Reduce hospital waste and supply chain costs with a “packaging exam.”

An inside-out approach to sourcing hospital supplies - starting with clinical input on design and going straight to the factory rather than simply accepting what a distributor has to offer - brings clinical improvements, lowers cost, lowers risk and generates full visibility into the cost of acquisition.

As if this weren't valuable enough, in every case it creates an opportunity to streamline packaging, handling, storage and reduce the waste stream.

According to industry group Practice Greenhealth, the healthcare sector creates 25.1 pounds of waste per staffed bed every day or 5.9 million tons annually. Health Facilities Management also reports that 54 percent of solid waste components by weight are paper and cardboard.

Here are two top ways the packaging of common, commoditized hospital products matters to the bottom line and the environment for hospital CFOs.

Packaging: less is more, smart and green.

1. Eliminate secondary packaging (and haul weight even for recyclables).
Enough with the boxes in boxes, aka "inner cartoning." NewYork-Presbyterian used to receive stethoscopes from a distributor in 100-count boxes, in which each stethoscope was individually boxed AND bagged.

NYP now receives stethoscopes direct from the factory (sourced through ASP Global) at lower cost, with the wasteful, unnecessary, internal secondary packaging (100 cardboard boxes) removed and replaced with ziplock bags. The result: multiple pounds of cardboard eliminated from the waste stream every day and ensuring that both packaging elements enter the recycling stream instead of the landfill.

Reducing unnecessary packaging in your common, commoditized hospital products keeps trash out of the landfill and reduces spending on haul aways, recyclables included. It also creates a denser packaging 'environment' for the products that reduces the amount you spending to "ship air," which brings us to the second top way an environmentally friendly mindset can positively impact the bottom line for hospital CFOs.

2. Stop shipping air.
One hospital supply chain manager tells the story of a 50 count aspirin bottle he receives from a major medical distributor. "It comes in a 2' by 2' box surround by 1.5 liter airbags. It's crazy how much space is wasted. And I pay for my own shipping!"

Major carriers including Fedex and UPS rolled out dimensional weight pricing in 2015 charging merchants or shippers the greater of the volumetrically determined price ("Dim weight") or the actual, scale based weight. Shipping air is a bad idea and poor environmental practice with increasingly negative financial implications. Is your distributor shipping air and charging you for it? It should be avoided where possible.

Reduce your overall carbon footprint
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, every gain in volumetric packaging efficiency reduces raw or source materials needed and consumed, the number of deliveries required and the associated reduction in fossil fuel consumption and emissions. It's that simple.

On the surface it might seem packaging is too 'deep in the weeds' for strategic-minded hospital CFOs. However a closer look into the bottom-line supply chain impact and a broader view of environmental impact of the packaging of common, commoditized hospital products warrants a more thorough discussion of the topic between hospital CFOs and their supply chain and purchasing managers.

About the author
Lorne Tritt is Founder and CEO of ASP Global. With headquarters in Atlanta and operations in the Pacific Rim, ASP is a leader in global sourcing strategies and programs that enable IDNs, hospitals and large group practices to take advantage of lower costs and improved quality in hospital medical supplies available through direct sourcing, an efficient supply chain model and the global marketplace.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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