?”, “where’s the closest item?” and “when will it actually arrive?” – all while providing paths to streamline operations, reduce costs, and build resilience.

And the value increases when you go beyond the function of locating freight. Consider how you can improve supply chain performance when your visibility platform provides alerts based on temperature (both in-transit and in a yard), tampering notifications, as well as dynamic routing, multimodal order-level views, self service capabilities, and more.

Your visibility platform generates multiple dimensions of rich information to drive supply chain decisions at new speeds and with a greater depth of control, all while validating your strategy.

For Cardinal Health, this couldn’t be more integral to how they’ve developed a leading supply chain. “We’ve already seen value in the real time visibility during some of the recent weather events.” describes Katie Blohm, Director of Logistics Product & Design, “We were able to leverage tracking data to locate our freight in the supply chain, reroute trucks and make different decisions to get supply to the most impacted areas quickly.”

Command over their supply chain helped Cardinal rapidly scale operations throughout the pandemic, leading the way to a leaner, more profitable way of doing business, all while strengthening core relationships.

“Transparency helps build trust in the connection between the Cardinal Health supply chain and our customers.” explains Joshua Dolan, SVP, Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Operations and Enterprise Logistics, “Our partnership with FourKites will provide end-to-end visibility of products in transit, allowing for necessary adjustments to provide a seamless experience for our customers and help them better serve their patients.”

On top of improving transparency and control, visibility platforms help drive provider accountability. With customer relationships – and, ultimately, lives – at stake, keeping track of service level agreement (SLA) compliance is a mission-critical part of your business operations. Ensuring carriers are performing at your network’s SLA expectations can be contentious and having a third-party continually document performance enables your teams to make carrier decisions that are grounded in reality.

Technology is a Core Part of Employee Retention

These advancements in the ability to service customers play a silent but integral role in developing an employer-of-choice atmosphere for your business. In fact 82% of employees surveyed said they wouldn’t come work for a company where technology wasn’t a core part of how they perform their duties.

Think of all of the manual tasks that a supply chain associate in your company may need to manage and how their lack of automation may illustrate a lack of value for their time. For every phone call or email they need to send, what’s the opportunity cost? How are they being distracted from fostering better relationships and driving continuous improvement?

Leading manufacturers have recognized the value of visibility in their employee retention. “When you’re able to support your employees with data, they feel much more like what they do makes a difference,” explains Karen Betancourt, Vice President of Enterprise Logistics at Cardinal Health “especially when you strip away the non-value-added tasks.

Through process digitalization, companies are better able to not only support their employees’ time investment in their company, but they’re also able to provide a safety net of assurance with a record. Some of the most frustrating situations for frontline employees are when conflict arises with a provider or, even worse, a customer. Having a neutral, third-party record of events and locations helps support discussions with in-the-field knowledge to build better-aligned action plans and drive your business toward actual success.

Where to Go From Here

There’s a precarious feeling when you’re sitting on the bleeding edge of technology, much like many medical manufacturers are – the idea that you are responsible for choosing the path and next use cases for a platform or a product. For providers in the healthcare and medical space, this position is a necessary risk to take as your supply chain gets leaner, more demanding and more diverse.

FourKites has been at the forefront of innovation since its beginnings, developing solutions alongside the leaders in the pharmaceutical space to craft a solution that unlocks an optimized supply chain strategy. From connecting IoT devices for temperature control to route optimization with security in mind, your supply chain is unique – and you need to be sure your visibility solution knows how to handle the uncertainties you face.

We’re ready to get to work to uncover your unique use cases and build a platform experience that supports your changing environment while enabling your employees to use supply chain as a tool for business success, however you define it. If you’d like to learn more, contact your representative or email us at [email protected].

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