Intermountain Healthcare Fulfillment Center Aims for Medical Supply Preparation

By Roxanne Squires

MIDVALE, Utah – Pointing to the recent devastations of natural disasters including Hurricane Harvey and Irma, Intermountain Healthcare aims to strengthen Utah’s medical infrastructure in acquiring the supplies it needs to face a natural-disaster at its high-tech 327,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Midvale, while also using features that could earn it a LEED Gold certification. For any business, improving your overall supply chain strategy through cheaper costs, more efficient systems, and better fulfillment rates is important but can be life-saving too in the medical industry.

Construction on what is being called the ‘Kem C. Gardner Supply Chain Center’ prepares the facility for earthquakes and severe winter storms, the two most likely natural-disaster scenarios in Utah. The building has been designed to reach high performance in significant areas of human and environmental health, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

According to Gordon Slade, the supply chain logistics director, the Intermountain Supply Chain Center building was designed and built to a seismic importance factor of 7.5 on the Richter scale. It is equipped with plentiful medical equipment to get the needed materials to medical facilities within 48 to 96 hours without the assistance of disaster-response agencies.

The highly automated facility orders, purchases, stocks and distributes about 5,000 different types of medical supplies and medications with up to a 30-day supply on hand. More than 2.5 million medical items pass through the center each year, according to a statement.

Intermountain Healthcare Fulfillment Center in Midvale provides medical relief in the event of a natural disaster

“The large 327,000-square-foot building was built as if it were six different buildings all very close together [creating physical decoupling of foundations, floors and walls] to reduce the amount of damage that would otherwise occur in a moderate to strong earthquake,” said Slade. “The building is equipped with backup generators and fuel to run them for 72 hours or longer. There is also a Command Center room to coordinate with our hospitals, local, state and federal officials during a natural disaster event. The center is equipped with emergency communications radios, satellite phone and dedicated analog phone lines.”

Intermountain Healthcare strives to create a reduction in costs by purchasing supplies directly from the manufacturer, handling the delivery of products and streamlining processes. “Reduced supply costs come through the self-distribution model the building provides and includes a very high fill rate and accuracy rate to assure our caregivers have what they need to treat our patients,” said Slade.

There are innate efficiencies being achieved with these improvements such as large bulk purchase volumes, including standardization of supply, cost, quality, and outcome-based product selection and procurement. The overall improved availability of supplies will mitigate overnight shipment costs, improve supplier engagement and relationships, supply-chain efficiency and supply continuity (assuring needed supply at the greatest time of need, information, forecast and usage transparency.) Lastly, it will provide the ability for suppliers to see demand, warehouse automation and a reduction in labor costs as well as a dedicated transportation fleet, creating highly reliable and efficient deliveries.

“While the supply chain center does provide cost savings, its value is in the support of our clinicians and patients for improved quality and outcomes,” said Slade.

The building also has design features that incorporate LEED Gold certification aspects. While the building has not acquired such certification, it features several LEED design elements such as an LED lighting upgrade throughout the entire building, 55 kW solar panel array on the roof top, electric pool car with charging stations, direct access to public transportation and the light rail located at the corner of the campus, being built on land reclaimed from an EPA superfund cleanup site, an interior designed for daylight harvesting, xeriscape landscaping and recycled materials during construction.

The mainly automated center employs approximately more than 50 workers, according to a statement. Peggy Lee, a communications executive for Intermountain HealthCare’s supply chain operations, explained that the organization also equips distribution employees with the proficiency to maintain all of the center’s services, even if the robotics break down in the event of a disaster.

“We have this beautiful automation, and people [balance] to ensure we would be fully operational [in the event of a natural disaster],” Lee said.

The close proximity of the supply center to both Intermountain Healthcare facilities and traffic arteries will ultimately bolster medical workers in the event of an emergency, and will set a model for other centers to develop highly prepared storage and relief centers for their communities.