Sustainable Blood Supply Chain Management: Could Segmentation and Lateral Transhipments be the key to the answer?

Research Cluster

Speaker:Dr Nicky Yates, Cranfield School of Management
Date: Thursday 21 July 2016
Time: 10:00
Location: XFI Building, Conference Room 1

Further details

Blood remains a scarce and precious resource due to its inherent perishability and the nature of its supply.  Good blood supply chain management therefore, focuses on maximising availability whilst minimising the wastage of blood; in an environment where stock outs cannot be permitted due to the consequences.   Wasting a unit of blood not only has a monetary cost but is also the wastage of the time of the donor.  Efficient and careful use of this resource is therefore an essential component in maintaining cost effective and sustainable health care services.

Much research effort has been expended in investigating how best to manage this resource (Belien & Force, 2012).  This paper investigates how two practises widely used within supply chain management can be applied to help achieve sustainable blood supply chain management.  The first is stock sharing or lateral transhipment; where blood components close to expiry are moved between hospitals to maximise the likelihood of a unit being used rather than wasted. This technique is widely used in supply chain management; particularly for maximising the availability of spare parts for aircraft and in other similar industries (e.g. Paterson et al, 2011).  In the blood supply chain context many of the benefits identified in the extant literature are found to be valid; it is particularly beneficial for small hospitals in reducing their wastage.  Units close to expiry are moved to a larger hospital which then has a greater chance of using the units, an example of an internal economy.  This further suggests that the management of blood via one size fits all principles is flawed. 

Segmentation of the blood supply chain into different groups of hospitals, blood components etc. and then the focussed management of each of these segments according to different principles has the potential to engender significant efficiencies and savings.   This is another technique which is widely used within supply chain management and the benefits have been widely demonstrated (e.g. Godsell et al, 2011, Childerhouse, Aitken and Towill, 2002).  In addition to managing small hospitals using specific targeted techniques such as stock sharing, to help them to minimise their wastage, similar principles can be applied to blood groups.  Due to the size and nature of their demand the large red blood cell components e.g. O+, A+, are shown to have relatively stable and predictable demand, this means that they are suitable for managing according to lean principles.  Manging these groups in a segmented way will then release time and resources to manage smaller more challenging components and also reduce the size of stocks held, reducing wastage overall.

The findings of this work have the potential to impact significantly on hospital practise. Improving the efficiencies of managing this scarce and precious resource and contributing to the efficiency and the sustainability of the health care system as a whole.


Belien J, Force H (2012) “Supply chain management of blood products: a literature review”, European Journal of Operations Research; 217:1-16.
Childerhouse, P, Aitken, J and Towill (2002) “Analysis and design of focused demand chains” Journal of Operations Management, 20, 675 - 689
Godsell, J., Christopher M., Diefenbach T., Clemmow C. and Towill D.(2011), "Enabling supply chain segmentation through demand profiling", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 296- 314.
Paterson C, Kiesmüller G, Teunter R, Glazebrook K. (2011) “Inventory models with lateral transshipments: a review” European Journal of Operations Research; 210:125-136.

Dr Nicky Yates is a Lecturer within the Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management.  She has a wide general interest in modelling the supply chain and her teaching and research is mainly focused in this area.  She teaches modules on physical network design, simulation and manufacturing on the Full Time and Executive Masters programmes in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.  Her research focusses on simulation and modelling of supply chains from strategic network optimisation to detailed simulation studies.  Nicky has a particular interest in the management of supply chains which handle perishable products such as food or blood. She has been working with NHSBT in England since 2009, mainly looking at ways of reducing blood wastage. More recently she has been involved in a project modelling the logistics operation for delivering blood to hospitals.  

Nicky joined Cranfield in December 2008. Prior to joining Cranfield, she spent 6 years working for Unilever and subsequently Birds Eye as a Research Engineer.  Her role was split between process development and simulation modelling.  She is a Chemical Engineer by initial training with a PhD in Food Rheology.