OnSite Global Consulting is one of three opportunities Tuck provides to students to learn more about working in a different country. I had already been on a Global Insight Expedition to Armenia, and wanted to continue broadening my international experience. As a result, I spent three weeks in Haiti working with the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation (SBHF), which runs the largest hospital in the south of the island. SBHF is accessible to anyone needing care, and served over 100,000 patients last year. They had asked our OnSite team to help find ways to optimize their consumable supply chain with the goal of minimizing (and ultimately eliminating!) shortages.
Although I’d been to Haiti before as a volunteer, I was excited to return. Not only was I helping in a new way and drawing on my experiences at Tuck, but helping at SBHF was sure to inform my understanding of how big companies might approach expansion into developing countries.
St. Boniface welcomed us from day one and every person we spoke with reiterated the importance of the supply chain issue. Learning about the health care system, especially so quickly, was fascinating. St. Boniface’s root issues were predictable—they weren’t matching supply with demand, were short-staffed, and didn’t have a comprehensive data tracking system—but I was surprised by the scale of their problems and how they overlapped one another. The limited connectivity, the fragility of the roads from suppliers to the hospital, and the necessity of making sure any supplies they received would be of sufficient quality were all factors that complicated each other.
It also surprised me how similar organizations can be. It struck me during interviews with surgical nurses how many of our questions were just like those asked in factory plants: What is your daily process like? How do you know what to order? Is everything easily visible and storable? These questions were ones I’d seen in both company interviews and in our Operations class, but primarily for industrial goods companies. On paper I could understand how operations principles were also necessary in the health care and nonprofit space as well, especially because of the personnel’s time constraints, but seeing it live made those principles all the more relevant.
We knew that we needed to revamp the system without making the hospital adjust to something completely new. By using the existing requisition system and making key changes, we aligned the new system with the hospital staff’s habits, making it more likely that they would be able to easily implement it. Our recommendation then introduced other new changes in phases, so that we were slowly moving the system and making sure the hospital was still running at the same time.
The trip was amazing. I learned more than I ever expected in three weeks, not only from the project itself, but from the different ways each member in our team approached the problem. It was an honor to help an organization with such a vital mission, and an unforgettable experience. We even managed to dig our toes in the sand on the weekends!
Gillian Wong is a second-year student at Tuck, who worked at Standard & Poor's in content management and publishing.