MRO Magazine

West Coast Port Slowdown: How a Leading Medical Supply Company Sidestepped the Issues and Even Gained Business

By Business Wire News   


Ports are the gateway to trade and infrastructure in the U.S. and when the West Coast port slowdown struck the hardest between December 2014 and February 2015, it crippled many retailers and manufacturers. As the labor standoff reduced productivity, a recent study from the National Retail Federation and National Association of Manufacturers estimated that a five-day stoppage would reduce the gross domestic product by $1.9 billion a day.

Knowing that the customer must always come first, especially in the healthcare industry where the ability to access products can directly influence patient care, Medline, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies, implemented a number of strategic initiatives to avoid product interruptions during the port slowdown and earn their customers’ respect.

“Our customers can’t take the day off just because they don’t have the right products to care for their patients,” says Ron Barth, executive vice president, sales, Medline. “They relied on our foresight in advance of the port slowdown to ensure their patients’ needs were protected. It’s a testament to our responsiveness and commitment to our customers that we invested in several customized strategies to help keep products flowing.”

Medline joined forces with major steamship lines and teams of carriers by land and air from across the world to maintain crucial product flow. In addition, the company manufactured and built up even higher inventory months in advance. Other measures included prepositioning inventory and routing containers through alternative ports, spending well over $10 million on airfreight, and implementing a number of other key initiatives with strategic partners. The company mitigated the impact of the port slowdown and ensured customers would receive their products. As a result of Medline’s strategic planning, the following occurred:

  • Customer Service Levels rose every month since December, the same time when the slowdown began to feel especially sharp;
  • Because advanced planning occurred months before the slowdown began, it enabled Medline to leverage its inbound supply chain and proactively boost U.S. import container volumes by more than 30 percent between December 2014 to February 2015;
  • More than 20 new prime vendor accounts started receiving new product and nearly 9,000 products were implemented.

Clear, seamless communication was vital to success between supply chain, inventory management, corporate and the field to help position Medline as a smart and trusted business partner.

“We were kept well-informed on the shutdown and the initiatives Medline was implementing to ensure our customers would receive their products,” says Mark Ochall, divisional vice president, Midwest, Medline. “This gave us the ability to act accordingly and communicate with customers early on so that they felt confident in our business partnership with them.”

Medline is well positioned to continue getting essential materials to their final destinations – even during times of uncertainty. To learn more information about Medline’s vast inventory of more than 350,000 products, visit

About Medline

Medline is a global manufacturer and distributor serving the healthcare industry with medical supplies and clinical solutions that help customers achieve both clinical and financial success. Headquartered in Mundelein, Ill., the company offers 350,000+ medical devices and support services through more than 1,200 direct sales representatives who are dedicated points of contact for customers across the continuum of care. For more information on Medline, go to or to connect with Medline on its social media channels.

Vivika Panagiotakakos, (847) 643-3311


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