April 2003 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Carol Carrieri: Life-Support Logistics

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Carol Carrieri had a warehouse full of medical supplies. The problem was how to get them into Manhattan.

Minutes after she and her staff at McKesson Medical-Surgical's distribution center in Dayton, N.J., learned of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, they started calling customers in New York to find out what they needed. They also got on the phone with police and military officials, coordinating transportation of critical supplies into a city that was closed to traffic.

"The tunnels were shut down," recalls Carrieri, who manages the Dayton facility. "We had to provide special ID to the drivers. There were radio communications that had to occur."

In addition, drivers had to stop at checkpoints for permission to enter the city. "They were escorted by the New Jersey State Police to a specific spot," Carrieri says. "Once we got them into the city, they rendezvoused and were escorted right to the hospital by the New York State Police."

McKesson's Dayton DC distributes medical supplies to hospitals, doctors' offices, and nursing homes in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York City. Saint Vincent's Medical Center in lower Manhattan, which received most of the injured after the attack, was not a McKesson customer. But McKesson and other companies stepped in to supplement the hospital's main medical-surgical distributor.

With all the security measures, moving product into New York took much longer than usual. "Those drivers were on the road until 4 or 5 a.m.," Carrieri recalls. "It didn't end there, because the next day we were still shipping to our regular customers."

As it grew tragically clear how few survivors were arriving at hospitals, McKesson's purchasing office in Richmond, Va., shifted its focus from intravenous solutions and burn packs to respirators and masks for rescue crews at Ground Zero. Managers in Richmond and Dayton held frequent conference calls to discuss the evolving need.

Since the terrorist attack, the Dayton DC has formed disaster plans with key customers. "Prior to this, no customer had my personal home number," Carrieri says. Along with emergency contacts at McKesson, each customer has also developed a list of supplies that the DC should ship immediately in a disaster, even without a phone call.

While Sept. 11 may have posed the biggest test of her career, Carrieri faces a daily challenge—helping her staff understand that their business leaves no room for error. Managers and hourly employees must remember that the products they ship might be headed straight to an operating room. Items that are damaged or dusty don't belong in that environment.

"You need to be very cautious and remember how you're handling products," Carrieri reminds employees during orientations and in monthly communications. A planned transition to a Warehouse Management System with bar-code scanners will make it easier to track the status of products, but for now the DC relies mainly on human vigilance.

"We literally walk the floor with reports we've run and we check the products on a monthly basis," she says.

Careful attention is crucial because in health care, the ultimate customer is the patient, Carrieri notes. "The primary mission is making sure that all patients have the particular product they need, when they need it."

The Big Questions

What are you reading?

I just finished Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, a book my 11-year-old daughter was reading and she wanted me to read as well.

What's in your briefcase right now?

A calculator, Food and Wine magazine, an old copy of Homer's Odyssey, my laptop and a PowerPoint presentation I'm working on for four key customers, helping us zero in on and eliminate service problems.

What's your business mission?

Taking care of the patient. That's always on my mind.

What do you do when you're not at work?

My husband and I like to cook a lot; we're always trying new recipes. I'm also very much involved in my kids' activities.

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