Supply Chain Anticipation: Strengthening Relationships


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Why it’s important to use the current environment to strengthen relationships with suppliers and customers.

Like many businesses across the United States, manufacturers, distributors – and the veterinary practices they serve – have had to pivot when it comes to securing and using PPE products. Effective collaboration and communication between both suppliers and providers will be key in avoiding future disruptions. Melody Alford, vice president of supply chain sourcing/purchasing at Animal Health International Inc., a Patterson Company, discussed the importance of those collaborative efforts with Veterinary Advantage.

1| This year has been incredibly disruptive. As a distributor, how do you forecast and stay ahead of possible supply chain challenges?

Alford: For the supply chain, it’s always an opportunity. The challenges present opportunities to strengthen your existing relationships with your suppliers. So, we moved into more collaboration with the manufacturers, providing them forecasting, working with them with what they’re seeing versus what we’re seeing, to try to help them get their production lines up and operational for additional requests coming in. And then it’s about trying to find alternate suppliers who are reliable and can produce consistent, quality product. That has really been the challenge. Since a lot of the product lines affected are manufactured overseas, it was very difficult early on trying to do those qualifications and vetting out the suppliers. But as we have moved through the pandemic, we are seeing more and more suppliers open up product lines here in the United States, which is making it much easier for us to have a consistent supply.

2| What are some significant ways that veterinary practices have changed as a result of the pandemic?

Alford: They have shifted over to different products as they’ve needed to. For example, we didn’t sell very many face shields on the veterinary side of the business, but as surgical mask availability began to be constrained, our veterinarians moved over to face-shields. So, having that collaboration with them helped us secure the needed inventory as they moved to an alternate product.

3| Distributor reps are in a key position to help veterinary practices right now. How are your reps maximizing that value and communicating that value to veterinary practices?

Alford: It comes down to collaboration with the practices. With reps visiting or talking to customers, we’re understanding where they feel insecure, and how we can help. A lot of our larger accounts are now providing us forecasting, asking for us to secure additional inventory for them as we walk through the pandemic and the shortages that they’re hearing about in the market. But whether it’s manufacturers on one end or veterinary practices on the other, it’s about communication and collaboration.

Meet the leader

Melody Alford
Vice President Supply Chain Sourcing/Purchasing at Animal Health International Inc., a Patterson Company.