By Amy Timmes

Emergency!  A 9-1-1 call comes in.  The dispatcher reaches out to an ambulance.  The EMTs or paramedics arrive on the scene and go to work providing life support services.  The patient is loaded into the ambulance and away it rushes to the designated hospital.  These mobile care units, stocked with defibrillators, life support systems and medications, help to save lives every day.

Who thinks about the equipment and the related costs when someone’s life or health is at stake?  At Hackensack Meridian Health, in Hackensack, New Jersey, the EMS units think about these things every day.  A dedicated group of Tour Chiefs (shift managers) not only runs the EMS operations, but they have discovered the need to coordinate a team of supply chain and inventory managers to keep the mobile care units stocked with all the necessary supplies through the hospital’s vendors.   Keeping costs down while stocking an ambulance with quality equipment requires a delicate balance.

This challenge prompted M.B.A. alumna, Michelle Kobayashi (’15), and current Administrative Director of EMS and Emergency Community Operations at Hackensack Meridian Health, to contact Stillman Instructor, Dr. Renu Ramnarayanan (Department of Computing and Decision Sciences).  Kobayashi sought the help of a few select Stillman graduate students to consult with the Mobile Intensive Care Units’ purchasing, sourcing, and inventory management.

“This is a two-year project that began in the Spring of 2015,” said Ramnarayanan. “There are three types of ambulances,” she explained.  “Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Special Care Trauma Unit (SCTU).  We initially started to study BLS vehicles in two areas: first, usage patterns, and second, purchasing patterns.”

The Stillman team has since recommended ways to adjust purchasing to achieve a balance in demand and supply.  Additionally, they suggested upgrading to bar codes to manage inventory control.

“Once the implementation is successful in the BLS units, we will move on to similar analyses in the ALS units,” Ramnarayanan continued.  “We hope to keep going from there.”

Joey Rubba, EMS Tour Chief at Hackensack Meridian Health, stressed how their EMS department is rapidly growing.  “The Seton Hall team has enabled me to focus on operations while also exclusively managing the supply chain responsibilities.”  Rubba has even recommended Stillman’s team to a friend who works in EMS at University Hospital in Newark.

Kobayashi is equally delighted with the assessment solution that the Stillman interns and her Material Management team have implemented.  “Everything is set up and ready to use the scanners [for inventory], she commented.  “Now I can figure out who’s doing what and at what cost.  We have reduced overhead on the trucks as well as the entire supply cabinet, even with the increase in vendor costs.  It has helped my budget considerably.”

Current Stillman interns appointed to work on this project include MBA candidates Samantha Foo, Xu Li, Tailong Song, and Khalil Alsheri.   Seasoned team leader, Joe Meyers, who began working with Hackensack Meridian Health in August 2016, has currently been overseeing the Stillman staff as they identify vendor costs, suggest new strategies, and offer suggestions on ways to improve purchasing patterns.

Since her first day of MBA orientation, Samantha Foo knew she wanted to study supply chain management because, she said, “It’s a growing field in all companies.”  Foo has particularly enjoyed the financial side of researching and consulting with Hackensack. “It was especially interesting to look at the data and track which ambulances use which products and the costs associated with them,” she said.

Meyers further explained Stillman’s involvement and accomplishments.  “Our team identified key vendors, analyzed purchasing, and built a presentation that displayed our findings, along with recommendations to improve processes,” he said.  “Ultimately, Michelle Kobayashi used our work as the foundation of her yearly presentation to senior leaders.”

Meyers expects to graduate in May 2017 with an M.B.A. in Finance.  After obtaining his B.A. in Organizational Management at Gettysburg College, he chose Stillman School of Business “to develop his technical skills and specifically to gain access to the New York market through Stillman’s networking opportunities.”  His hard work has led to a job offer with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in New York, as an Analyst in their Middle Market Group, starting in July, which he has accepted.   

Although Meyers is a finance major, the research focusing on supply chain management for Hackensack’s EMT group has given him a leg up in his marketability.  “This project has improved my problem-solving abilities, expanded my analytical skills, and enhanced my leadership capabilities,” he said.

Typically, graduate students earn three credits for this type of independent study with Stillman practice partners, such as Hackensack Meridian Health.  In this case, time investment has involved periodic site visits, one team meeting per week on campus, and the requisite hours of research and data analysis.

According to Kobayashi, “The interns have been fantastic.  We gave them clear direction, and they have been professional and engaged.”  Best of all, she is happy with the success of the program.   “We’ve accomplished green dollar savings from a bottom line perspective, and the ongoing data analysis helps me with my managerial decisions.”  She even plans to present the program to State and National EMS conferences.

Bottom line: Hackensack Meridian called for help.  Stillman dispatched students to the rescue.  Result:  Hackensack dollars saved.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st print edition.

If you are interested in participating in this consulting project contact: Dr. Renu Ramnarayanan at renu.ramnarayanan@shu.edu

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