Vendor managed inventory (VMI): evidences from lean deployment in healthcare

Cristina Machado Guimarães (Lisbon University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal)
José Crespo de Carvalho (Lisbon University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal)
Ana Maia (Vila Nova de Gaia Hospital Centre, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal)

Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1753-8297

Publication date: 15 February 2013



Understanding how VMI benefits serve lean purposes in healthcare and why its outcomes can be difficult to achieve in healthcare settings is the main purpose of this study.


An in‐depth case study of VMI is presented in the perspective of the downstream member, a public general multi‐site hospital, operating as a small scale consolidated service centre in terms of material management, exploring such dimensions as: VMI benefits, risks, barriers and enablers.


Despite some unawareness of VMI benefits in healthcare, it can present a waste reduction solution not only in costs but in the quality of care for freeing clinical professionals to clinical tasks, among other savings. The multiple benefits are better explored, as in any relationship building, by investing in partnership creation and overcoming the idiosyncratic barriers of the healthcare sector.

Research limitations/implications

Although findings of a single case study are difficult to generalize, the protocol and methodology presented allow replication in other units of analysis with the same inclusion criteria.

Practical implications

This paper brings the lean deployment discussion out of the organization's boundaries, showing the interconnections and pointing to the need for future work that would allow healthcare managers to build a lean supply chain.


By considering VMI an outsourcing alternative, this paper identifies the lean thinking intent behind such options and enhances the idiosyncratic difficulties in full deployment in the healthcare sector, a less studied setting.



Machado Guimarães, C., Crespo de Carvalho, J. and Maia, A. (2013), "Vendor managed inventory (VMI): evidences from lean deployment in healthcare", Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 8-24.

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