Service Outages: An Industry Problem That Z5 Has Never Experienced
Shortages. Stoppages. Service unavailability in your area. These are problems that Z5 doesn't face. See why in this guide to evaluating a reliable solution provider.
When you're pressed for time and resources already, you can't allow any room for unexpected outages. And when you're involved at all in the healthcare supply chain, you're always pressed for time and resources.
We had a situation recently where a case of iPads being shipped to a hospital disappeared. While we presume that this wasn't an act of magic - they're somewhere, but not even the shipping service knows where - the result for the people at that healthcare facility was the same. They weren't going to have the devices they needed to begin their inventory project on time.
Except that Z5ers sprang into action. Options for backups and alternatives were immediately floated; some as extreme as a team member getting an overnight flight across the country to hand-deliver a new batch of tablets before 5 AM. They didn't have to do that - and we wouldn't have wanted them to - but they did volunteer.
Our deep commitment to customer satisfaction springs from the fact that healthcare professionals in every department have enough to worry about. Z5 Inventory exists to release some of the tension that's stretching you so thin. That's also a big part of why we offer these blogs every week with healthcare industry news and supply chain best practices.
To that end, here are some of the ways that you can make sure that you're set up to succeed with your partners. Whether they're suppliers, technology providers, labor organizations, or anything else, they ought to be able to answer your questions about worst-case scenarios.
Setting Expectations: Not Just the Scope Of Work
A wise toy once said: "Knowing is half the battle." That's as true when you're setting up a project as when you're rolling up the results.
Let's say that you're craving something savory to keep you going through a long day of managing medical supplies. You think kettle chips are a good idea, and we would absolutely agree. So you go to the shelf, and you buy the brand you've always had, and they're fine. But if someone had been there to point out that Zapp's Spicy Cajun Crawtators will not only satisfy your craving, but give you a little kick in the taste buds, you could have gotten that extra jump-start to the adrenal gland that would have gotten you through the rest of the afternoon that much better.
Setting expectations often means expanding expectations. An app can do that, too. In the instance of your kettle chip craving, you could be presented with a number of options you didn't know about before. The Z5 Inventory app is great at this, offering suggestions and flagging what it thinks might be mistakes during an inventory valuation.
Now, we're not just handing over iPads preloaded with our app and saying "good luck," although we could. We've worked pretty hard to make the app as self-explanatory as possible. But Z5ers want to make sure that your inventory project - whether it's a single pharmacy count or a systemwide reallocation to prevent expiration of high-dollar supplies and equipment - goes as smoothly as possible. And that requires the human touch.
When entering a healthcare facility - and we do always want to take a look at the places where our technology is being used to manage inventory, even if we're not providing the labor to manage that inventory ourselves - Z5 staff members don't dictate the way things have to be. These are your storage shelves, and nobody knows them better than your team.
But we aren't completely passive in the experience, either. We have pretty strong feelings about what should be counted and how counting should be conducted during a physical inventory, for example, and we will share those.
(In fact, we feel strongly enough about that that you can download those suggestions and more in our most recent white paper outlining the perfect physical inventory count.)
So, yes, you should absolutely make clear what you think you need to all of your partners and solution providers. But you should also be open to their suggestions, because they're expert in their fields just like you are in yours.
They're also probably a little more able to shift their approach quickly when problems do pop up.
Extreme Flexibility: Better Than Extreme Availability
Let's say you're using Instacart or some similar service that's doing your shopping for you. And let's say you've asked for Zapp's Spicy Cajun Crawtators, but the store is out. Obviously this is a tragedy, and maybe we shouldn't be bringing it up because even the thought that you might not be able to access your preferred crawfish-flavored chip is distressing to you. And we're sorry for that.
But let's also say that the app sends you an alert that the store is fully stocked on Zapp's Cajun Dill Gator-Tators. Now, maybe you think this is close enough to satisfy your craving for Cajun kettle chips, and maybe you don't. Maybe you hadn't considered the great gator-versus-crawfish flavor debate and you need a minute to process. That's fine. But the important thing is that you have options.
And the even more important thing is that the person helping you was able to pivot quickly.
You can order food any hour of the day, but if the person helping you throws up their hands and gives up at the first sign of a problem, that supposed convenience suddenly becomes a burden. All the availability in the world comes to nothing if you don't have that bag of Cajun-inspired spice in your hand. What you needed was a solution provider willing to look beyond the limitations of their software and circumstance.
In the above instance of the iPads getting lost on their way to a hospital, if we hadn't been able to get replacement tablets to the facilities on time, the supply chain team still had options. The Z5 Inventory app is available on all iOS or Android devices, so they could have downloaded it onto their work phones. If worse came to worst, they could have conducted
Part of that preparation comes from creative thinking, but most of it is the result of Z5 Inventory helping healthcare providers in thousands of physical inventory counts at hundreds of facilities. We've seen all the crazy disruption that is likeliest to come your way, and we've prepared for emergencies that we hope will never begin to occur to you.
This time, with this iPad shipment, we ended up being able to get replacements to the facility just fine. But we might have had to rely on one of those fall-backs if not for Z5's insistence on staying in contact with our partners.
Let's Talk About It Again: Constant Communication
When it comes to communication, we practice what we preach. We harp on this a lot. But that's because it's important!
Again, part of the value of regularly communicating is that everybody gets their expectations straight ahead of time. Successful prep is the key to successful execution with any supply chain project (and probably any project, period). But communication isn't one-time or one-way. That's announcing. That's not a conversation.
Let's say you're getting emailed every week with a message that says that Gator-Tators are better than Crawtators. Not only is that wrong, but when you try to reply to the message to correct the sender's unreasonable assertions, it goes to some robot's inbox, and you get a robot's reply. That's not the authentic, down-home hospitality that you'd expect from a true kettle-cooking organization.
Z5 Inventory is headquartered in Texas, so we know a thing or two about hospitality.
During the prep, execution, and wrap-up of any supply chain management exercise, Z5 staff is in conversation with its partners to determine their needs and updating what services and support we can provide so that those needs can be met.
We have support staff available at all hours. It's easy to find our support email address and phone number on our Contact page. Our client services and sales teams regularly give out their personal cell phone numbers as a means of staying in contact.
And if you got into the supply chain management field because you don't want to talk to human people, we make available to our partners a vast set of instructions, resources, and guides to make your count or reallocation go smoothly.
If you want a taste, grab our most recent white paper on the perfect physical inventory. It guides you through all the steps of setting yourself up for success and following that through to your final valuation (and beyond).
Conclusion: Don't Take Disruption For Granted
Obviously it's better to be over-prepared than caught unaware - and we'll be the first ones to tell you that you're probably not doing enough emergency planning - but in some instances, if you've done the work to vet your business partners, you can relax. Let them stress about all the things that might go wrong, because they've prepared for every scenario, too.
We certainly think we fit that description, but we're biased. Then again, we are helping more healthcare providers count more product than ever before, so that has to mean something.
Join the club. Use that Contact page to tell us about your healthcare inventory needs, and we'll tell you how we can help. Let's raise a toast to reliability. And by "toast," we of course mean "Cajun-spice-inspired kettle chip with no gluten and surprisingly low cholesterol."
We'll be there for you. That's the Z5 guarantee.
(If you read that last word in a Cajun accent, that's not our fault.)