Supply Chain 101: Get the right item, at the right price, from the right source. But what happens when that right item is no longer available? Perhaps, it was replaced or discontinued. And what happens when the right source is out-of-stock? This is a disruption and the past few years have been and continue to be full of them. Long depended-upon items such as baby formula, feminine products, and standard medical supplies are unavailable due to shortages and there’s no indication of if or when those items will be available.
Item availability, or lack thereof, is not limited to backorders; there are several reasons why a particular item might suddenly become unavailable – the health system may be migrating to a new preferred item and/or supplier, the product could have been discontinued, or maybe it was recalled for safety hazards.
Regardless of the reason or complexity, a disruption is defined as “a disturbance or problem that interrupts an event, activity, or process.” When there’s a supply chain disruption, the effect can ripple through the continuum of care, and supporting teams – such as supply chain, inventory, and value analysis – are often left scrambling to minimize impact. Up until the pandemic, the response to a disturbance had been reactive. It’s time to change that.
“Expect the unexpected” has never rung truer. We know these disruptions are coming, so what are we going to do about it? Transparency leads to resiliency – by leveraging the right tools, the supply chain can effectively alleviate the impact of a disruption by communicating upfront with its end users at the point of requisition. Supply chain can build confidence across the community of end users it serves by sharing pertinent information:
- Any alerts associated with an item – such as if it’s been recalled, discontinued, or backordered.
- Clarity into whether the item can still be ordered – just because the item is backordered does not mean it shouldn’t be ordered. Yet, a user knowing it’s backordered can now expect a delay in shipping.
- Insight into system-approved alternative items – direct your end users to a preferred, alternate item; thus, eliminating the guesswork while preventing a potential special request.
A disruption should not dismantle the concept of the getting the right item, at the right price, from the right source assuming there’s a process in place to support the right detour. Prodigo Solutions’ replacement functionality fulfills this purpose.
Prodigo’s Replacement Functionality
Prodigo clients can access substitute functionality within their Virtual Item Master, so that when an item becomes unavailable, the appropriate supply chain administrator can configure the applicable status and any replacement item(s). To ensure minimal disruption, when searching, end users are instantly alerted and directed to the preferred replacement item(s).
Recently, Prodigo automated components of this feature, utilizing an extract from a client’s inventory system. Based on a set quantity-on-hand threshold, the system automatically enables pre-configured statuses and alternative items to ensure end users are directed to alternative items at the right time. Once the item has been re-stocked, then the statuses and alternative items are automatically disabled.
As part of building a resilient supply chain, it’s vital that end users are informed when items are unavailable. Directing them to preferred and approved substitute items builds confidence across the continuum of care while supporting supply chain’s main strategic goals, increasing contract utilization, compliance, and overall savings.
Boston Children’s Hospital – Putting an End to Disruptions
Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) is one client currently utilizing Prodigo’s replacement functionality. Currently, BCH sends Prodigo its inventory file – and any time an item goes out of stock, Prodigo triggers back-order items to display.
Considering how many items are frequently out of stock due to ongoing supply chain disruptions, the functionality directs BCH users to preferred substitute items, rather than forces users to handle the issue on the back end.
“With all of the supply-chain disruptions, there’s a list of items that are continually on back order. Without an indicator, you might continue to order them,” said Christine L’Heureux, Director of Supply Administration at BCH. “Prodigo’s replacement and substitute item functionality instantly directs our users to alternative items, ensuring that the most up-to-date, contracted, and approved items are purchased.”
Usability of Product Recalls (2021 User Conference Session)