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How a Hoops Injury Upended The Career Ladder of a Supply Chain VP

We are IU Health

March 19, 2018

Dennis Mullins never realized that a broken ankle would determine his career path.

He was young Air Force noncommissioned officer, in his early 20s. Playing intramural basketball, he pivoted hard on one leg and his ankle snapped

Mullins’ days picking supplies in a military medical warehouse were done. After reconstructive surgery on the ankle, he was reassigned a desk job in supply chain informatics.

A light went on in Mullins’ head as he learned the end-to-end process of the complete supply chain. “That gave me an insight into all the transactions in the supply chain,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about that.”

From then on, Mullins learned logistics from a keyboard, not by doing the heavy-lifting himself. Looking back on his hardwood mishap, he sees how fate led him to his current job, as senior vice president of supply chain for IU Health.

“If I didn’t break my ankle I might not have learned all of the components of supply chain. Things you consider unfortunate really could redirect your life’s path.”

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The redirection took. Mullins has spent three decades honing his knowledge of the logistics business. The first 10 years in the Air Force. Then working for healthcare systems in Texas, Florida and Nevada.

Mullins joined IU Health in 2015 and is well into the most challenging assignment of his career. He’s overseeing development of IU Health’s Integrated Service Center in Plainfield.

The nearly 300,000-square-foot building consolidates IU Health’s multiple warehouse locations under one gigantic roof. Inside will be one of the most sophisticated logistics operations of any hospital system.

“A lot of good things are starting to happen here,” says Mullins, standing in the expanse of roofed space where 30-foot-tall racking awaits inventory and a robotic picking system and conveyor belts are a few months away from being switched on.

IU Health’s statewide system, with 16 hospitals and hundreds of clinics, support facilities and offices, requires tens of millions of dollars’ worth of product shipments a year. Most of it will be trucked from the new Plainfield center.

Mullins expects the efficiencies of the consolidated center, plus a new effort to standardize use of commonly used supplies such as needles and surgical instruments, will quickly offset the cost of building out the center and shave overall system expenses by millions of dollars a year.

“The goal here is to be a catalyst for change. We’ve got to cut costs,” Mullins says.

The Integrated Service Center has become the permanent address of Supply Chain, which over IU Health’s existence called at least four other locations home. About 80 team members have moved in so far. Over time, many more team members from other departments also could relocate to the center, which has its own self-service cafeteria and gym/workout space and plenty of room for offices on the periphery of the building.

The opening of the operational guts of the center late this spring or early summer will mark the culmination of several years of planning and hard work.

Mullins isn’t done learning the ropes of logistics. He’s close to earning a doctorate in business from Grand Canyon University. And it’s all because of one lucky break on the basketball court.

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