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Students learn—and teach—lessons from a package's Incredible Journey


In the September 2011 Packademics column, we described a project by Michigan State University students that they affectionately called the "Incredible Journey." Students from the School of Packaging, the Learning and Assessment Center, Telecommunication Information Studies and Media, and Supply Chain Management worked with Oliver-Tolas Healthcare Packaging to characterize the places and spaces involved in the production, distribution and delivery of a Medical Action IV Start Kit. 


To do this, students used three cameras: (1) an eye tracking camera, which provided the user's point of view, (2) a handheld camera, which gave the overall scene and (3) a "spy camera," which provided the point of view of the kit itself.
The end product, a documentary, was a highlight of the Healthcare Packaging Immersion Experience (HcPIE) held Oct. 5-6 in East Lansing, MI. The presentation involved "live talking" and a series of clips, which also will be used in classes to help students understand the complexities of the supply chain and the processes that deliver this seemingly simple product. 


The September Packademics article started the chronicle with the packaging's origin, delivery and simulated use by paramedics in an ambulance. 


During the final legs of the journey, students visited the Romulus, MI, warehouse of Medical Action's distributor, Owens & Minor. The facility serves more than 50 healthcare customers daily, and incoming pallets carry as many as 15 different product codes. Each code is scanned, then delivered to an appropriate location in the warehouse until a purchase order is generated by the hospital. 


The last segment of the journey involved deliveries to a local hospital: Ingham Regional Medical Center. This acute care facility treats more than 30,000 patients per year in its Emergency Department. Students visited the hospital's emergency department and its central store. 


In the emergency area, students filmed stock technicians checking bedside carts and discovered that, when an emergency room cart became low on IV start kits, personnel took the cart to a supply room to restock. When inventory in the supply room falls below a specified threshold, a pick ticket is created so that relevant items can be pulled from the offsite, central-stores location. 


At central stores, incoming product is received in mixed pallets from Owens & Minor five times per week. Upon receipt, it is manually checked in and distributed to appropriate locations within the central stores warehouse to await picking. 


Picked items are transferred to a large cart and shipped to the hospital to restock the supply room. Upon arrival there, the start kits are transferred from the carts into bins, where they wait until the stock technician loads them into the emergency room cart. After the emergency room cart is stocked, it is taken to the bedside, where kits await administration by a healthcare provider as part of patient care. After use, packaging materials and most components are disposed of in the trash.


The "journey" wrapped with an extensive list of credits that highlighted the collaborative nature of the endeavor. 


This article was written by the School of Packaging team involved in the Incredible Journey project: Matt Koss, Tony Trier, Laura Bix, PhD; Britteny Bratschi; Doug Furgason; MaryKay Smith; Raghav Prashant Sundar; and Jane Severin.

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