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Automating the Healthcare Supply Chain Automating the Healthcare Supply Chain

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Healthcare Automation

When it comes to the healthcare arena, new technology and innovation within end-to-end supply chain logistics will help hospitals and IDN’s reduce the amount of preparation for healthcare professionals so they can spend more time with patients and provide better care for better outcomes.

Some of these innovations that are available to hospitals and IDNs include:

Autonomous material handling equipment - This equipment can self-navigate within a warehouse after a one-time mapping exercise of the facility. This autonomous capability can be applied to various types of equipment including mobile robots that can move a case and forklifts that can move pallets.

Industrial robotics - These robots utilize different attachments to perform tasks utilized for receiving and shipping activities.

Sensors - Sensors monitor the activity, condition and events in the use of material handling equipment, human resources and the facility. These sensors can be active RFID, Bluetooth (BLE), LORA or other types of radio signals.

When looking at how each of these technologies perform in the healthcare supply chain we have to take a step back and look at the current state of the operation. Today, health care professionals and caregivers double order stock because of uncertainty under an outdated system. Third party logistic providers can provide the infrastructure hospitals need for reliable assurance from best-in-class warehouse management and inventory systems.

These management systems can be integrated just as it’s done in retail, automotive, and consumer packaged goods. From an end-to-end logistics standpoint, the capabilities we previously mentioned can bring products at the point of delivery all the way through to the operating room of a hospital. This increases the quality of support among hospital staff to better equip them with the tools needed for the patients under their care.


In the past, delivery systems were dependent on manual tasks. Now, automated guided vehicles can be programmed to run independently in off-shift hours and can be used to replenish storerooms within the hospital or delivered from the storeroom to other defined areas.

Industrial robots can perform the storage, deliveries, and stocking of supplies and materials. Also, robotics can be used to prepare the operational and therapeutic kits required for medical examinations and surgeries.

Sensors provide the visibility caregivers and purchasing personnel need to account for the level of their inventory. Also, sensory technology would give hospitals and IDNs the capabilities to monitor the environmental conditions of the storerooms, provide security functions, and track the location of supply chain resources and equipment.

Through a proper supply chain logistics system with scanning proficiencies, hospitals and IDNs can account for re-orders, expiration dates, FIFO and FEFO in a coordinated and real-time operation.

"Automation increases the quality of support among hospital staff to better equip them with the tools needed for patients."
Norm Brouillette is the Vice President & General Manager of Technology and Healthcare for Ryder System, Inc., a FORTUNE 500® commercial fleet management, dedicated transportation, and supply chain solutions company.  In this role, he is responsible for providing the strategic vision, operational execution, and commercial leadership for the supply chain industry vertical.