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As we navigate through a world overwhelmed by the coronavirus (COVID-19), the impact of the disruption it has caused to supply chain operations can be felt all around. From medical supplies to food, toilet paper to parts and supplies for manufacturing, nearly every industry has been affected.


While organizations continue to adapt and adjust to this “new normal,” when it comes to managing and optimizing supply chain and logistics operations, data challenges have always — and continue to — exist.


On a recent #TogetherWeSolve Alteryx webinar, I was privileged to have Liz Hackett from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), along with Robert Lafond and Michael Wheeler of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), join in for a discussion on how they’re using strong analytical capabilities to optimize key supply chain and logistics functions within their respective organizations. 


At NIH, Liz and her team are responsible for logistics operations that support over 800 scientists, including their labs and the critical research they are conducting. One of the challenges she faced after joining NIH was the lack of an efficient and transparent workflow management of orders for supplies and equipment that keep the important work at NIH moving ahead.


Using Alteryx, Liz and her team were able to create a workflow that visualizes the ordering process and creates insights into how orders flow. Initial insights showed that it was taking an average of 82 hours for orders to be processed. Using this information, the team was able to implement changes that reduced the process down to an average of 40 hours. Additional insights allowed then to reduce the time it took to produce quarterly reports from two weeks down to 45 minutes — monthly reconciliation no longer means lost days of productivity.


One of the key objectives of the NIH is to keep its doctors and scientists focused on protecting our health. Strong data and analytics capabilities contribute to this through improved tracking of critical IT and scientific equipment. This ensures that older equipment is replaced or repaired before it fails, and supply chains are monitored more closely to account for unforeseen periods of disruption.


The VHA oversees 170+ locations, each playing a vital role in protecting the health of our veterans. One of the data challenges Robert and Michael faced with managing supply chain information across the large and distributed network was the multiple local systems (and methods) to track inventory.


Using Alteryx, the VHA can quickly compare individual master inventory files from each VHA location and compares it to a VHA-developed National Item File System. With this in place, the Alteryx workflow can easily identify anomalies that need to be corrected (either automatically or manually) and communicate out to the various supply chain management systems. This process is repeated on a recurring basis, enabling continuous enrichment and harmonization across the distributed system.


At the VHA, one of the biggest benefits of a strong data and analytics platform like Alteryx is the ability to self-document the analytic workflow. The visualization that the Alteryx platform provides allow analysts to brief leadership on the logic used to produce the output of any given Alteryx workflow. This capability helps to answer most questions and creates a level of trust in the insights.


Today, not only does the VHA leadership team have a greater level of transparency into how actionable insights are created, it is improved collaboration between the VHA and the Department of Defense and their respective healthcare supply chain operations.


In both cases, high-performing analytics teams were able to improve collaboration across complex enterprise-wide systems through trusted and actionable insights. That is the power of the Alteryx Platform.


I want to express my deep gratitude to Liz, Robert, and Michael for their time and for sharing insights into their analytics journeys. More importantly, I want to thank them for their efforts in using data and analytics to help improve health outcomes for veterans and the public.


You can listen to the webcast here.

Andy MacIsaac
Solutions Marketing Director, Public Sector