Holistic supply chain solution enables Malawi to acquire new specialized blood grouping machine

by | Oct 18, 2023

The Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM) recently collaborated with a newly onboarded supplier and 3PL partner to help Malawi commission an advanced automated blood grouping machine that is used for blood testing in hospitals, donor centers, and reference labs.

PFSCM Logistics Specialist Wawan Parjan says PFSCM worked closely with transfusion and transplantation diagnostic supplier Immucor to offer Malawi a tailored procurement and delivery solution that includes equipment, consumables, reagents, and services like installation, training, and warranties.

“The new Immucor NEO Iris machine was installed at the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) in Blantyre in September this year, and training has already been offered to eight laboratory operators.”

He adds that Immucor is a new entrant to the Malawian market, with the NEO Iris being the first of its kind to be installed in the country, though around the world, the NEO Iris has an install base of 1,400.

Immucor Regional Manager for Saudi Arabia and Africa, Ahmed Hassan, explains that the NEO Iris is designed to enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and safety of blood banking processes.

“Using the NEO Iris broad test menu, MBTS can automate the blood typing and crossmatching process, ensuring blood products are compatible with recipients to minimize the risk of Hemolytic transfusion reactions. By automating these routine tasks, NEO Iris streamlines laboratory workflows, allowing for quicker turnaround times and reducing the likelihood of human error.”

He adds that NEO Iris can also efficiently screen for antibodies, red blood cell phenotyping, and test and determine antibody titre in donor and recipient blood, helping to identify and sort out potential complications before transfusions.

Hassan also highlights that Immucor’s automated platforms have robust data management capabilities, helping blood banks maintain accurate records, track inventory, and comply with regulatory requirements.

Further, as part of the supply chain solution, Parjan explains that PFSCM, Immucor, and a local 3PL agent, Cargo Management Logistics Limited (CML), formulated a one-year pilot transportation plan to deliver the reagents for blood typing on a staggered basis.

He adds that the blood typing reagents have a short shelf life of about three to four weeks and must be shipped cold chain (1℃ to 10℃) from the US to Malawi, where it is delivered directly to MBTS. The Malawian-owned CML executes the in-country logistics, moving the reagents from the Lilongwe Airport to the MTBS facility.

“The logistics plan for the reagents is lean and delicate, with no margin for error. Every detail, from product registration to importation documents and customs clearance, was mapped and aligned to ensure seamless handovers at critical junctures. Pre-clearance is arranged for the goods ensuring it can be cleared on arrival for transport directly from the airfield to MBTS”

He adds that staggered deliveries are implemented to ensure the restocking of reagents every two weeks. The first batch of reagents was delivered at the end of September 2023, and by this time next year, up to 26 more shipments will have been delivered.

Prajan notes that PFSCM collaborates with the supplier on Legs One and Two (air) of the shipment and works closely with CML on Leg 3 (truck) of the shipment.

In addition, CML Sales and Marketing Manager Ateeqa Lambat confirms that ensuring the timely delivery of essential medical supplies, like short shelf-life reagents, presents a significant challenge in healthcare supply chains, particularly in regions with limited resources, such as Malawi.

Reflecting on the project Lambat notes that CML found the seamless collaboration between their team and its partners – who work harmoniously to ensure the secure and timely delivery of these essential medical supplies – particularly fascinating and distinctive.

“This project vividly exemplified the efficacy of innovative logistics solutions in addressing the distinctive challenges encountered within healthcare supply chains, especially in regions like Malawi, where resources are constrained,” notes Lambat.

She concludes by stressing that CML takes great pride in achieving timely deliveries and is committed to enhancing healthcare outcomes in the country.

“Our logistics solutions are meticulously designed to minimize delays and guarantee the prompt availability of these reagents. From maintaining temperature-controlled storage and using specialized vehicles equipped for temperature control, we have tailored our logistics operations to preserve the integrity of these critical reagents.”

Meanwhile, PFSCM Procurement & Client Services Manager Samuel Ireri says the global health landscape keeps evolving, and low-and-middle-income continue to strengthen their medical testing, diagnostics, surveillance, and pandemic preparedness capabilities and infrastructures.

He also explains that the complexity of technology investments and contracting mechanisms grows in tandem, and supply chain stakeholders are collaborating increasingly to manage and control these complexities to ensure countries can deliver on their public health goals and achieve positive health outcomes.

Ireri adds that this complex supply and logistics solution is a testament to PFSCM’s ability to mobilize multiple stakeholders to reduce risk and exceed client expectations.

“The Malawi solution is a sterling example of the varying expertise of the global health community that can be combined for effective health outcomes. The supply chain expertise of PFSCM matched with the technical product knowledge of our prequalified suppliers, and the logistical know-how of our independent 3PLs enable our clients to access new diagnostic technologies.”


Photo: Immucor. The Immuncor NEO Iris is an advanced automated blood grouping machine that is used for blood testing in hospitals, donor centers, and reference labs.









Photo: Immucor. Eight laboratory operators from the MBTS received training on the new Immucor NEO Iris machine.