Today's Hospital Receiving Processes Missing Dock-to-Destination Visibility

By Cheryl Flury

We recently interviewed supply chain team members at four acute care hospitals and discussed current challenges with their receiving processes. While each of their receiving teams is hard at work processing incoming shipments, manual processes and disparate systems cause some big gaps.The result: receiving spends additional time offloading, staging, tracking and delivering incoming shipments. In most organizations, internal recipients have little visibility to supplies that have been received but not yet delivered and finally, hospitals reported lacking a way to create an electronic, end-to-end record of this process. 

The problems most frequently mentioned by participants included:

  • Speed of processing incoming shipments. Receiving teams work to quickly process incoming shipments. But, high incoming package volume combined with manual, paper-based processes results in the time to off-load, receive, match to POs, stage and deliver shipments taking longer and costing more in labor and research.
  • Multiple receiving and staging processes occur on the same loading dock, depending on the type of product or supplies received, the carrier (UPS, fed ex, local carrier or distributor), and whether items received were stock or non-stock.
  • ERP systems are used to identify POs and match packages to POs, but gaps exist between the ERP system and the receiving, staging, and delivery processes.
    • Mobile devices aren’t supported, processes largely paper-based
    • Paper “tickets” are printed out that must follow the shipment throughout the delivery process
    • It’s difficult to manage items on POs that have not yet been received, resulting in a partially complete PO
  • When packages arrive without a PO number or a non-PO shipment arrives, it’s extremely difficult to process. “Non-PO packages come in and it’s hard to determine where the product should be delivered and hard to find out if the product does have a purchase order,” said Jason Greene, Supervisor, Receiving / Warehouse / Copy Center / Mail Room, Supply Chain Solutions, Mary Washington Hospital.  Receiving team members spend hours researching unmarked shipments to determine who the recipient should be and what department is the final destination.
  • Multiple hand-offs occur as packages move from the receiver, to the internal courier, to the person who is restocking a storage area and/or the person who ordered it. With paper-based systems, the paperwork must follow the package throughout this entire process and eventually be returned to receiving or procurement. Unfortunately, it’s easy for the paperwork to become separated from the shipment and not returned correctly for tracking purposes.
  • Lack of visibility to supplies that are in process. With paper-based systems, there is no way for internal users to see where shipments are within the health system, including whether they’ve been staged or routed for delivery. Users can see from a FedEx or UPS tracking number that a shipment has been received by their organization, but they have no visibility to packages in progress.
  • Lack of visibility to supplies that have been delivered to the internal recipient.  Carmen Winfield, Associate Vice President, Procurement Services, McLeod Health noted, “Packages are delivered to the department and someone uses it before the person who ordered it sees it.  They think the product didn’t come and call us. We can spend hours each week searching for products.”
  • No electronic record is created of the end-to-end transaction, so it’s difficult to track shipments, record them, and verify delivery to final internal destination.
  • It is difficult to improve receiving efficiency without information about how long each package stays at each stage.

Participants also had great ideas for how to improve current processes. Some of the recommendations included:

  • Implement a system that supports greater automation, creates an electronic record of each incoming package, and closes the gaps in current processes, tracking packages to signature
  • Give internal customers a way to look up the status of shipments and details on deliveries
  • Track time spent on each stage of the delivery process to begin building greater efficiency
  • Integrate receiving technology and the ERP to allow POs to be managed and closed quickly
  • Use smart mobile devices for scanning at each stage of the process - these devices are easy to purchase and users quickly trained
  • Wireless label printers can help with staging process and eliminate hard-copy paperwork

See below or the full Industry Report PDF, which includes steps of current receiving processes.

The team at JumpTech is working every day to solve some of the ongoing challenges with hospital supply management, most recently, hospital receiving.