Disruption in Medical Device and Diagnostic Manufacturing: 3 Lessons Learned

These takeaways from 2020 can help medical device and diagnostic industry manufacturers prepare for the next crisis.

Bart Reitter, Vice President of Life Sciences

December 22, 2020

3 Min Read
Image by dmitrymirror - Adobe Stock

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin

There’s a reason we have so many adages about being prepared; unexpected disruption comes at us from all directions. To continue to grow, businesses have to be ready for whatever comes next.

COVID-19 has disrupted the world, and it’s had a significant effect on the medical device and diagnostics industry. The pandemic upended routines and forced many facilities to shift their focus and begin manufacturing critical PPE (personal protective equipment) and other life-saving devices. Supply chains worldwide experienced massive confusion as some manufacturers switched to 24/7 production, others experienced extreme slowdowns, and others closed their doors either temporarily or for good.

But medical device manufacturers face interruptions from multiple sources every day— changing customer demands, market shifts, increasing regulatory pressures, new technologies, mergers and acquisitions, and more. Any change in the status quo poses a risk to the delicate balance of the manufacturing process and puts a company’s profitability at risk.

As we struggle through the current disruption, it’s time to prepare for what’s next. Here’s what medical device and diagnostic industry manufacturers can take away from the current crisis to help them prepare for the next one.

Lesson 1: Keep innovation alive

Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry, and especially the medical device industry. Innovation thrives on collaboration, and it’s taken a hit during COVID-19 because more teams are working from home. And innovation can also fall behind during a disruption. When R&D labs have to spend time on crisis management, there’s simply less time to create.

Medical device and diagnostic manufacturers can nurture innovation during even the most turbulent time by designing their operations to be more agile. They can adopt technology solutions that work in a cloud-based environment so data and information can be accessed anywhere, at any time, and through most devices.

Lesson 2: Untangle the supply chain

On a good day, life science manufacturers have supply-chain challenges—siloed supply-chain operations, limited visibility into supply-chain partner activity, and shipments that show up at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Disruption can magnify those issues. 

When disruption strikes, a dependable, well-connected supply chain can make the difference between being profitable or not. Connected supply-chain management isn’t just about grabbing and sharing data with partners; it’s about communicating in real-time and automating proactive and intelligent decisions across the span of a company’s global supply-chain operation. An agile, adaptive supply chain can speed up a manufacturer’s response to supply-chain disruptions.

Lesson 3: Go digital

When disruption strikes, a manufacturer can lose time syncing up data across the operation. The COVID-19 crisis has caused life science manufacturers to reconsider how data is collected, stored, and used. Digital manufacturing solutions can help companies collect and effectively use data, so that it’s not just numbers—it’s real-time insights.

Embracing digital technology can result in improved efficiency of manufacturing operations, real-time access to production data, inventory accuracy, shop floor visibility, and asset utilization. It can help connect the manufacturing floor to the rest of the business. Advanced technologies like machine learning, AI, IoT, and robotic process automation can be used to modernize manufacturing operations. Using technology, manufacturers can better communicate, analyze, and use information to overcome disruption and meet cost and quality objectives.

We've learned a great deal from COVID-19 and how it has impacted businesses. We've learned that the medical and healthcare industries have to arm themselves in advance with the right technology solutions and talent to be able to meet whatever new challenges arise.

There will be more disruption. Companies that are prepared with a robust cloud-based technology solution and an adaptive infrastructure will find themselves with a competitive advantage. The paradox is that an adaptive infrastructure that allows a business to be more nimble and able to weather disruption is the most solid and dependable foundation.

About the Author(s)

Bart Reitter

Vice President of Life Sciences, QAD

Bart Reitter is vice president of life sciences for QAD, a global ERP solutions provider that helps companies thrive as adaptive manufacturing enterprises. He is a nearly 30-year veteran of the enterprise software and life sciences industries. Reitter leads QAD's Life Sciences Strategic Business Segment and oversees global strategy, sales, marketing and business development. He previously led global marketing for a preclinical contract research organization and has held a variety of commercial leadership roles including 10 years at General Electric where he served as global industry manager for life sciences.

Reitter holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Duquesne University and enjoys skiing, running, and playing guitar in his free time. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters.

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