This Wednesday, I’ll roll-up my sleeve and provides blood. Regardless of the pandemic, I’m responding to a focused e mail marketing campaign by the American Purple Cross pleading for O optimistic blood donors. After I recovered from COVID-19 in March, I began giving blood each eight weeks. My motivation? Initially, I needed to assist however, the American Purple Cross’ provide free of charge COVID-19 antibody testing sealed the deal. I used to be curious. I needed to know the way lengthy my physique would generate antibodies to this new and unknown virus.

As a provide chain gal, the world is my oyster. I discover only a few merchandise with out an attention-grabbing provide chain problem. Final 12 months, in my qualitative analysis of 100 firms, I found that the Purple Cross was very mature in provide chain planning. When the pandemic hit, the Purple Cross’s maturity in Gross sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) and the alignment of provide chain necessities to the design of digital advertising campaigns averted discontinuity in United States blood provide. The storyline may very well be when the going will get robust, the robust get going.

Historic Perspective

The American Purple Cross, based in Washington, D.C. on Could 21, 1881, is well-known to United States residents, however few consider it in a supply-chain context. Sometimes, the Purple Cross collects greater than 4.5 million blood donations from practically 2.6 million volunteers representing forty % of the US blood requirement. Underneath customary occasions, the company is dependent upon collections from faculties and places of work, however when these shutdown with COVID-19, the Purple Cross had an issue. With these establishments closed, how may they drive donations in the course of the pandemic? The staff labored collectively to revamp the availability chain to satisfy the nation’s necessities.

January is Nationwide Blood Donor Month. On common, every year, the American Purple Cross delivers practically 6.Four million blood merchandise for transfusion to satisfy sufferers’ wants at about 2,500 hospitals and different services throughout the nation. On common, the Purple Cross collects blood and platelet donations at greater than 500 blood drives and donation facilities throughout the nation every day.

Working By way of Pandemic Points: The Purple Cross Story

Traditionally, January is a tricky month for Purple Cross blood assortment. Inclement winter climate and seasonal sickness scale back the willingness of donors to take part in blood drives. These yearly winter trials and tribulations pale compared to the present problem to get United States residents to provide blood throughout a pandemic. In 2020, the Purple Cross skilled tens of hundreds of blood drive cancellations throughout the nation as a consequence of coronavirus issues, leading to greater than 1,000,000 uncollected blood donations.

The Purple Cross labored laborious to mitigate the losses and enchantment to potential donors by digital advertising, media outreach and social engagement.  The company pushed for volunteers by tv promoting, and in June, the group applied COVID-19 antibody testing. All through the pandemic, the Purple Cross stepped up communication to let donors know the place their blood donation is used. Once I learn the inbound texts on my cell phone, I smiled that my convalescent plasma donation helped a affected person in Baltimore after which one other affected person in Atlanta. The communication spurred me to be a extra aggressive donor.

To higher perceive the dynamics and share the case examine of provide chain excellence, I interviewed the staff to learn the way they managed by the pandemic. Right here, I share classes from the Purple Cross management staff:

-Superior Gross sales and Operations Planning Processes. Once I interviewed the Purple Cross staff to evaluate their learnings in the course of the pandemic, they attributed a big a part of their success to their S&OP course of. Now in its tenth 12 months, the maturity in S&OP helped to align the staff for motion.

A typical provide chain has extra variability in demand than provide. The Purple Cross has an reverse drawback: the necessity is predictable, and the gathering donations differ. Through the pandemic, nothing was regular.

Determine 1. Purple Cell Provide Planning in Gross sales and Operations Planning

the pandemic, the group modified the S&OP course of cadence month-to-month to weekly to handle tighter cycles to be extra responsive. With the decline in elective surgical procedures with state shutdowns, the blood necessities diminished. To higher gauge demand, the staff modified the method modeling from a nationwide to a regional mannequin primarily based on hospitalization charges and state orders. Elevated planning frequency and higher granularity helped the Purple Cross to turn out to be a extra agile group to align and react faster.

-A Case Research of Profitable Attribute-Primarily based Planning. When blood is collected and warehoused, the group samples the product for 28 attributes. With item-level monitoring, care facilities (a hospital or important care unit) procures particular person models primarily based on a mix of things (the age of the product, antigen elements, and blood sort). Antigens can differ by ethnicity. To satisfy the nation’s blood provide wants, it’s important to assemble blood from a various inhabitants.

-Managing A number of Merchandise. The commonest blood donation assortment is  entire blood. Every blood unit incorporates pink blood, platelets, and plasma. When the blood is processed, pink blood cells are concentrated and mixed with vitamins to keep up the cell’s well being. A byproduct of the method is “frozen plasma,” used to assist sufferers struggling to enhance blood clotting.

-Stock Administration. Within the planning of the blood provide, freshness issues. The vast majority of the stock is a refrigerated liquid pink cell with a shelf lifetime of 42 days. Platelets have a five-day shelf life.

The Purple Cross operates 71 distribution websites and 22 manufacturing websites. The demand planning drives stock positioning within the community proven in Determine 2.  Attribute-based planning by S&OP drives the stock plan.

Determine 2. Stock Planning for the US Blood Provide

Connecting the Provide Chain to Digital Advertising. The Purple Cross provide chain fashions the amount of wanted pink cells by blood sort. The O adverse blood donor is the common pink cell donor, whereas plasma from the  AB donor is the common plasma donor. Solely 7% of the inhabitants are O adverse. Nonetheless, the necessity for O adverse blood is the very best as a result of it’s used most frequently throughout emergencies. The demand for O+ is excessive as a result of it’s the most steadily occurring blood sort (37% of the inhabitants).

The Purple Cross tracks every donor in a digital utility. The balancing of provide and demand by blood sort drives public outreach and digital campaigns. Every donor is inspired to provide blood each eight weeks. As an O optimistic donor, I obtain an e mail religiously on the eight-week calendar.

-Overcoming Transport Points. Historically, the staff makes use of a mix of floor and air cargo to maneuver product. Within the pandemic, with the cancellation of 60% of air cargo capability, the group needed to improvise, and design daisy chain floor runs between websites. 

-Making certain Security. To make sure security, the Purple Cross stepped as much as shield the 5,000 front-line employees and the donors. Protecting masks, thermometers, and sanitizer had been in brief provide, so the group set a construction for every day discussions and taking motion rapidly. The bias for motion bought the group by the robust occasions.  


When the group was requested, “What did you study within the pandemic?” The response was, “We thought we had been very ready for a catastrophe, however we discovered you must have a versatile provide chain. The mature S&OP course of was very important for fulfillment. We’ve benefited from a pandemic. It made us stronger as a company in ways in which we’ve not envisioned earlier than.”

Upon returning residence from the blood drive, I discovered that I not have the antibodies for COVID-19 in my bloodstream, however I give thanks for a well-functioning provide chain on the American Purple Cross.


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