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Eye transplant nonprofit turns to supply chain modeling

Eversight, a nonprofit that recovers and transports eye tissue, turned to a supply chain management software system to better predict supply routes.

Time is vital to Eversight, a nonprofit that helps restore sight through eye donations, transplants and research. The organization, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., recovers and transports donated eye tissue around the world, using it for vision research and cornea transplants.

The organization annually provides about 8,000 tissues per year for transplants.

Recovering tissue is extremely time-sensitive, with a small time frame to recover and then use the tissue. So, to operate within its time constraints, Eversight turned in October 2019 to Llamasoft, a predictive analytics and supply chain management vendor, for more advanced supply chain modeling.

Time limits

"We have some time frames that are very stringent," said Ryan Simmons, director of clinical services at Eversight.

Tissue may be recovered up to 24 hours after a donor dies, Simmons said. However, surgeons prefer to recover the issue within 12 hours. Recovered eye tissue may then be stored for up to seven days.

"Surgeons typically want to use that tissue transplant within four or five days of a patient passing," Simmons said.

We have some time frames that are very stringent.
Ryan SimmonsDirector of clinical services, Eversight

In addition to the time limitations, it's impossible to predict when, and how much, tissue will become available.

"We can't just make an order," Simmons said. "We have to predict the best that we can." Typically, he added, only one parcel gets shipped at a time.

Temperature also is a critical factor. The tissue has to remain at a set temperature or it could be damaged.

Modeling

Previously, to help predict demand, Eversight relied on Microsoft Excel. That worked somewhat, Simmons said, but the venerable spreadsheet program couldn't complete advanced supply chain modeling and predictions.

Many of Llamasoft's customers used Excel in the past, said Ryan Purcell, director of global impact at Llamasoft.

"Typically, [users] will use Excel until they hit the breaking point," he said.

Eversight hit that point last year. Simmons, who is working on a master's degree in supply chain management at Michigan State University, came across Llamasoft in a class.

"It seemed like a very powerful program," Simmons said. He contacted Llamasoft and found that the vendor was a good fit for Eversight. 

Using Demand Guru, a demand modeling program from Llamasoft, Eversight is working on creating better demand forecasts. With Supply Chain Guru, a supply chain modeling and management program, the organization is creating models to plan better routes and optimize for cost and speed.

Because Eversight didn't begin working with Llamasoft in earnest until the fall 2019, many of its models have not yet been completed. However, creating models has been fairly easy, Simmons said, and the few models that are done seem to work well.

"Learning to do the modeling, that wasn't too big of a challenge," he said.

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