Use Lead Time, Planning, and Accuracy for smarter medtech supply chain

A world class medtech supply chain is made on a foundation of controls, knowledge and planning.  This blog takes a look at three key elements a seasoned buyer would use to achieve maximum potential:  Lead Time, Quoting/Planning, Paperwork Accuracy.


Lead Time

A key element of smarter buying is reducing lead times without compromising quality or price.

Lead time is the time it takes for a service to be performed, or the time it takes for items to arrive, from the date of being ordered. Lead time analysis creates an environment of transparency for all team members.  Data can be analyzed together as a team or as an individual with the goal of maximizing efficiencies and improving customer service.

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system provides the data and communication platform needed for well-planned decision making.  For example ERP data can tell you which vendors deliver early or always on time. In my opinion this is step one in measuring true vendor performance and ensuring the buyer is using the correct vendors for the job.


Why is Quoting such an important part of the buying planning process?  It’s not by luck that buyers purchase from the right vendors. Success is because of the quoting process that takes place before executing a purchase. A quote is a formal document that outlines a clear, firm cost for the work or parts being quoted.

Analyzing core competencies and narrowing suppliers to a select group of vendors for each service or part is absolutely critical in the planning process.  An erroneous quote can cause proposals to become non profitable. Or can damage relationships and credibility if you have to ask your clients for more money to continue the project.

Selecting the right vendors to provide a quote should be a decision based on information from many places. In my experience, these include thorough research, expertise, ERP analytics data, personal experience purchasing similar commodities, and a firm understanding of what you’re buying.

Whether it is a bid, tender, Request For Quote (RFQ), or Request For Proposal (RFP), no matter what you call it, a quote should always be concise and clear.  Best practice is to obtain a written quote; however both verbal and written quotes are legally binding. Ensuring a quote’s accuracy and ruling out ambiguity is essential when quoting. This is why verbal quotes are not preferable. Minimizing business risk from information errors, environmental, security, market or legal aspects should always be on the agenda.

When reviewing a quote, ensure it meets the all the obligations, criteria and intent of your client.  Meeting a client’s expectations is a foremost priority.  Accurate well thought out quoting can be the difference between winning or losing business.

When analyzing a quote, price is always a top factor along with lead time and quality. My experience has shown this is almost always the case regardless of the industry.

Paperwork Accuracy     

Assume nothing! Accurate paperwork is the third critical step in smarter buying.  Long past the planning stages, when it comes to Bills of Materials (BOMs), technical drawings, purchase orders and quotes, the devil is in the details.  It is crucial to have accurate data when quoting and buying.  Ambiguity will only lead to problems down the line.  Keeping accurate records is essential in all medical fields. One must always be prepared for an audit, perhaps even from the FDA depending on the class of device.

To accurately quote a Bill of Material one must have clear, correct information.  All drawings must contain all of the data necessary for all parties to be able to understand and clearly meet the expectations of what is being quoted. For technical drawings this includes colour, finish, material, dimensions, and units of measure. Additionally, in the medical field, revision and part numbers are required.

After all, paperwork and the data that’s recorded will be analyzed to determine if a device is effective or not during clinical trials.  Inaccurate paperwork can cause a plethora of issues including unreliable budgeting, unexpected overhead to correct errors, and audit findings. Medtech supply chain roadblocks caused by inaccurate paperwork such as requoting, ordering incorrect items, delayed production build dates, or items not clearing customs, are unnecessary and add costs to your project.

The importance of accurate paperwork starts at the beginning of the design and carries all the way through to the marketed, manufactured device.  Supply chain plays a major role in control of properly kept records.  So dot those I’s, cross those T’s, and while you’re at it, date and sign everything and leave no box unchecked.

Use these three essential tools together during buying planning to set your project up for success from the proposal stage all the way through to manufacturing.  I utilize these steps in true form at work because well documented procedures and controls as well as excellent communication channels are firmly in place.

Being in the technology industry is always exciting- especially in the medical technology field.  The new ideas and designs that our clients bring to us seem limitless.  With proper planning and execution, these devices will be born and brought to the market for everyone to see and use.

Image: StarFish Medical

Lindsey is a Senior Buyer with Starfish Medical.  She has previous purchasing experience in the Automotive and Fashion Industry. She is passionate about reducing lead times without compromising quality or price throughout the commercialization process. This is her first blog for StarFish Medical.

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