UMCG distribution chain is a role model

Maaike Rijk Maaike Rijk Facebook Linkedin

In 2007, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) started its own distribution center several kilometers away from the hospital. They used an advances system to handle their entire distribution. CurTec attached lid containers play a pivotal role in this process.

Mobile distribution van

Before the arrival of the distribution center, UMCG used a mobile distribution van. “However, the volume was continually increasing, said Jonny Mooi, Head of Eemspoort Logistics Center at UMCG. The organization signed a contract with DHL and started using roll containers. However, these were  awkward and heavy. Jonny: “That is why we developed a new container that allowed us to place trays inside. However, this was not the main reason for choosing the attached lid containers.”

Less waste, greater hygiene, easier to handle

“Working with attached lid containers has allowed us to considerably reduce our waste stream. In the past, we used cardboard boxes and we were also forced to use a lot of extra packaging material. This created a lot of return waste and required additional handling. Furthermore, the boxes produced dust - something that is not desirable in a hospital. We had already decided on using a conveyor belt for transport within the distribution center. Using trays combined perfectly with this choice.”

“The shape and design of the attached lid containers allow easy handling. They are easy to stack, they do not require tape and they can be labeled. Another great benefit, especially to a hospital, is that you can leave them in a department and their contents stay relatively anonymous. In case they contain sensitive content, they can be locked”, says Jonny.

We do not stock medicines and we are not allowed to receive radioactive materials. Apart from that, all kinds of stuff arrives here, from medical apparatus to crisps.

Various applications

How does UMCG use the attached lid containers at this moment? Jonny: “The containers are used for various applications, which range from medical disposables and medical records to crisps and soft drinks. This flexibility allows us to use one solution that is safe and manageable.”

UMCG Central Medical Archive

“After delivery, the items are divided over the containers at the distribution center. The standard container is black and has a black lid. Sterile materials get a red lid and goods for the Central Medical Archive (CMA) a blue lid. Privacy is essential in case of medical records. We seal the containers to make tampering visible.”

“For urgent deliveries, we use a red container marked “URGENT” - clear and simple for everyone. Furthermore, roll containers are locked with a padlock. The pharmacy uses a yellow lid but they organize their own distribution. We only wash the containers.”

Based outside the hospital site

The distribution center is based a few kilometers away from the hospital which seems an unlikely choice at first sight. “Correct” Jonny says. We were previously based in rented premises near the hospital. However, these premises became outdated which increased the need for our own site. We also wanted to work together with the Martini Hospital, so this made relocation a necessity.”

“First we believed we should stay on the hospital site, but there were a number of drawbacks to that option so we had to come up with an alternative. Every day, around sixty trucks arrive to deliver and collect goods.  Some of them are small, but others are quiet big. Public space is limited in the city center and is caused a lot of problems.”

Around sixty trucks arrive and leave every day

“Furthermore, building a warehouse on the hospital site would become an expensive affair due to the high square meter price. We would probably end up in a basement where columns are always in the way. Building a new, external site would allow us to design the space according to our needs. At the same time, it requires careful thinking about arranging service and bundling items.”

Roller conveyors at UCMG's Logistical Center

Less handling

Jonny: “The system we chose allows us freedom with pre-sorting and keeps handling to a minimum. The consignment is prepared in the attached lid containers at the distribution center, placed in a rolling container and passed to DHL. At the hospital, the consignment is moved to a scissor lift by means of the underground corridors. The crates are then moved up to the access points where they need to be. From there they are taken to the relevant department or the crates are unpacked in the basement. Since we have been using  the attached lid containers, we estimate that we have reduced handling by around 25%.” We need less people, we are able to transport the crates more quickly and we make fewer mistakes through the use of track and trace.”

Challenges in healthcare

Even though the process is working well at the moment, there are always challenges. “Bringing together two sites and different cultures naturally brings challenges As I mentioned, taking the distribution outside of the hospital led to the necessary discussions. The greatest challenge at the moment is the sheer variety of the incoming goods. We have to deal with more hazardous goods. Furthermore, we have to comply with various regulations, such as HACCP, CCKL, the medical products act and change management.”

“Whereas a few years ago you used to need more hands, now you need people who understand logistics and who are focused on service. Our greatest challenge is adapting to these changes and the continuous management of the entire chain.”

UMCG chose high performance packaging to organize its logistics efficiently and to comply with various regulations. What is your packaging challenge? CurTec will be pleased to help you look for the solution.

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