New Supply Chains for a New Decade

January 9th, 2020 | Viewpoint

Edward Wilson of JSI’s Center for Health Logistics starts the year with a 2019 stocktake and thoughts for future supply chains 

Cycle counts (or continuous inventory) may be increasingly in vogue in our industry, but sometimes you can’t beat a good old fashioned stocktake. Like many of our colleagues, I find the end of the year a good time to pull back from the “noise” of our daily work, discern some of the signals that are out there, and evaluate how we are meeting the evolving needs of our clients, and more importantly our ultimate supply chain customers: the men, women, and children who depend on the lifesaving products we deliver.

This year, I have a head start, since at the recent Global Health Supply Chain Summit in Johannesburg, my inSupply Health colleague Yasmin Chandani and I looked at how our industry has changed and what the supply chains of the future will need to succeed. We are clearly at a crossroads: we saw dramatic changes in the early 2000s with the launch of the Millennium Development Goals and the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Gavi; PEPFAR; PMI; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the subsequent injection of resources. This led to many more people accessing products and services for HIV, malaria, immunization, and family planning, and the accompanying expansion and strengthening of health supply chains.

We collectively did great work—as evidenced by improved health indicators  including an increased  number of patients on antiretroviral therapy—but we are now entering a new era with new goals (the Sustainable Development Goals) and a new focus on sustainability, self-reliance, and localization. Health supply chains in low- and lower-middle income countries are creaking under the stress, and we need fresh thinking and new models to meet changing demands, such as the elimination of HIV and malaria, and to respond to new health priorities, such as non-communicable diseases. We also must do more with less. Our future supply chains need increased patient-centricity and control, more strategic approaches to medicines and services purchasing, increased private-sector participation, more technological fixes for data visibility, and new skills for the people managing our supply chains. The path to these new supply chains builds on what is working, grows the market for new and existing private sector participants, puts more resources and control in the hands of consumers, and creates governance structures that facilitate collaboration and accountability at all levels.

I’d like to highlight a few of our recent projects and activities over 2019 that, to me, show how we are helping our customers build health supply chains of the future:


Our East Africa affiliate inSupply Health wrapped up its first full year of operations and continues to shape the supply chain landscape in the region. The inSupply team brings their experience and expertise to the local level to include users, clients, and partners in the creation of supply chain solutions. In the coming year, inSupply will continue to focus on user-centricity by driving the integration of human-centered design in adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs; implementing a redesigned mobile supply chain tool for migratory populations based on user insights; and continuing to cut across the public and private sectors to strengthen supply chain performance and increase access to health supplies.

Visibility and Control Towers 

In September, JSI’s Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM) was awarded a new contract to provide procurement agent services to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria under its Pooled Procurement Mechanism. To support these services to PFSCM’s other clients, we have implemented a commercial control tower solution from One Network. It offers seamless end-to-end data visibility across channels and partners that supply chains of the future demand. We look forward to leveraging the control tower’s capabilities to add client value in 2020.

Technology and patient-centricity 

Our AIDSFree project in Zambia recently completed an endline evaluation of its OpenLMIS implementation (publication forthcoming). The results show how OpenLMIS has increased medicine availability and improved supply chain performance. They also show the value of extending technology solutions up and down the supply chain. In the case of Zambia, OpenLMIS extends to the dispensary level by connecting with a facility edition module. This simple technology has made the job of ARV dispensing easier, allowing busy pharmacies to serve more clients faster and reducing client wait times in clinics. These benefits have contributed to system adoption by pharmacy staff and the Ministry of Health. 

Local technology and the last mile

Our immunization supply chain work in Ethiopia achieved a milestone this year when we and the Federal Ministry of Health completed implementation of the locally developed, open source, mobile mBrana solution for vaccine inventory management at district (woreda) level. Nearly 800 woredas in Ethiopia can now order vaccines electronically and provide real-time stock visibility. But more importantly, we are a step closer to last-mile vaccine visibility: we and the FMOH successfully piloted the tool in seven facilities in Tigray and look forward to working with partners to implement the solution at scale in 2020 and provide end to end visibility.

In 2020, we look forward to continuing this journey by transforming and scaling health supply chains, building healthy markets that adapt to evolving client needs, and enhancing health supply chain sustainability.

Written by: Edward Wilson

Partner with Us

We strive to build lasting relationships to produce better health outcomes for all.