Managing medical device inventories is challenging for everyone concerned. These products have a host of characteristics seemingly designed to add supply chain cost and complexity. Large product portfolios? Yes. Devices such as the implants used in joint replacement surgery may be manufactured in hundreds of variants. Stringent storage and handling requirements? Yes.
Devices can be delicate, requiring tight control of temperature, shocks and vibrations, as well as protection from contamination. Complex regulations? Yes. Device makers must comply with rules governing good manufacturing and logistics practices, and Unique Device Identification (UDI) markings will be required on many devices by the end of the decade. A limited shelf life? Yes. Many devices have strict use-by dates, after which they have to be reconditioned or destroyed. Short delivery lead times? Absolutely. Medical teams embarking on life-saving or life-changing interventions need to ensure that the right devices are ready and waiting when they're needed.
The traditional approach used by manufacturers to meet these challenges is expensive, and often unsatisfactory. Large consignment stocks are held close to the point of use, either in hospitals or under the control of the manufacturer's field staff. Clinical teams request what they need from those inventories, which should then trigger the process of billing and replenishment.