Intelligent, Agile, and Responsive Supply Chain (Part Two)
In my last blog, I provided some background on the VA and its mission and discussed the importance of upgrading its supply chain technology. In this blog, I will discuss the importance of partnerships and ecosystems to solve the supply chain challenge.
A Call to Action
As with any sizable undertaking to deploy enterprise information technology systems in support of improved business or healthcare functions, technology is not the sole panacea. Decoupled from IT strategy and management, front-end change management and stakeholder buy-in, and investment prioritization, technology deployment can become a protracted, if not impossible effort. The call to action for VA and industry resides at the nexus of supply chain deficiency and industry’s mature supply chain technologies with intentional leverage of partnerships and ecosystems, platforms, and cyber, and front-end change management. Ecosystems are now even more essential for success. The vital nature of these partnerships – between business and government, across industries, and even among perceived competitors – is the optimal path to innovate at non-negotiable pace and scale needed to serve Veterans.
Successful assimilation of these approaches, ecosystems, and partnerships can help those who served in the defense of our nation receive care with the right supplies delivered in the right quantities at the right time for the right patient.
The Department of Veterans Affairs can and should leverage its COTS in-hand industry Supply Chain leading capabilities and vendors to deliver transformative VA Supply Chain at pace, scale, and cost efficiencies desired of all stakeholders from Congress to the Veteran served. As of June 2021, the system designed, configured, and deployed by a strong VA program office supports:
- 38 VA Medical Centers, VA Central Office, Office of Enterprise Asset Management, Office of the Inspector General, and more
- 1.49 million assets distributed across 281,000 locations and valued over $5.2 Billion
- 144,000 end users who submit over 27,000 Service Requests per month
- Management of over 91,000 Work Orders (preventive, corrective, emergent) per month
- Capture and alignment of costs to Work Orders for 165,700 labor hours per month1
Successfully leveraging a best of breed industry partner ecosystem, which combines experience, worldwide past performance and top talent, can benefit VA endeavors for an effective supply chain.
Veterans Administration (VA) can leverage an ecosystem partner to drive requisitioning through the purchase order creation and maintenance processes. Potential benefits to the VA include:
- End-to-end automated system that removes complexity and allows users to manage the acquisition processes on a single, integrated platform.
- Electronic Document Creation (e.g., Goods and Services Receipts).
- Email notifications to buyers and suppliers.
- Single source of the truth in requisitioning and purchase order data and processes.
Another key ecosystem partner could assist with prebuilt inventory management, warehouse, and distribution features. Some of the key built in capabilities that can support the VA are:
- Warehouse management module enable VA to manage warehouse processes in This module has a wide range of features to support the warehouse facility at an optimal level, at any time. Warehouse management is fully integrated with other business processes such as transportation, manufacturing, quality control, purchase, transfer, sales, and returns.
- Transportation management lets VA identify the most efficient vendor and routing solutions for inbound and outbound orders. For example, you can identify the fastest route or the least expensive rate for a shipment.
An integrated enterprise supply chain solution for the Department of Veterans Affairs requires a transformative cognitive dashboard that provides transparency and insight into all areas of its supply chain, shipping, and warehousing operation. Through existing and/or future partnerships, the VA can map and create visibility with the entire supply chain ecosystem of enterprise applications. Connecting these software solutions to the entire supply chain ecosystem can offer business insights, consolidated enterprise data and analytics reporting and dashboarding.
A force multiplier in the form of a cognitive dashboard delivers predictive decision support, intelligence, and analytics. It is also the underpinning for intelligent workflows.
Intelligent workflows fuel responsive supply chains. [They] are AI-driven, embrace automation where possible, and facilitate horizontal integration and adjustments across functions, providing 360-degree visibility of the supply chain and potential disruptions…Intelligent workflows ultimately generate value by reimagining the way work is done, adding AI and automation to everyday tasks, insights, responses, and actions. Intelligent workflows serve as the “center of gravity” to your supply chain, sitting at the nexus of five supply chain trends that can power responsiveness and flexibility.2
To facilitate a complex ecosystem of integrations supporting the Department of Veterans Affairs and helping safeguard that the system can grow as the business requires, implementation of an enterprise service bus (ESB) is necessary for everyday integrations between systems. The systems in the ecosystem are largely modern and able to communicate from system to system with the latest in communication standards supporting secure encrypted connection over web services as well as other integration and API methods. However, each system is still unique and requires a unique communication process. The use of an enterprise bus can make system maintenance easier, allow for rapidly built, resilient, fault tolerant data integrations to name a few benefits. In cases where an enterprise service bus is not applicable to the business need direct integrations can be built to support high volume batch or legacy systems. Additionally, the ESB will allow the VA to have a single point of integration for the enterprise and its external partners to connect to all systems related to the supply chain management tools.
The industry ecosystem of partners is charged with shoring up a platform for VA that provides the now need but also remains scalable, secure, and dynamic to future needs and crises. This ecosystem must embrace continuous learning and mastery of VA technologies and requisite interfaces to adjacent and supporting systems that enable success across the entire value stream. The ecosystem of partners must be active participants and at times owners in the change management process. Execution of change management is absolute for front-end consideration and deployment if back-end success is to occur within time parameters and achieve fluid sustainment.
Ecosystem partners must engage with a sense of urgency to deliver timely results for the benefit of end customers - Veterans who have honorably defended this nation; Veterans who served with a Warrior Ethos – must win!
Near Term Impacts
The VA initiated an investment in a successful deployment of an Enterprise Asset Management software solution.
Completing this deployment will bring immediate benefits to VA:
- Realize a vision articulated over 20 years ago to retire dozens of legacy distributed VISTa applications with the market leading asset management platform.
- Consolidate over 130 instances of the AEMS/MERS systems with a single repository, consistent data, and consistent work processes across the VA enterprise.
- Provide VA leadership with timely and consistent visibility to VA asset data without requirements to operate and maintain a central data warehouse or initiate data calls to each medical center.
- Expand the capability to analyze maintenance and asset performance to identify areas for systemic improvement based on a vast trove of consistent asset performance data.
- Establish a baseline for expanded capabilities into additional business processes, organizational function, and supply chain enhancements leveraging modern technologies.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ mission to over 10 million beneficiaries per year has an imperative to “become a lean, efficient supply chain that is recognized by its peers as being among the best in health care.” An effort that draws upon ecosystems, platforms, robust cybersecurity, and front-end change management to help facilitate care with the right supplies delivered in the right quantities at the right time for the right patient for those who have served in the Defense of our nation can make the VA’s mission achievable.
1. Mahon, Tom; Newsome, Mark. “Executive Summary: VALOR Strategic Direction Recommendation [Unpublished].” IBM. July 2021.
2. “Building supply chain resiliency with AI-driven workflows: Leading companies share how they innovate.” IBM. February 26, 2021.