Efficiency in supply chain processes and effective materials management can lead to less waste, reduced costs and a smoothly-run ambulatory surgery center. By implementing a checklist to regulate supplies, materials managers and ASC administrators can stay on stop of their inventory and ensure supplies are readily available for the ASC staff.
Jean Skora, materials manager at The Surgery Center of Pinehurst (N.C.), discusses important tasks that can be included in a surgery center's supply chain checklist as well as commonly overlooked aspects of supply chain management.
• Monitoring the schedule for any upcoming procedures requiring specialty equipment or supplies not currently stocked. Notify vendors to bring in necessary supplies.
• Keeping track of the sales representatives that visit the center and making sure they comply with the center's policies and procedures.
• Entering items into the facility's software system, if it has one. "[Entering items into the software system] may be one of the most important things I do daily," says Ms. Skora. "It helps maintain our facility's perpetual inventory and keeps paperwork from becoming overwhelming. With a busy ASC, like the Surgery Center of Pinehurst, it's very easy to get overwhelmed with paperwork."
• Checking the operating room schedule for the following week and noting down necessary orders. Follow previous par levels to develop a guideline for the upcoming amount of supplies needed. Par levels refer to the exact amount of in-stock product to meet demands. However, ASC volumes can be volatile and there may be weeks when a full order of supplies isn't necessary.
• Ordering supplies in accordance with a strictly maintained schedule. "I routinely order supplies twice a week," says Ms. Skora. "The staff is aware of my ordering process and they are very good about filing the proper requisition forms and turning them in by noon on the order days."
Maintaining a strict weekly ordering schedule also helps eliminate same-day orders and duplicate purchases orders to a single company. "This not only eliminates time wasted on the supply chain side of an ASC, but also eliminates time wasted on the business office side when it comes time to pay the invoices," she says.
• Review contracts nearing expiration and meet with vendors to negotiate any possible price changes. According to Ms. Skora, it's very important to be aware of your contracts and to meet with the vendors before your contract expires to negotiate the best possible price for the facility.
• Identify and monitor supplies that sit on the shelves for longer than necessary. "Any supply that is on the shelf for longer than 45 days and is not being used regularly is a cost to the facility," says Ms. Skora. "Of course, this doesn't apply to specialty items that a physician may need in an emergency."
Other important tasks to include on a supply chain checklist are:
• Making sure all invoices match the pricing on vendor contracts
• Being aware of back orders and finding alternatives
• Getting supplies on the shelf in a timely manner so that staff efficiency isn't compromised
Overlooked aspects of supply chain management
ASC administrators and materials managers sometimes neglect maintaining good relationships with vendors. The best deals are often struck when managers take time to talk with vendors who just drop by and introduce themselves. "There are times when I am too busy, but if I can, I meet with the vendors and hear what they have to sell," she says.
Also, good communication can also get overlooked. It's important to keep staff abreast of upcoming cases requiring specialty items and schedule training sessions so that they feel confident using the products. Also, keep them in the loop about any back orders. "A happy staff is a happy ASC," says Ms. Skora.
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