Logistics 911: Supply Chain Management for Emergency Services

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February 27, 2014

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Photo credit: http://www.jambonewspot.com/

Photo credit: http://www.jambonewspot.com/

The Machakos county governor, Alfred Mutua, has recently been at the forefront of the collective Kenyan consciousness thanks to a series of strategic launches aimed at improving the quality of living for his constituents. One particular acquisition by “Alfie” Mutua as he is known to his fans, “Selfie” Mutua to his detractors, that made a splash was the fleet of 70 ambulances to serve the arid county. While some question the wisdom of prioritizing this purchase over making improvements t the hospitals the ambulances are to serve, we in the logistics industry can only look at it from a supply chain management point of view. Indeed, while the purpose of the ambulances is purely medical, the management of the fleet falls squarely under logistics jurisdiction.

One major function of fleet management is dispatch. Supply chain managers tasked with ensuring smooth run of vehicle fleets usually maintain a well-oiled operation by establishing an efficient dispatch center to serve their fleet. Such dispatch centers are usually tasked with being constantly aware of vehicle locations or availability and assign cases accordingly. For a hospital commanding a fleet of ambulances, “orders” are in the form of calls coming in for emergency assistance. Based on location and urgency, ambulances are either dispatched from headquarters, or redirected from the field if available vehicles are closer to the area in need maximizing efficiency.

Closely related, the principles of logistics are also applicable in terms of routing. For a shipping company, dispatch centers rely on real time information from drivers in the field or traffic reports to identify routes which will be fuel efficient, save time and reduce redundant trips back and forth. For ambulances, the same is applicable: dispatch centers can guide emergency drivers on which routes to follow to avoid traffic gridlocks or advise on the shortest possible distance to a patient.

Photo credit: http://www.travelsignposts.com/

Photo credit: http://www.travelsignposts.com/

Another important aspect of fleet management is maintenance of vehicles and equipment. For a supply chain manager in a logistics firm, this will entail ensuring trucks are regularly checked for mechanical damage or wear and tear that could affect performance. Parts in need of replacing can also be catered to, using an in house mechanic or outsourcing to a niche company. For ambulances, the same is true. While the ambulance vans themselves must be kept in top condition, of even greater importance is making sure the equipment contained within is fully operational and the ambulances themselves are stocked with materials needed for duty such as bandages, medications and the like.

For smaller scale hospitals, fleet management may not be an option as acquiring an entire team of ambulances may be out of reach. Here, we draw a parallel to smaller logistics firms that find it necessary to outsource. Where maintaining a large number of vehicles is not financially advisable, supply chain managers can reach out for assistance within the logistics community, hiring our freighting services to niche companies specializing in this. Similarly, small hospitals can secure the services of specialized groups such as the Saint John’s Ambulance or Red Cross organizations. For medical personnel in ambulances themselves, there are likely to be cases where an getting patients back to the parent hospital would waste precious life saving moments. In this case, a smaller, reliable medical outlet nearby can be used to stabilize the patient first, making it safer to move them to more distant hospitals for proper treatment. This form of outsourcing can be arranged by dispatch centers as needed.

While the ailing citizens of Machakos call upon the freshly minted ambulances for aid, the fleet finds its salvation by dialing the logistics hot-line, and we are more than glad to assist. Do have a helpful week, won’t you?


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