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What's the outlook for CPAP supply in 2022?

What's the outlook for CPAP supply in 2022?

Toilet paper. As the pandemic loomed, people began reporting low or non-existent stock of toilet paper on store shelves. Who could have predicted that a toilet paper shortage would be an early sign of supply chain challenges? Challenges that are likely to last well into 2022, and maybe even beyond.   

When it comes to supply chain challenges, the biggest issue is that there isn’t just one issue. Is it the ocean ports? Staffing shortages? Manufacturing constraints? Supply chains are, in fact, chains, and fixing one issue can potentially create another down the line.  

Shut down a factory for a couple weeks and your manufacturing line gets behind while orders keep coming in. Manufacture more goods than the world has ever seen and run into shortages of raw materials. Get the product to a facility that will ship to the consumer, only to find that facility is struggling with staffing challenges. 

Pre-pandemic, the majority of supply chains operated with a just-in-time model: Only order product when it’s needed. It’s a great model if consumer trends are consistent and predictable. And it helps minimize costs associated with carrying additional inventory. However, it doesn’t give much room for a major shift in demand, as we saw with a global pandemic.  

That shift had a significant impact on supply chains in every industry, including—and perhaps especially—the health care industry. In my conversations with VGM Fulfillment’s vendor partners, they agree that challenges continue to be very real and will most likely be here well into 2022. One such partner notified us that an item would be delayed because their production molds were stuck in transit at a carrier terminal. Another said they had multiple containers floating on the ocean in the backlog of ships waiting to be unloaded.  

So, what can we do?   

As we assess the past 18 months, one thing seems to be clear: The just-in-time model used across most of the global supply chain is outdated and it lacks the ability to adapt with quick changes in society. The just-in-case model may not be the perfect answer to the situation, but it certainly seems that the argument can be made to implement some of its methods.  

While we seek a long-term solution, we have to manage our expectations. Understand that any solution requires both time and resources. Expect occasional backorders, as well as price increases in most industries. Supply chain issues are complex, and it will take coordinated efforts to solve them. And we must work together.  

At VGM Fulfillment, our procurement team is working weekly with our vendor partners to help anticipate any challenges in the short and long term as we go into 2022. In doing so, we’ve also been able to limit our resupply backorders in 2021. While our CPAP business has experienced a higher-than-average backorder rate during the pandemic, 2021 has averaged only 1% higher than our pre-pandemic backorder rates. This credit goes, in large part, to the efforts of all vendor partners during this challenging time.  

For those in the post-acute health care market, we’ll have to continue to innovate and find new ways of doing business. It’s difficult to take on every challenge on your own, especially with the current staffing shortages. Find partners you can trust to help ease the burden of doing business. Consider utilizing a business partner for help with technology, inventory management, or even compliance. This will allow you to focus on your core business and offer the best care and service to your customers and patients. 

There are more challenges ahead. But if the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that our industry is as innovative as it is resilient.  

R.J. Meyer is the senior vice president of sales and customer support for VGM Fulfillment. Reach him at [email protected]

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