If the initial part of the pandemic was a coughing fit, then for supply chain services, now is the time when America is clearing its throat.
“Everything was shut down, then unavailable and then restricted due to the pandemic. Now we’re trying to come out of it,” said Rob Falivene, vice president of supply chain services at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s going to take longer than people think because of continuing shortages, inflation, negative economic factors and regulation.”
The global supply chain is congested during the holiday shopping season every year, Falivene said. However, the continued effects of COVID-19 with labor shortages, inflated prices and low inventories, will make finding everyday materials and products even more difficult in the next several months, including for the Baylor community.
In late October, Falivene sent a notice to faculty and staff to assess their material needs and place their orders early. Delays should be expected, as well as some items being out-of-stock before the end of the year. All healthcare institutions, in the Texas Medical Center and beyond, will be dealing with supply shortages for at least six months, Falivene said.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), research materials, lab equipment and testing supplies are the most critical to order early, he added. After those supplies, tech products are considered the scarcest, including hardware, software and telecom items.
In early November, materials management sent a similar advisory about perishable product orders. BCM’s shipping and receiving group cannot store a large volume of product, so deliveries must be forwarded to the departments and accepted within 24 hours to avoid spoilage.
“The pandemic caused availability shortages because manufacturers were not able to keep up with orders; we ran out of all the stock, all the inventory worldwide,” Falivene said. “Now almost two years into it, there are availability shortages as the rest of the supply side cranks back up to manufacture and replenish what we use every single day.”
One of the biggest hurdles in supply chain now is the “log-jam” of cargo ships at ports on the west coast, Falivene said. A full cargo ship can take between five and eight days to unload. In November, there were more than 40 ships anchored off the west coast that need to be unloaded.
Due to this slowdown at various ports, supplies will be constrained for at least another six months, Falivene expects.
In April 2020, Falivene started as a consultant at Baylor to address challenges in supply chain and to ease the procurement of necessary materials needed to battle rising COVID cases.
Four months later, he was hired full-time to take on the task of building Baylor’s supply chain capability from the ground up. Falivene brings three decades of operations, supply chain and procurement experience to the College.
“Before the pandemic and the establishment of our Incident Command Center (ICC), procurement of critical supplies and PPE was fragmented across the College in every department,” Falivene said. “What the College needed to survive (the pandemic) was a strategic sourcing effort, supply chain planning, inventory management, distribution, order management and fulfillment.”
In short, a whole new supply chain services capability, Falivene said. Supply chain services (SCS) was created in August 2020 as a result of new partnerships and coordination across the College and input from the ICC.
SCS is a part of the College’s business operations group and is made up of procurement, accounts payable, contracts and compliance, materials management and business support services. The department engages with faculty, staff, affiliates and partners across the College, the medical center and Houston.
Falivene invites all faculty and staff to engage with his teams to create a strong connection and partnership to optimize supply chain capabilities.
“Everything is going to become more constrained and expensive as we work through these impacts from COVID,” he said. “These are worldwide problems that make their way through our supply chain and the College will continue to see impacts.”
– By Julie Garcia