Staying Agile in Medical Device Manufacturing During a Pandemic

Manufacturing may experience supply chain disruptions, acute worker shortages, and increased production demands during a pandemic – COVID-19 has elicited all of this. Healthcare and medical device manufacturers have been particularly hard hit.

Skyrocketing demands for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the dependency on Chinese supplies have created an environment ripe for disruption and innovation. Leaders in medical device manufacturing are actively embracing solutions that will redesign the entire industry. Here’s what they’re doing and why access to the right talent is more crucial than ever.


Manufacturing During a Pandemic: What Life Science Industry Leaders are Doing


Retaining the ability to manufacture during a pandemic has required the life science industry to shift away from linear models and processes toward dynamic networks. Faced with material shortages, workforce reductions, and production capacity limits, manufacturers are looking beyond their resource and expertise silos. Among the many innovative responses have included:


1. Partnering with Other Industries

Some life science manufacturers have responded to global supply chain disruptions by embracing novel domestic partnerships to maintain the production of critical supplies. In late March, 3M Healthcare partnered with Ford to boost production of PPE. Ford has also partnered with Thermo Fisher in April to augment the production of COVID-19 collection kits.

In both cases, the life science manufacturers have presented simplified, streamlined blueprints to the carmaker to reduce production time and potential for error. It is expected this will pave the way for additional horizontal partnerships and innovations.


2. Rethinking Robots

With an estimated 80 percent of the manufacturing workforce facing social distancing or isolation requirements, Industry 4.0 has regained prominence in the discussion of the changing nature of manufacturing. According to Deloitte, smart devices will introduce a level of flexibility and adaptability desperately missing from the life sciences manufacturing sector and create a new paradigm that embraces a holistic, interconnected production system.


3. Emphasizing Resiliency in Supply Sourcing

An April 2020 report by the Congressional Research Service notes that the global dependency on Chinese medical devices, PPE, and pharmaceutical ingredients is a part of China’s strategy to realize its 2025 Agenda of becoming the world’s manufacturing powerhouse.

However, with this dependency, manufacturing supply chains risk succumbing to a single point of failure. COVID-19 revealed this weakness, disrupted China’s goal, and provided western countries a critical opportunity to diversify. According to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, manufacturers must take this opportunity to maintain competitiveness beyond the pandemic. 


4. Embracing the New-Collar Workforce

New-collar labor refers to a blend of white- and blue-collar labor – they’re professionals equally at home in the lab as in the warehouse. Unfortunately, it’s also some of the most difficult talents to source. As a result, Deloitte estimates that a skilled labor shortage of two million will exist in manufacturing broadly by 2025, with medical device staffing among the hardest-hit categories.  

Manufacturers were already searching for new talent before COVID-19 exacerbated the shortage. Early examples have included the Memphis medical device makers, many of which offer vocational training to high school and college graduates.


Secure the Talent to Shift with Ease


Acquiring the right talent when it’s needed is key for maintaining manufacturing processes during a pandemic. However, the shift toward cross-industry partnerships and holistic production processes in response to the COVID-19 disruptions reflects a new reality in the medical device industry. Savvy organizations can seize these opportunities to develop innovative, resilient, prosperous operations.


Access to a pool of vetted talent and professionals represent a critical competitive advantage. Amplify the organization’s ability to shift its manufacturing processes by requesting talent from an experienced life sciences talent solutions agency today.