Inventory and Supply Chain Management Solutions
Dan White // October 1, 2011
Being in the EMS business means being prepared, and preparation begins with the required supplies.
It may be hard to believe, but many agencies rely on last-minute shipments of commonly needed items to stay supplied. Running out of cervical collars is not an emergency; it's bad preparation resulting in jeopardized care and higher costs.
Years ago I met a clever EMS supply officer in Pennsylvania who invented his own inventory system. He bought cheap round paper hangtags used for pricing retail items, and wrote the item and order number on each one. For example: NRBM1059, for oxygen non-rebreather mask adult Hudson model 1059.
He then taped or tied the tags to each item in the supply room. When the working EMS staff with supply closet access took anything, they pulled the hangtags and dropped them in a coffee can by the door.
This simple system was highly effective at the time. It helped the supply officer track usage and order supplies before they ran out. It made individuals accountable for on-hand assets. It also virtually eliminated overnight shipments, which can easily double costs.
Today there are much better solutions that rely on modern technology for inventory management. They range from the simple — like homemade Access databases — to the advanced — like high-tech software systems that rely on bar codes, scanners, and access-controlled cabinets.
Two recent developments worth mentioning in detail actually work very well together: the UCapIt Controlled Access Pharmacy and AmbuTrak Inventory Management Software.
AmbuTrak is a state-of-the-art software solution for inventory management. The UCapIt is a physical means of putting all your supply items under secure vending access control.
The UCapIt Controlled Access Pharmacy (CAP) allows controlled access to restocking supplies. Think of the CAP as a big locked vending machine for your supplies. More than the word "pharmacy" might imply, the UCapIt is easily customized to dispense virtually anything that needs replacement during a long shift.
The UCapIt can be configured with many different shelving and dispensing bins that can hold anything from a pre-filled syringe to a D tank of oxygen. All withdrawals are cataloged, time-stamped, and regulated by tech or clearance level. For those departments having trouble keeping up with their equipment and disposables, the CAP offers an important solution.
AmbuTrak is the only Inventory Management software designed specifically for the Emergency Medical Services Industry. It provides the tools needed to manage supply inventory, fixed and mobile assets, and vehicles.
Electronic record-keeping combined with barcode scanning decreases actual inventory time by more than half. With AmbuTrak, inventory data collected is automatically uploaded to your database. By automating your inventory process, data entry errors are nearly eliminated. The system helps you save money by rotating stock and sending items with expiration dates back to your supply vendor for a full or partial credit.
You can create purchase orders based on your current inventory and set reorder points, and AmbuTrak automatically notifies you when it's time to order and how much to order. You can then send the purchase orders directly to your suppliers via email or fax, or you can import the purchase order data to your enterprise accounting system. AmbuTrak also provides a large library of template reports and an easy-to-use interface for generating custom reports.
An important benefit of having this data is that, with it, you can negotiate with your vendors for a better price. It is one thing to price a box of electrodes, but quite another to ask for a price for 65 boxes a year.
Better prices and lower operating costs are only two of the many benefits realized by controlling your inventory. In today's tough economy, few can afford to treat supply costs lightly. Modern inventory management solutions can help control them.