Originally written for TechNation’s Expert Advice, October 1, 2022.
Stock and Inventory Management for HTMs
Healthcare Technology Managers (HTMs) everywhere must make the most of what they have. Speed is capital, and turnaround times are essential to ensure equipment is ready to intervene on the hospital floor. These life-saving devices must receive accurate and timely maintenance to maintain factory standards. However, what happens when your supply chain slows to a grinding halt? How hard has it been for your biomedical team to acquire parts? PM kits? Batteries? Circuits? Testing Equipment?
The troubleshooting process begins when a device reaches Biomed’s workbench for repairs. As a technician, you must identify the problem and determine what parts or accessories are needed for the solution. Or, in the case of preventative maintenance, obtaining the PM kit, testing functionalities, connections, and system calibrations. These complex units have many intricate systems that require specific attention to detail to ensure that the problem is resolved.
Given the global state of shipping delays, supply chain problems, and OEM backorders, receiving essential components and accessories can take forever. Consequently, your existing inventory may not be able to endure a disruption to the supply line or a dramatic increase in demand volume. Before COVID-19, it was unusual for the supply of batteries, PM kits, and accessories to be limiting factors.
Supply chain breaks are more common when the component is more high-tech (e.g., a pressure regulator) and isn’t compatible with another device than the specific unit (e.g., a ventilator). Such components may have exacting specifications because of their potential function in highly regulated end products, and thus the barrier to entry is high. As a result, there are not many available sources for the item. Moreover, competing manufacturers may seek to purchase the same items from the same sources. If two manufacturers need the same thing from the same supplier, the combined output of the finished product from the two manufacturers will be limited by the supply of the item they are competing for. (Medical Device Supply Chains – U.S Dept Of Health, RAND®)
So, what can you do?
At ReNew Biomedical, we keep stock of replacement parts and equipment for servicing and preventative maintenance. Cables and accessories are on standby near the workbench, cutting wait times for equipment repair and pushing equipment back into the field with great speed. It’s crucial to partner with an equipment distributor that strategically stocks up on batteries, parts, accessories, and units, allowing us to keep our repair and service wait times as short as possible. Our partnership with Master Medical Equipment gives us access to a vast catalog of in-stock essential accessories.
Aside from demand, we consider the importance of quantity and availability whenever we order a part. While the shop may need one part for a repair now, we’ll see if we can order more for a better price. However, if we don’t foresee needing a larger quantity, there isn’t much point in spending money on additional parts that would sit on a shelf collecting dust.
Another strategy for parts is keeping a ‘boneyard.’ We often look into buying broken units with minimal defects and salvaging parts for potential future use. While the unit may no longer work, identifying still-working parts and components often allow us to repair several other units from one device.
When the demand for parts increases, we look to order smaller batches of orders as opposed to large ones that receive less priority due to their difficulty in being fulfilled. Smaller orders are easier to be filled and ship faster. Working with transparent vendors and distributors who give reliable, accurate delivery times is crucial. Companies that lie about delivery times to make a sale aren’t trustworthy and will leave you high and dry when your needs are urgent.
Knowing timing and order size is crucial to keeping a prepared inventory while not becoming bloated and overloaded. Our recommendation? Stock up while you can, and work with transparent suppliers. Our biomeds trust our distributor partner, Master Medical Equipment, to take care of our battery, cable, circuit, units, and accessory needs. At the end of the day, inventory peace-of-mind comes from working with suppliers you trust.