Top 5 Elements Affecting Your Manufacturing Strategy

In recent years, the ecosystem of manufacturing across every sector has changed, driving every player within this framework to be flexible in both an industrialisation and operational standpoint. As a result of rapid technological development and consumer personalisation, the behaviours that consumers adopt when purchasing a product or acquiring technology has forced manufacturing companies to rethink their approach to servicing those needs.  

The fierce competitiveness caused by rapid innovation and the demand for consumer convenience potentially reduces the viable product life and raises the likelihood of mass customisation, leading to high variance and rapid changeovers in low and high value products. These new market behaviours inevitably challenge the preconceived financial justifications. Return-on-investment confidence (ROI), and the challenge of managing a financial benchmark are causing companies to rethink the way they buy, configure, and utlilise factory automation. 

Among the myriad of industries tackling these elements is the healthcare sector, which faces daily challenges of not only adhering to ever-changing buying patterns through personal care products, but also the responsibility of enhancing a consumers quality of life via medical devices. Expert AMT aim to start a conversation around the flexibility of manufacturing and how technology can allow companies to address needs before they are defined, during the lifetime of the product and production automation.  

Specialists and innovative companies like Expert AMT have a significant part to play in designing and producing technology that assists companies in becoming adaptive. Below, we have provided an overview of each of the five main topics that are driving business leaders every day. 

 

Productivity 

Achieving pure growth is difficult in an ever-changing global marketplace such is the need to adapt. Productivity affects profitability, costs, and a companys competitive standing in their industry. The question presented is how does a company reduce input but improve output?’ The aim is to use current assets more effectively to deliver this growth. Expert AMT develop machinery that removes operators from the production environment if their presence is not adding value. However, the purpose is not to simply replace workers with overly complicated equipment, but rather to enhance the overall production. Using intuitive technology supports intelligent decision making, bridges skill gaps and improves operational awareness. 

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Ability to Reconfigure 

While being effective with human assets is important, implementing adaptable capital equipment in production processes is essential. Rather than produce a machine that builds a dedicated product, Expert AMT design modular equipment that can be reconfigured to add features to existing products or produce different products entirely. This approach empowers organisations to adopt affordable and scaleable automation earlier in the product lifecycle and redeploy these manufacturing assets with confidence. 

 

Waste Reduction 

An unintended consequence of a more dynamic product lifecycle is the need to be more efficient with resources. Optimising the use of skilled personnel as well as materials and energy are key considerations. Implementing technology and an agile philosophy to product industrialisation and production automation leads to an approach of design once, deploy many times, minimising wasted time and materials.  

Product organisations often proclaim World Class OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) without considering the alternate OEE (Overall Employee Effectiveness), or indeed the downstream logistical effectiveness which often limits the demonstrable impact of the upstream efforts. Consider the historic investment in overseas manufacturing in low cost countries, with resultant products taking weeks to arrive by sea. Using flexible, validated fully automation platforms to produce devices regionally enables improved responsiveness and reduces Work In Progress. Embracing intuitively designed automation allows manufacturers to meet the changing needs of regional markets whilst mitigating the cost of labour through lights out’ operations. Responsiveness is key to meeting the needs of the healthcare sector, and the adoption of technology across the whole product and production lifecycle reduces waste and mitigates risk. 

Agility 

The term agile has not historically been associated with the healthcare sector, however the COVID 19 pandemic has demonstrated that, with the right motivation, the sector can respond effectively and rapidly. As confirmed via the UK government website, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID 19 on December 2, 2020. The approval was granted just three weeks after Pfizer published data from the final stage of its clinical trial. 

Having illustrated what is possible, it is inevitable that previous barriers to innovation adoption will be challenged, leading to accelerated product introduction. Equally, the pandemic has illustrated that agility is required to respond to regional, clinical and political needs, in the approval, manufacture, distribution and implementation. 

The healthcare sector is entering a new dawn of innovation with manufacturing and distribution agility playing a pivotal role. 

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Rapid Innovation 

The response to the pandemic has proven that all stakeholders involved in the production of a specific product can act in an agile manner to meet the greater demand. Historically, a company will be responsible for producing a particular drug or product for several years following approval. However, those historical roots are changing due to the rapid innovation of new drugs, new medical devices, and new solutions that can be manufactured quickly and more cost effectively. The transition from lab to industrial application is quicker than ever due to an increase in digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, reports the Argonne National Laboratory. 

The implementation of a quantity of one’ production strategy using agile automation opens the door to multiple disruptive innovators. These organisations are now able to compete in emerging markets precisely because they are flexible and responsive. The development of technologies that improve patient outcome, reduce the total cost of treatment and improve convenience in the receipt, use and disposal of products will continue to drive innovation. Leading organisations are recognising the value of strategic partnerships in order to accelerate and maximise the impact of innovation.  

For example, in 2019 Abbott and Novo Nordisk announced a new partnership that involves integrating insulin dose data with insulin pens and digital health tools. By connecting technologies, healthcare professionals and individuals with diabetes can view both glucose and insulin data, enabling better informed and meaningful treatment decisions. 

