The several covid waves we’ve witnessed have highlighted that logistics, delivery, and last-mile connection with customers, not manufacturing, provisioning, or procurement, are the issues in India’s healthcare supply chain. When a system is challenged and put under stress, it reveals a great deal about its true capabilities and endurance. The pandemic has put a strain on many fronts, resulting in unusual demand surges for COVID-19 resources. The highly fragmented architecture of India’s healthcare system also meant that patients found it challenging to know the suitable routes for obtaining crucial medicinal supplies.
The ‘supply and demand’ connection of products in our society is based on the supply chain– which is a series of actions that must occur for the items to reach their destination. Healthcare is a vital industry that may be endangered by supply chain issues, such as the possibility of a supply chain interruption at any juncture in the delivery process.
With Gurudwaras conducting oxygen ‘langars’ to provide life-saving gas to the needy during the pandemic’s crucial juncture, to relying solely on charitable contributions, it is clear that the immense pain and suffering inflicted on patients, their family members, and doctors has resulted from the collapse of the healthcare supply chain, which relied primarily on the unorganised sector.
It is worth noting that the country did not run out of oxygen even during this catastrophe since oxygen that was being utilised for industrial purposes was quickly reallocated for medical reasons by the Indian government. The industry responded immediately to the government’s request. On the other hand, the healthcare supply chain lacked the capacity and resources to distribute oxygen from production facilities, the majority of which were situated near steel mills in eastern India, to consumption centres, some of which were thousands of kilometres away.
The problem was unquestionably not with production, supplying, or procurement, but with transportation and distribution, the two most important links to the customers. The primary constraint is that each component of the supply chain operates autonomously, resulting in distorted operations that prohibit the system from functioning as a whole. Nefarious forces in the oxygen distribution system saw it as a valuable opportunity to allude to unlawful black marketing and stockpiling when the distribution network desperately needed to be fine-tuned to minimise the harmful consequences of insufficiency of bulk supply due to surging demand.
Developing Resilient and Responsive Supply Chains
Information visibility and cohesive data architecture– Large corporations have been extensively spending on supply chains information systems such as point-of-sale software (to gather consumer demand data) and blockchain technology (to obtain insight into upstream production process) to meet customer expectations as quickly as possible.
Creating a solid resource allocation structure that can dynamically adapt to quickly shifting demands during health crises requires ensuring consistent and accurate data available from various nodes of the health care system and making that data “transparent” to the appropriate stakeholders.
Creating a public and private-sector inventory database of key medical supplies- Obtaining inventory data from private enterprises regularly can be difficult. Still, targeted legislation compelling private companies to provide such data during catastrophes will be critical in quickly developing supply chain information systems for efficient pandemic response.
Supply chain mapping and quantity forecasts– This refers to recording information from all firms engaged in the production of a product to produce a worldwide map of the supply chain. Suppose the mapping indicates that a commodity is “risky” due to the reliance on a single vendor or the inconceivable nature of increasing production in a crisis. In that case, the government must take constructive action to find other sources of supply or construct reservoirs of certain products. As part of crucial goods and services, institutionalised regulations addressing the maintenance of backups by hospitals and industries must be enforced. Stakeholders must be able to raise the alarm at specified levels to ensure that the administration conducts the necessary strategies to keep up with the demand and transportation of key supplies.
Acute shortages of supplies, including masks, ventilators, intensive care unit capacity, and personal protective equipment (PPE), are a major source of worry. Supply chain management’s future success depends on growing transparency about where the raw materials are produced, diversifying product resources, and enhancing technologies that can detect possible constraints. It is also critical to build a proactive budgeting plan to fulfil supply needs through the early allocation of dependable roles to support organisations and healthcare staff education.
Specification for emergency supplies might be difficult because the nature of the forthcoming calamity is unknown. It necessitates the cooperation and supervision of the government and public health organisations, who regularly monitor the onset and progression of disease epidemics. Another critical component is quantity forecasting (calculating the quantities of commodities necessary during a medical emergency).
Successful quantity forecasts are based on careful analysis of various elements, including population statistics, regional factors, response timeframes, disease patterns and epidemiological activity.
Is the Operating Environment of a Supply Chain Important?
Let’s learn from our neighbours, maybe?
China’s centralised governmental framework is ideal for aligning a coordinated supply chain response to a national health crisis. However, in India, where individual states are responsible for healthcare administration, an adaptive supply chain strategy that combines centralised and distributed approaches are required. Central agencies should be in charge of acquiring critical supplies, integrating aid flowing into the country, and developing strategies for increasing domestic manufacturing; state and local governments are better equipped to perform allocation and distribution at the local level as they can very well acknowledge and recognise the needs of the community.