Within the healthcare industry there is an understanding among medical device companies that the drive for improvements in both manufacturing and packaging is a constant. In this time of increased flux, companies must strive to retain their competitive edge by establishing a foundation of trust and experience combined with a spirit of flexibility.
For contract manufacturers servicing customers ranging from Fortune 100 powerhouses to the newest startups, it’s paramount to have a sound leadership team focused on a few key operating principles. In this way, medical device contract manufacturing and packaging companies can remain successful through the adoption of a top-down philosophy of four central operating principles, including: 1) always put the customer first, 2) appreciate relationships, 3) be flexible and continuously learn, and 4) have an overarching commitment to quality.
Here are some examples of how the principles can be put into action:
Customer First: Any successful contract manufacturing company should strongly emphasize a customer-focused approach to their business. It starts at the top with a leadership team that focuses relentlessly on the customer. One way to do that is to publicly celebrate when the team has gone above and beyond the norm to help a customer.
For instance, a medical device company was under a tight deadline for a complex product with multiple serialized components, each needing to be labeled and tracked through multiple stages of production. Our solution entailed custom-programming a label-tracking system to meet this need. Additionally, a dedicated online portal was developed to provide the customer around-the-clock transparency—from production status updates to estimated timelines throughout production, providing another level of assurance. The optimized system and custom-tailored tracking system really made an impression on the client, resulting in a confirmed order and a development team that was recognized and celebrated for the innovative achievement.
When a company recognizes forward-thinking client-centered team members, it sets a tone for the rest of the team and creates a ripple effect in which people begin to set those same expectations for themselves, further improving a company’s performance.
Putting the customer at the center of the decision-making process helps maintain an outward perspective that broadens a company’s outlook and strategic vision and helps fuel a growth mindset. One of the ways to do this is to connect the product development team to the customer throughout the development process from initial concept all the way to commercial production. By doing this, the customer becomes a central part of the product development process, and their needs and input are included at each milestone to ensure that the right solution is being developed. This both improves outcomes and builds trust and connection with customers to ensure they come back time and again.
Relationships Matter: Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that business is still about people. Even as technology continues to shape our day-to-day processes and enhances our productivity, it’s the personal relationships and connections that drive decisions. That personal touch goes a long way toward creating bonds within a company, solidifying relationships with existing customer, and sparking a connection with new customers.
Taking pride in developing personal, lasting relationships with customers is essential to building and strengthening bonds. In fact, one of our longest-standing customers is a Fortune 500 organization that has been doing business with the company for more than 30 years. If a client prefers to meet in person, despite a 50-mile drive to their office, a good company will do it. Our company CEO still drives over 50 miles every week to meet with them personally—a tradition that continued up until the recent COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
As with any brand, reputation matters; that reputation is earned by continuously delivering on all commitments and producing high-quality products and services. It is also shaped by the manner in which a service is delivered. An inside-out approach is one that is formed by the personal relationships created within an organization, helping people work together more effectively. Moreover, customers recognize a close-knit, well-functioning team, built on connectivity. When this happens, new clients become loyal customers. These relationships are invaluable for any company concerned with maintaining their edge in a highly competitive space.
Be Flexible and Continuously Learn: A company that has remained strong and viable for years, or even decades, is a testament to its expertise, adaptability and willingness to learn. The medical device industry is driven by innovation and change. So, to be successful, companies have to be flexible enough to adapt and respond. They must embrace change as inevitable and even be energized by it. In addition, they should have the humility to continuously learn and recognize that what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.
Regulatory changes are one area that should always be anticipated with a pre-emptive response ready to go. If you know label requirements and packaging standards may shift, like they have recently in the U.S. and EU, then, it is critical to be ready to implement the changes and ensure customers are adhering to them.
Another area where flexibility is important is when working with startups. Partners have to be agile enough to anticipate changes and respond quickly to the inevitable surprises. Building flexibility into the culture combined with a mindset of continuous learning, helps develop the muscle to adapt to changing conditions and enables a team to thrive amidst chaos.
Image courtesy of PRO-TECH Design & Manufacturing
Commitment to Quality: Above all else, an unbending commitment to quality stands out as a requirement for a company’s ongoing success. Overall, it is the quality of services provided, the team members within an organization, and the availability of product that are absolutely essential for any company to stay at the top of its game. Critical quality standards for medical device contract manufacturers to keep in mind include ISO 13485, ISO 11607, ISO 11135, and ISO 11137. A customer who knows they can rely on a given product or service, each and every time, is a customer who will return to purchase again. At the end of the day, this industry is primarily focused on enhancing patient’s lives, and when implanting a device inside someone’s body, all those involved need to make sure that device has been rigorously tested, qualified and designed to work optimally. Companies that succeed in this industry have a singular dedication to quality that permeates everything they do, from investing in technology, to training their associates, to coordinating their production standards.
To remain competitive in the medical device industry, it’s important to have both humility and hunger. It’s a balance of striving to improve and having the humility to continuously learn and ask questions. A company that puts customers first, values relationships, offers experience plus flexibility and commits to quality, will remain successful for decades to come.