 

The Human Experience 

As mentioned, consumer personalisation is a predominant factor in the minds of business leaders, with the need to drive manufacturing strategies to reflect a quantity of one approach. The relationship between the consumer and manufacturer has become more human in recent years, and this is certainly an imperative in the healthcare industry.  

Adopting innovative manufacturing strategies enables device companies to meet the needs of existing individual patients, whilst continuing to evolve new products to meet emerging medical, regulatory, technical, and commercial imperatives.  

The problem presented is a moral issue that medical companies need to consider. By making decisions based predominantly on economic sense, the risk for the consumer is losing their freedom, confidence, and general quality of life. Rather than operate on a direct and transactional basis, companies can adapt their manufacturing processes to reflect a passion and care for their consumers. 

Time to Market 

With an increased speed of technology development comes fierce competition and the need to adopt processes to win the race to market. In relation to the healthcare sector, the countries with established medical device and pharmaceutical products are the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the US. In fact, the US is the most innovative, dynamic, and largest nation in the development and manufacturing of medical products, as well as the biggest consumer. In 2019, Statista reported that approximately 511 billion US dollars was spent on medicines. 

There is a moving dynamic between the nations, but China, Australia, and India are also entering the fold as they too are continuously developing new technologies, drugs, and applications for the medical sector.  

Behind every healthcare product or device purchase is a buying house based in each country.  With historical procurement decisions made based upon efficacy vs cost of goods, the downstream costs of clinical involvement in treatments and the disposal are often not considered. 

As addressed by Rob Knott, former National Director, NHS Procurement, there is a need for NHS Procurement leaders to keep themselves at the forefront of the supply chain modernisation agenda. In his paper ‘The Future of NHS Procurement? Look Into Your Procurement Strategy, Not a Crystal Ball, Knott provides insight into the challenges facing leaders and provides recommendations for NHS trusts developing a procurement strategy. 

NHS Procurement has a savings target of £1 billion, with non-pay spend across NHS providers reaching more than £27 billion a year, reports Knott. He identifies numerous emerging developments that will influence the direction of NHS procurement and supply chain management, with the acceleration of adopting modern technology being key. Knott claims that the NHS is too far behind the curve” compared to other industries, and as a result must develop radical adoption plans. 

Throughout the paper, Knott addresses the future of NHS procurement and the implications on the future of high-volume drugs and devices. Prioritising the total cost of treatment rather than the cost of goods, rewards and motivates dynamic innovation. 

Lifecycles 

Medical devices and personal care products must go through evaluation stages, trials, testing and product refinement before being available for use. The rapid innovation of technologies is increasing the pressure, making time to market that much more crucial. In addition to faster technology development posing a challenge, the uncertainly of the effective product life also needs to be considered.  

Due to consumer personalisation and rapidly growing regional marketplaces, many products have shorter lifecycles, with companies making iterative changes to established devices. Shortened development and industrialisation lifecycles present downstream challenges. To be able to cope with this, manufacturers require machinery that is adaptable and equipped to handle alterations that are yet to present themselves. 

Regionalisation 

By manufacturing in economic zones as opposed to a single country, companies can provide regional responsiveness, leading to inward investment and variable protection of intellectual property (IP). With automated processes, manufacturers can answer demand of rapid replication of products and processes and scale up or down to meet local volume needs. Effective use of automation not only maintains process consistency across regions, it also reduces the impact of variable skills and mitigates the impact of labour costs. Smaller manufacturing facilities represent reduced long term sunk investment and a greater future manufacturing agility. 

 

Navigating Political Strategies 

The creation of sovereignty of supply has become a political imperative. Manufacturers are being incentivised to onshore production within regions to protect against future challenges. This dynamic represents a significant opportunity to global and micro organisations in established and developing nations. As stated in the UK Trade in Numbers’ Report (Feb 2021) from the Department for International Trade, the UK is a TOP 5 global exporter, with Pharma and medical devices ranked 2nd in shipped goods. The ability to export manufacturing processes as well product design expertise is key to future medical global expansion. 

The COVID 19 pandemic has led to a recognition that accurate diagnostics leads to effective response and treatment. Governmental investments in advanced diagnostic technologies and digital connective architecture are likely to continue beyond the current crisis. 

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Compliance 

Recognising that compliance to regulatory standards is clearly essential, the resultant complexity and bureaucracy naturally impacts the approach and appetite for change within the device and drug manufacturing sector. Organisations have to factor in the administrative and resource implications of implementing changes in the manufacturing process, which naturally leads to the healthcare sector facilities containing aged equipment. A more dynamic, fast moving product lifecycle necessitates adopting new design approaches and technologies, real or virtual.  

Identifying the Barriers 

The human need to live longer and more convenient lives drives innovation, creating opportunities associated with productivity, agility, time to market, regionalisation, and compliance. In this piece, we have provided an overview of these challenges, and in further submissions we will address Expert AMTs approach to meeting these needs, addressing the technical, financial, and operational perspectives.  

Expert AMT is an automation leader in multiple sectors. Our consultants advise innovative organisations and provide governmental guidance, transferring best practice and enabling practical application of technological advancement.