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Fire Station Interior


Medical Supply Inventory Management

A Human-Centered Approach for Los Angeles Fire Department



Design Lead


6 Interdiscplinary Members


March 2023 - August 2023


Figma, Illustrator


User Research - Contextual Inquiry, In-depth Interviews, System Evaluation 
Design - Slide Deck Design, Final Booklet Design, UI Design

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This project, conducted as part of the UC Irvine Master in Human-Computer Interaction and Design graduate research, aimed to innovate the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD)'s current inventory management system over a 6-month period. Collaborating with the LAFD, our team addressed inefficiencies in their medical supply management system, identifying challenges rooted in

processes, culture, and technology.

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The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) serves 4 million citizens with 106 fire stations and around 1800 firefighters. Their primary challenge lies in efficiently distributing medical supplies to emergency paramedics across stations, necessitating an effective inventory management system to ensure prompt availability during emergencies and enhance operational efficiency.

Project Goal

How might we...

develop an improved medical and PPE supply chain for the LAFD that :


​Enables paramedics to have the medical supplies needed to serve  public while minimizing stress

Empowers civilian staff with a process that is frictionless, efficient, and easy to scale

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Research Overview

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1. Desk Research

Foundational knowledge for primary research activities

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2 Contextual Inquiry

Observations from the LAFD site visit

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3 Interviews

In-depth understanding of LAFD and inventory systems

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4 Surveys

Collecting metrics, insights and opinions on LAFD’s systems

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Data Consolidation

In order to make sense of all the data we gathered through our site visits, user interviews, desk research and surveys, our team underwent a rigorous synthesis and analysis phase. This included the following activities:

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Transcribing & Coding

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Affinity Mapping

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Journey Mapping

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UX Audit

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Brainstorming & White boarding

Key Findings

We organized our findings and insights into these key research deliverables for the LAFD. Our belief was that representing the data in these formats would enable us to identify the pain-points, implications and themes in an effective manner.

Technical Roadmap

The lack of connectivity and data across platforms creates issues and large information gaps for all users.

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Key Issues Identified within the process

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User Goals & Pain Points

Each user is negatively impacted by current process, but completely unaware of the impact on others.

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Supply Requisition System (SRS) ISSUES

A system that everyone has adapted to but is too deeply flawed to improve.

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Culture & Technology

Aspects of culture prevent frontline workers and civilian employees from seeing or admitting faults in the system.

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Survey Findings

Valuable time is spent procuring supplies. There is a mismatch between LAFD’s sense of urgency to save lives and the practices of the shops.

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Research Conclusion


There is a serious breakdown of trust between shops and stations that needs to be addressed imminently.

Why doesn’t S&M deliver what stations ask for?


Station-level supply shortages of basic medical supplies (not controlled substances) are the biggest issue you currently face. 


Why can’t S&M keep more supply on hand and deliver stations what they order?


SRS is time consuming and antiquated, the lack of data and communication it provides are contributing to frustration and issues.

How can you support Captain Barna in the short-term to prioritize basic data collection?

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Exploring the Solutions

We outlined functional requirements, researched case studies, and brainstormed solutions for the future inventory system. Our aim was to develop conceptual designs as a foundation for problem-solving. Using the Jobs to be Done framework, we understood user needs and motivations to benefit both firefighters and civilian staff.

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Jobs to be done

1. Comprehensive, Accurate Data

2. Track Usage at Station Level

3. Forecast Needs & Predict Shortages

4. Efficient Transportation & Restocking

5. Reduce Strain on Paramedics

Two-way approach to problem-solving

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Do Something Scenario

The Do Something Scenario focuses on solving for the LAFD’s core issues (lack of data, connectivity and feedback) while working within the constraints of their current staffing model. In this scenario, we still rely on paramedics to place orders, but we enhance the entire end-to-end workflow with a fully connected inventory management platform, barcode technology and a physical storage solution. 



• Minimize cost
• Collect & and leverage data
• Improve efficiency, level of care, paramedic workload


• Leverage current staffing model
• Utilize paramedics & captains for monthly ordering & approval


• End-to-end full connected Inventory Management System (IMP)
• Potential increase of Shops and Maintenance (S&M) staff, including delivery
• Could require WiFi and additional smartphones for Captains & Paramedics


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Barcodes are used to produce data, and track supplies throughout the system.

Barcoding System

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Standardized Physical Storage Solution

A standardized physical storage solution which are packed & prepped by S&M, and stored in a consistent manner at fire stations.

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Inventory Management Platform (IMP)

Accessible through both mobile and web platforms, the IMP is an off-the-shelf end-to-end solution that offers comprehensive ordering, tracking, and management functions for all core users.


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Supply & Maintenance View

Critical shortages are highlighted

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Supply & Maintenance View

Ability to see usage & trends by stations

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Paramedic View

Ordering is as simple as Amazon
With a simple scan to order system.

Captain View

Captains get reminders to approve with one-click

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Do Everything Scenario

The 'Do Everything' approach is an ideal solution designed to comprehensively address LAFD's end-to-end inventory challenges. This method involves reducing paramedics' responsibilities and necessitates a substantial investment in long-term strategy and innovation. It leverages technologies such as RFID and robotics to enable automation and employs AI forecasting to predict demand and proactively manage shortages.



• Shift responsibilities off paramedics
• Consistently maintain PAR levels to avoid any interruption of service
• Leverage AI and real time data to forecast demand


• Invest in long-term strategy and technology
• Utilize Captains for order approvals


• Utilize RFID to detect inventory and collect real-time data
• AI models for demand forecasting
• Introduce warehouse automation for efficiency


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Inventory tagged with RFID tracks quantity, expiry date, and location data. Smart Shelves wired with RFID can accurately detect inventory levels.


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AI Forecasting Using Real-time Data

AI Forecasting can optimize inventory, eliminating shortage and wastage. AI models can respond to dynamic market conditions and adjust to changes in demand patterns and seasonality.

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Warehouse Robotics

Picking robots can move items from specified locations and place them in containers to automate the fulfillment process in the Shops.


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Supply & Maintenance View - Dashboard

AI-Driven Demand Forecasting

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Supply & Maintenance View - Dashboard

Automation of Fire Station Supply Orders

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Supply & Maintenance View - Dashboard

Automation of Supply Levels Through RFID

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Standardize supply of basic medical supplies at stations and S&M based on any data you have - population, past usage, paramedic orders.

RFP for an inventory management system, including existing suppliers.

Implement inventory management system, including ordering system if required to be separate.

Prioritize hiring, training and retaining the best people for S&M. Take time to get it right.


Bring delivery in-house so that you can hire and train the best people.

Standardize physical storage solutions at S&M and stations.

Openly address trust issues and remind everyone of their duty to serve the public and the paramedics.


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1. Scope Definition and Direction: With a project scope initially difficult to define, regular check-ins and open communication with stakeholders helped in understanding the depth and breadth of the challenges. Flexibility and ongoing dialogue ensured a satisfactory outcome.


2. Preventing Bias through Debriefing: Regular debriefing sessions among team members, each from diverse backgrounds, proved invaluable in preventing bias and ensuring a well-rounded perspective. This facilitated efficient decision-making and future research directions.


3. Practical Proposal Approaches: In projects emphasizing practicality and applicability, proposing solutions with "Do something, Do Everything" options proved effective. Providing choices allowed clients to compare and choose solutions aligning with their needs, fostering productive discussions.

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