We talked to Carl Natenstedt of Z5 Inventory about helping hospitals avoid wastage due to supply expiration.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Carl Natenstedt: We’re doing pretty well. We had a lot to figure out recently as far as my kids going back to high school and college. But we didn’t let the pandemic keep us from enjoying our time together this summer.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Z5 Inventory.
Carl Natenstedt: Over the course of the last twenty years, I’ve founded or been involved with a number of startups, and they’ve all been attempting to address some problems in the healthcare industry. By getting a close, consistent look at the industry, I realized the need for the solution provided by my current company, Z5 Inventory.
Hospitals in the U.S. throw away more than $5 Billion worth of medical and surgical supplies every year due to expiration. Really simple inventory management and optimization practices can prevent this. So we developed Z5 Inventory to help healthcare providers get an accurate count and valuation of their supplies, then reallocate their supplies to maximize their usage and buy exactly what they need at the best prices.
Our goal is to reduce supply expiration to zero. And it’s absolutely achievable if hospitals work with us. We helped one hospital system save over $16 Million worth of products from expiration in 2020. And we’re already planning on how we can expand and improve on that initiative in 2021.
How does Z5 Inventory innovate?
Carl Natenstedt: The advantage we started with was offering a mobile app and digital platform that packaged services in a way that no one else in the industry is currently able to offer.
Because we’re helping hospitals count, reallocate, and buy their inventory digitally, we have to stay aggressive with how we update our solutions and develop new solutions to the problem of excess inventory.
As soon as we stop coming out with new versions of our app or coming up with new solutions to the problem of product expiration, either our competition will overtake us, or nobody will be solving this problem anymore and billions of dollars in hospital budgets will go down the drain. Sadly, the latter is more likely.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Carl Natenstedt: The coronavirus crisis has offered an opportunity for us to give back to our healthcare provider community, in that we immediately began an initiative to make our Z5 Count software free to any facility that needed it to count personal protective equipment (PPE).
These supplies might be essential, but they’re not something that everyone keeps regular tabs on, so we wanted to help empower them to do that, no strings attached. And we had a few providers take us up on that, so we were proud to contribute what we could.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Carl Natenstedt: Absolutely. When shelter-in-place first hit, we got extremely worried that our team would not be able to go out in the field and work in hospitals. That would have not only totally reshaped our business but also disrupted these hospitals’ ability to perform their vital duties.
But we’ve developed stringent testing and quarantine policy for our team that’s enabled us to enter sterile healthcare environments, and it’s been 100% successful up to this point. It’s possible to continue to work in and with hospitals, but it takes a lot more careful planning now. Which is not a bad thing at all.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Z5 Inventory in the future?
Carl Natenstedt: I’m lucky enough that the people in my immediate family haven’t driven each other totally crazy during this pandemic period. We enjoy spending time together. And my work family has really come together this year, as well. We’ve put in the work to keep in touch and do some fun stuff together, even if it has to be remote. And it’s a good way to remind everyone of what we’re all doing to keep Z5 Inventory successful and brainstorm ideas to make us more successful in the future.
Happy hours and friendly competition are a good addition to pretty much every workplace, I think.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Carl Natenstedt: The trouble with that question is that we have some competitors in the inventory count space – companies that come out and help hospitals find a valuation for their on-hand supplies, sometimes using their own software or hardware. And we have some competitors in the inventory resale space –companies that offer unused, unexpired medical and surgical supplies at a discount.
But as far as a company offers to help a hospital count what they have on hand, optimize their inventory levels, and stock their shelves with exactly what they need? There isn’t anyone else doing that.
We have no true competitor.
Your final thoughts?
Carl Natenstedt: It’s been a really crazy year for everyone, but the amount of focus on healthcare and the amount of focus on the supply chain has really created some interesting opportunities for the Z5 Inventory and made me optimistic, believe it or not.
Healthcare providers want to improve – to make sure they’re better prepared for disruption, update their systems for better tracking of their product, and in lots of other ways – and we’re excited to help them make those improvements possible.
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