What supply chain management professionals can learn from healthcare


One of the goals behind new technology investment is often to streamline processes that would be time-intensive without sufficient tools to manage them. In some cases, processes such as data categorization and processing can be automated entirely, meaning that businesses can reallocate resources toward other key tasks. However, one barrier often stands in the way of achieving these efficiencies: paper. 

oms solution thumb resized 600The aversion to paper records has become increasingly pronounced in the medical industry as healthcare professionals realize that taking notes on patients and then trying to input that information into hospital computer systems is a heavy burden on sttaff. There is particularly strong interest in electronic health records among family physicians, with researchers expecting adoption rates to surpass 80 percent by the end of this year. This trend has yielded promising results for healthcare organizations, with common motivations including higher quality care and more patient involvement in treatment. Given that doctors are not typically known for their aptitude for calligraphy, the trend toward electronic mediums is a promising development for data accuracy as well.

Unfortunately, the inefficiencies created by paper records have also emerged in the supply chain management arena, leading to delays as well as unnecessary costs. As Spendvision chief executive Shane Bruhns observed, paying suppliers is one activity that can lag behind when completed on paper. 

"All too often suppliers are paid by the raising of an invoice, a long-winded process," Bruhns wrote for Public Service Publications. "The paper based invoice bounces from desk to desk, gaining approval, from what seems to be a never-ending sign off line in the organization, before your supplier receives the money owed."

The good news is that there are already solutions available with proven effectiveness in improving supply chain management practices. Spendvision worked with the Essex County Council and Walsall Council in England. The two organizations implemented improved supply chain management software along with Spendvision's expense management platform. In Essex's case, the Council dealt with 8,000 suppliers and its partners did not always follow efficient procedures for recording transactions. However, by implementing solutions to streamline the receipt uploading process, the organization was able to save close to $348,000 annually due to greater efficiency and improved expense tracking.

Could savings be even greater?
These organizations took significant steps forward by lowering the difficulty of the data input process, but there is still room for improvement. After all, paper receipts can still be lost or damaged before they can be scanned. This makes it valuable to consider solutions that push the automation envelope further. For example, one advantage of using IBM Sterling order management is the availability of e-invoicing. This solution integrates data from suppliers with a buyers' systems so that no manual input is required. This approach is also advantageous because other activities such as audits and reporting can be streamlined, since relevant data is already logged and centralized.

With supply chains becoming more complex, it's important for businesses to focus on scalable solutions. It may not be possible to completely eliminate manual input from the equation, but it is feasible to move away form cumbersome data entry and categorization tasks. This allows businesses to more effectively govern supply chains while improving key factors such as order completion time. 

"The ability to gain control through technology and manage transactions online avoids having to process invoices manually," Bruhns wrote. "These online platforms seamlessly integrate with finance, HR and payroll systems, reducing processing time and errors."

Learn more about the variety of scalable options your business has for supply chain management, click below: