It's been years in the making, and there's still work to do, but Guyana is now close to having a leading procurement and distribution system for ARV (Anti Retro Viral) and essential medical and surgical supplies to supply its regional hospitals and clinics. The project team was led by Richard Miller of MACS Software.
It was back in 2007 that MACS Software was contracted by SCMS, the facilitating organisation for projects through US Aid, to implement a Warehouse Management System at the country's central distribution facility for medical supplies at Farm. At that time the facility employed no computer systems, everything was managed using old fashioned bin cards, the recorded and actual stocks didn't match and the product flow (the proportion of people actually getting what they had ordered) was running at around 30%.
After implementation of MACSwms, workflow improved to around 90% and, for a time, things went well. But procurement difficulties resulted in the warehouse, and subsequent overflow facilities, being flooded with unwanted goods leaving little space for those that were desperately needed. Service levels dropped again and the whole system was in serious need of a new approach.
In 2008 MACS Software was contracted to project manage a brand new facility which, once all the legalities were finalised, started building in Diamond in 2010. The building was one of Guyana's first Portal Frame warehouses giving around 26,000 sq ft of floor space. When completed it would have sufficient capacity to empty the building in Farm and take in the stocks from the other satellite warehouses bringing everything under one roof.
The project suffered from regular delays and labour problems which the project team were able to resolve through regular contact with the Minister of Health and the main contractor. Even so it was not until November 2012 that the warehouse was ready to move into. "To get everything moved we had to apply for special authority to move the stock," said Richard. "We were able to adapt the standard MACSwms to allow us to split pallets to provide the vital supplies to keep the hospitals and clinics around the country functioning. In this way we were able to make sure everyone had essential supplies and avoid what could have been a very difficult situation."
Stock transfer stared on 12 November and continued for nine days with a constant stream of trucks. "We even got the drivers to engage in some healthy competition to see how many runs a day they could each do." MACS, working closely with government officials, managed procurement planning; devised a new management structure; and used the MACSwms to keep control of the transfer of stock from the various stores to Diamond.
The old warehouse in Farm had been unable to meet demand and required daily replenishment to maintain any hope of having the right stocks. Even then pack sizes were often wrong leading to very high levels of waste. The new warehouse has brought everything under one roof, recorded and actual stocks match, product flow is up to 99%, and efforts have been made to ensure that procurement matches requirement thereby achieving a stock replacement rate of 90 days. "We are aiming to get that up to 180 days in the near future."
Although the MACSwms employed is essentially the same RF System installed in 2007, it has been given regular upgrades. The complexity of the project has proved both its worth as a vital management tool and its flexibility in being able to handle everything that these extraordinary circumstances demanded. MACS is now working with the senior management team in Guyana to negotiate a change in Guyanese law to allow the use of a 21st century replacement for the old bin card system. There is also an opportunity to use MACSwms to manage the procurement process, a facility built into the system that has not yet been used in Guyana.
It's been a marathon project but it has involved nothing that MACS hasn't done before nor anything that could not be repeated anywhere in the world. "It has highlighted an absolutely critical need for preparation and project management," Richard said. "It's now really encouraging to see an empty shell turning into a fully functioning distribution facility thanks to the hard work of everyone concerned."
Most importantly, by the middle of December orders from Diamond were 100% complete meaning that the hospitals and clinics around the country would soon receive the vital supplies so desperately needed. With continued good management of the site, and a constant programme of monitoring and improvement, they should never run short of supplies again.