B2B medical sales involve the purchasing of medical supplies, including personal protection equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, goggles, and face shields, and typical customers are labs, hospitals, clinics, manufacturing companies, and clean rooms. These products protect the wearer from their environment where infection, disease, or dangerous chemicals may be present. In hospitals, the wearer is protected from their patient, while in manufacturing or food production, they are protected from chemical exposure or cuts and abrasions to the hands.
Currently, a business user (purchasing associate) is usually required to keep a stock room filled with product. They’ll normally have a printed list of the stock room’s inventory, which is referenced when they do their weekly inventory check for re-orders. After noting what needs to be reordered, the information must be transferred to a computer to place the order. The order often has to be approved by a purchasing manager within the organization, though sometimes the purchasing associate will re-order from a previous transaction and only check the items that frequently change from week to week. For example, an order may stay 80% the same, and the other 20% requires a visual inspection to determine if stock needs to be re-ordered.
This process is slow, cumbersome, and requires a significant amount of manual labor. Buyers often run out of specific supplies and have to consume less until they can re-order. Failing to optimize this process to ensure there is also stock on hand is a missed opportunity for the supplier and a significant inconvenience to the buyer.
There are many solutions to this challenge. The use of a mobile app, a progressive web application (PWA), or an integrated website ordering system could have a powerful impact on this process. The mobile experience needs to be well thought out, enjoyable, fast, and the experience should feel like the other applications we use on our mobile devices, like banking, insurance, and email applications. Many apps and mobile websites try to duplicate the web experience, which results in a poor and inefficient experience, with frustrated users who choose not to use those applications on their mobile devices.
Just having technology is only half the solution; for mobile, the user experience is vital.
Low fidelity solution
A low fidelity option would allow the purchasing associate to walk through the stock room with their phone or tablet, bring up a typical order, and adjust quantities based on current stock levels.
The following features could be provided to create an enjoyable experience and streamline the re-stocking process.
- The process can be done using a modern mobile device or tablet; a typical Android or Apple device.
- The purchasing associate can log in to the app using Touch or Face ID.
- The system knows if the user is authorized to place the order or requires approval from a purchasing manager.
- The logged-in purchasing associate’s account is linked to the organization’s master account with the approved B2B medical equipment supplier.
- The purchasing associate may pick from a previous order, search for a product, or tap on a picture of popular products such as gloves, masks, face shields, etc.
- The app can add the selected products and quantities to the order.
- Once the purchasing associate is done, they can submit the order from the device.
- Approvers receive a push notification that an order is ready for approval.
- Approval can be done in the app or from the web portal.
- Once the order has been approved, the order is placed with the B2B medical sales provider.
The low fidelity option is a big step up from the current manual process and can be improved by a more sophisticated but easy–to–use solution.
High fidelity solution
The following additions to a low fidelity solution would provide even more efficiency and more accurate available stock quantity.
- An optional permanent mobile device in the stock room.
- A standard iOS/Android device with a tether to stop it from leaving the room.
- Product bar codes can be scanned, or a picture of stock is taken; machine learning recognizes product and quantity available.
- When the product is consumed by a member of staff, they can scan it with a mobile device and machine learning can identify the product via the camera, quantity is then deducted from “on-hand” stock.
- The system remembers previous order quantity and suggests re-order size based on order history and consumption.
- The system knows how much stock has been consumed and recommends re-order amounts. It can use patterns to auto-order that may be adjusted or canceled by the purchasing manager.
- Push notifications remind purchasers to check stock and re-order either based on time, consumption patterns, or current stock levels.
- The mobile application could still be used without a cellular or data connection and synchronize later if the stock room is in a location with a poor WiFi or cellular connection.
- The system can provide reporting about seasonal trends of product consumption, individuals who consumed products, time/date, etc.
- Approver receives a push notification and email.
- Approver approves the order.
Training is often required for the correct use of PPE equipment. To aid in the adoption of best practices and provide additional value, the mobile application may include training videos for the correct use of products and PPE equipment such as the donning and removal of gloves and apparel and the proper handling to protect patients and maintain a clean environment.
While B2B medical sales are overall different from retail, there are enough similarities that we can borrow solutions from the retail industry. There are some low–cost/free solutions available if a B2B medical supply organization can’t manage the budget for its own solution.
Existing mobile applications related to stock and order management
Inventory Now, a retail mobile application, helps resellers track products, delivery, shipping, and consumed products.
KiWi Objects also provides a mobile solution with quantity management, items, and grouping of products (for example, different types of gloves under the “gloves” group). The mobile application also provides location and warehouse tracking of products.
If you are interested in learning more about potential solutions for B2B medical sales, please contact our Mobile and Commerce teams at Perficient. For more insights on how the B2B healthcare industry is evolving and how your business can innovate to get ahead, check out our recent guide.