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Software key to smooth distribution

06 March 2015

MACS Software, IBM and the London Business School have cooperated to improve drug distribution in Zambia.

The distribution centre in Lusaka has used MACSwms for some years and the system has now been upgraded to include the latest enhancements. However, fundamental difficulties with infrastructure, communications and transport in Zambia mean that deliveries are often delayed or damaged owing to extended delivery routing. The project, named eZICS, will cut through these problems and deliver an intelligent procurement and distribution system. This new demand management, forecasting and stock allocation process, designed and managed by the London Business School, has the ability to predict demand and plan for statistical variations.

Each delivery hub has internet access to MACS’s locally hosted system where MACSwms is used to control warehouse operations. With this setup Lusaka is given greater visibility of stock movements and can track at box level what has been despatched from the hubs. Records of what has been received, what is being distributed and what is being returned are all managed electronically, reducing the burden of paperwork for staff and providing real-time information throughout the system.

Phase two, which has just commenced, will result in each outlet being issued with a mobile device. These devices will use a sophisticated application to communicate directly with a ‘demand and forecast module’ possessing advanced operating algorithms created by the London Business School. This module will process the order information from both districts and facilities and link directly with MACSwms in Lusaka. At the same time it will use historical data and known factors such as seasonal adjustments and demographic information to predict demand for each product and pack size and advise the procurement system accordingly. This phase is planned to go live later this year.

Phase three, and the final part of eZICS, brings all aspects of the project together. It will focus on procurement driven by the demand created at the hubs and will link MACSwms in Lusaka to the Medical Stores ACCPAC accounting package (Sage 300 ERP). By taking full responsibility of procurement (away from the Ministry of Health), Medical Stores will provide a single, robust and seamless system for the procurement and distribution of drugs to its people.

Tony Liddar from MACS Software said that the project is both complex and interesting. "It’s great for MACS Software to be able to work with IBM and the London Business School on this project and develop the interfaces to their technology,” he said. "On the human side, we are delighted that our work is helping the people of Zambia receive the medical care that they need and deserve.”