Whenever there’s a change in technology and we discover a quicker, more efficient way of doing things, it creates a buzz and the feeling that there’s no going back.
With PAR systems, there’s the way we used to work and then there’s the new, smarter way of managing medical supplies, which minimizes the manual tasks traditionally involved in managing inventory.
Automated weight-based PAR systems are changing the way hospitals replenish their medical inventory – eliminating the role of the nurse in the supply chain and ushering in a new era of 100% autonomy.
Let’s take a look at how the market is changing and review the available options.
‘The Before’: Manual PAR systems
Manual PAR bins suck up a lot of staff time in order to work within the supply chain. They need regular monitoring by Materials Management staff, who trudge through the hospital checking each supply room, making a quick ‘eye-ball’ of the shelves and noting down depleting stocks. In many cases nurses fulfill this role, and they are also expected to call Materials Management when they have an item outage or feel that the inventory is running low.
Manually counting thousands of items is labor-intensive and time-consuming and it’s simply a losing battle, with figures becoming out of date in minutes.
Lack of real-time visibility means that restocking is based on educated guesses, making hospitals prone to the extremes – stock-outs and order surpluses. Unreliable replenishment of supplies gives nurses ‘stock insecurity’, which leads to hoarding.
Keen to avoid stock outs, hospitals tend to over-order, but their bid to ‘play it safe’ can inadvertently lead to surpluses.
Stock outs can be a patient safety issue but overstocks are also problematic, causing expiry management challenges and waste, as well as unorganized storage spaces.
Lack of clarity on stock levels adds to the workload. For materials management staff, too many turns are required in a bid to monitor usage. This creates a burden on admin staff, who create unnecessary orders that wouldn’t be needed if the system was automated. The result is excessive effort, paperwork and aggravation.
The manual PAR system is an outdated inventory management system, but it is by no means extinct! Most organizations still use this system to manage their low-cost medical supplies.
‘The Present’: 1st generation of automated PAR bin
More recent models of PAR bin are automated, reducing the amount of time materials managers and nurses spend on stock control. These systems provide a more accurate picture of stock levels.
Automated PAR bins are powered by software that gathers all the stock information together and provides useful reports and data analytics, informing inventory management decision-making.
There are different types of automated system, some:
- use barcode scanning to track usage
- require nursing staff to constantly report each item taken
- have a wall unit with a built-in weighing scale
- use apps to generate a purchase requisition when the bin hits its pre-set minimum stock level
Although there is merit to each of these systems, in 2022 there’s room for improvement too.
A few downsides to ‘automated’ PAR bins:
While automated PAR bins provide better inventory management data, many have inherent weaknesses:
- Medical staff are still part of the supply chain – they still need to interact with the bins for usage to be reported.
- Existing technologies are not fully automated – there must be a trigger, for example a barcode scan, to update the system.
- Solutions are not flexible enough – large, permanently affixed, unwieldly units with in-built scales require the stock room to be arranged around them, rather than fitting in to the preferred layout.
- Solutions need to be hardwired – once the system is built, the configuration cannot be changed without rewiring the bins in the new location.
- There’s a lack of cloud connectivity – some solutions can only be connected to internal software and have not kept up with the times.
- They are still clunky to use – many systems still require a degree of manual operation, for example printing and pasting stickers during set up or when switching items stored.
So, the PAR bin has taken many steps forward but does not provide an ideal solution.
‘The Future’: PAR bins become 100% digital, 100% autonomous and 100% portable
The next generation of PAR bin is the autonomous, weight-based and wireless upgrade, taking nurses completely out of the supply chain process.
The IDENTI weight-based PAR Weighing Bin combines an integrated scale with RFID and cloud technologies, to provide a wireless and portable way to manage medical supplies.
- The smart scale and digital display work together to automatically generate replenishment orders – no nurse intervention is needed.
- RFID technology connects the weighing bin to management software, which seamlessly interfaces with any type of ERP and MMIS system – including for third-party suppliers.
- The integrated digital screen displays data on the content of each bin: the product’s SKU, the real-time stock level and the bin’s status (full, minimum or empty).
- The bin comes in several sizes to accommodate different products and connection to the management software can be via the cloud or a local server.
- The bins are portable and not hardwired to one location. They can be moved to where they are needed to improve workflows
- The system gives full visibility of stock levels and real time usage. Reports such as the Balanced Inventory Analysis, Cost and Usage Optimization and Restock Frequency, support data-driven inventory management decisions.
We’ve come a long way from a disconnected plastic bin that just sits there!
IDENTI’s portable, self-tracking, self-replenishing PAR bin takes care of itself.
So, if you want to know why everyone is shifting to weight-based PAR systems, it’s because an innovative new product has burst on to the market, making all the other options look obsolete.
There’s no going back. The future of inventory management is here.
Find out more about the IDENTI automated weight-based weighing bin.