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Look for Suppliers as Innovative as You Are

By Joe Pustka I haven’t talked to anyone yet who thinks that the added taxes on medical devices is a good idea. But anyone who thinks this tax, which is slated to go into effect next year, is freezing medical device R&D or new product launches is living in an alternate universe. A case in point: my company, leak-testing specialist Uson, recently went to the medical device trade show MD&M East and got record numbers of solid leads. That indicates to me that the industry is anything but D.O.A.

The better news, as I see it, is that those with purchasing power are now taking much more of a long range view. And that bodes well for the bottom lines in the industry over the long term. Yes, achieving the shortest returns-on-investment is and will always be the gold standard for purchasing decisions in the medical device industry—as it is in any other. But newer designs in manufacturing technologies and instrumentation also make it possible to look at prospective capital equipment investments with an eye towards versatility and keeping options open for future company directions or new product designs. Any instrument or other capital expenses you take on today should anticipate the high probability that innovation in the device industry will continue in your company’s engineering halls.

The core enabler of the versatile technologies and instruments that we now see—and certainly in the category of leak testers—are facilitated by the innovations in their core such as state-of-the-art electronics that allow for sophisticated I/O programming or ample data handling and storage, and sensor monitoring. When Uson adds a “v” for “versatility to a product’s name, it’s not just slick advertising. It means that a particular model leak tester is capable of more than dozen types of NDT tests in more than a half million possible testing sequence permutations.

“Here’s a quick rule of thumb to help you find the instruments or equipment with potential for the longest economic life: look at the innovation track record of your vendor.”

In the past, both for sourcing and selling, we’d be looking at price versus return and all the features that made for better quality in products that would last. Now, our conversations on both sides of the equation—as a seller and a buyer—tend to delve more into the details of how adaptable a product or component is for needs not even on the drawing table yet.

In fact, versatility is the main driver now in our R&D as we also see that it is for many of our suppliers. In leak testing, it means making sure that pneumatics are fully customizable, that many different types of NDT tests can be performed, and, above all, that the leak detector is fully configurable.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb to help you find the instruments or equipment with potential for the longest economic life: look at the innovation track record of your vendor. If you are talking to the Grand Daddy of them all with a long list of “firsts,” then you are probably talking to the right supplier.

Second rule of thumb: run away, don’t just walk away, from any supplier that will only provide support for their instrument or equipment as you configure it today. If they are not there for the duration and when time comes to reconfigure your purchase for new requirements, their long-term value-add to your team is almost nil.

Putska (pictured on the left) is director of leak testing applications engineering for Uson, which first developed high accuracy leak testing methods for NASA, and since 1963 has specialized in leak detection, leak testing, and non-destructive testing for the medical device and medical packaging industries, among others. Putska works with medical device companies throughout North and Central America and has worked with Uson in various technical capacities since 1980. He can be reached at 281-671-2212 or joe.pustka {-at-} 

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