How Strong is the Backend Infrastructure of America’s Healthcare Industry?
April 30, 2020
By Chase Maser
With the healthcare industry in America struggling to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a gaping hole that manufacturers aren’t paying attention to.
You can sense the urgency from companies like Ford and GM—the result of too much pressure coupled with an impromptu infrastructure to execute production. In a recent article from NBC News, GM and ventilator manufacturer Ventec Life Systems announced that they’re able to ship the first round of ventilators from GM’s Kokomo, IN, location in accordance with President Trump’s Defense Production Act. The plan is to build a total of 30,000 ventilators between April and August, and according to a recent Coronavirus task force press briefing by President Trump, a total of 600 ventilators are slated to be released this month. By June 1st, an additional 6,132 ventilators will be distributed.
It’s a massive undertaking to completely shift operations in order to save lives, and GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, shares that “many of these people have been working virtually around the clock, 20-hour days, to make sure [they] can start building ventilators as quickly as possible.” However, that only highlights one side of production.
Focusing on the product is important, but once ventilators are deployed, what strategies are in place to maintain those products? The mechanical nature of these devices naturally implies a higher probability of breaking down, additionally periodic calibration may be required to ensure proper airflow is being maintained to patients. Ongoing service and routine maintenance—these things are possibly at risk of being overlooked, especially for the second wave of demand coming in the fall and winter. So in order to maintain efficiency and protect manufacturers from potential catastrophes, a few things should be considered.
The Main Challenges Manufacturers Can Anticipate for Infrastructure Support
Harkening back to automakers like GM and Ford who are transitioning to medical equipment manufacturing during the COVID-19 crisis, they have the luxury of piggybacking on the resources and logistics of major healthcare players who already know the ropes.
GM has already announced its partnership with Ventec to begin production at a separate plant that can focus solely on ventilators, and immediately after this announcement, Ford and GE partnered together to launch their own mass production to fill supply shortages. Other companies around the world, too, are heeding the call with their own versions of assistance. For instance, Philips is set to reopen its manufacturing locations to ramp up production on a variety of devices. In Sweden, the med-tech company Getinge has committed to increasing its ventilator productions by 60%. Even Tesla is strategizing a way to get in on the emergency production race, assessing how they can retool facilities and handle the immense workload.
Overall, it’s a noble pursuit to serve those in need However, despite having existing procedures in place, every company that rushes to meet the demand must anticipate problems that include ramping up facilities to handle the output and maintaining their supply chain logistics.
In a video released by Forbes on April 11th, footage shows that these agreements are being made in a mad-dash to push products out quickly. According to Ford CEO Jim Hackett, to give you an idea of their supply chain, “[they] can assemble a Ford 150 truck in about 52 seconds,” which he equates to be as sophisticated or more complex than a small ventilator. However, the real questions lie in what comes after the fact.
Areas of consideration involve…
Is there a sufficient amount of sub-assemblies, resources and facilities to assemble and build products?
What are the deployment and training methodologies to get Respirator Technicians and other hospital staff members prepared to utilize these devices?
What is the aftermarket service infrastructure put in place by these auto/healthcare manufacturer collaborations to maintain and support these devices?
And what about the overall serviceability of these new products or the idea of getting them through a repair cycle? Especially for ventilators, the supply chain process is incredibly challenging. “The ventilator manufacturer relies on an entire ecosystem of qualified sub-contractors,” says Amy Feldman, the manufacturing reporter on Forbes’ editorial staff. Not to mention, each qualified partner has their own line of manufacturing and output capacity for the day that has to be increased, which then leads to an overarching standard of quality that has to be maintained in accordance with the FDA.
In addition, as a variety of companies build inventory, there is a high probability these devices are going to be overused as patients are admitted to the hospital. A perfect example of this comes from Johns Hopkins engineers who have developed 3D splitters to split the use of ventilators among multiple patients. In a short period of time, all these devices are going to be overused and the percentage of failure then becomes very high.
It’s understandable that major players are coming to the rescue with ingenuity, and as such the plan to execute delivery and aftermarket support will be a critical. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into getting products service-ready and able to deploy on-site, and even for organizations that have infrastructures already set up, everyone oversimplifies the process.
How Quest International Provides Support
Quest International offers a turnkey approach to taking on surge requirements that are expected during the COVID-19 crisis, getting that final leg of infrastructure in place to fill the product support demand gaps yet to come.
For instance, Quest provides support to clients in a number of ways:
With service centers strategically located around the globe, medical device manufacturers (or their customers) can send in devices that require repairs, scheduled maintenance, or mandated upgrades.
If shipping the device isn’t a viable option, Quest also maintains a staff of mobile field technicians globally that can travel to customer sites and perform many of the same services available in our depot centers.
Managing spare part shipments and product returns effectively allows your field service technicians and customers the rapid response time required to maintain uptime of your systems. Quest will help you design, plan, and implement a supply chain program that supports your profit goals.
From assembly to installation and the training of end-users, Quest has the people and processes to manage the end-to-end process. Our clinicians will train directly with the OEM and pass that knowledge on to their customers.
Being certified in ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016, ISO 14001:2015 as well as ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014 standards, Quest is able to successfully manage electronic capital equipment.
Working with a trusted service provider like Quest, organizations gain an outsource partner with years of experience and certifications that lead to successful results. Medical device manufacturers need additional support to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and with help from Quest, overcoming the challenge is more than possible.
We are committed to helping clients find the best solutions to their needs during this difficult time. To learn more about Quest International and to inquire about our services, click the button below to see how we can support you.
Click Here to Contact Us