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Medical & life sciences: An industry push for better supply chain visibility

Tony Hague

The pandemic has brought about a once-in-a-life time challenge for manufacturers – A challenge all-encompassing and demanding on a company’s resources, reactions, and agility. But with it, new opportunities surfaced for manufacturers within the UK.

Cross-border reliance intensified and the need for reshoring options and increased supply chain visibility quickly became key. PP Control & Automation found itself at the centre of the challenge when UK manufacturers were needed for the supply of vital components used in medical ventilators.

After several discussions with manufacturing consortiums across the UK, PP C&A were appointed to support the fightback with the production of more than 50,000 electrical cable harnesses in relation to the UK Ventilator Challenge, a time critical program to prevent loss of human life.

PP C&A’s sub-contract manufacturing capacity and unique capability to adapt quickly was a coming together of skills that the medical and life sciences industry needed desperately at the time. PP C&A took just 24-hours to create a dedicated manufacturing line to support the project.

Continued reliance on home production

A growing trend for bringing a greater degree of production control back onshore during the pandemic has shown no signs in relenting, in fact it is accelerating. UK manufacturing has shown great resilience and there is a newfound sense of optimism for sustained growth.

Decreasing overseas dependencies has been a tactic to accelerate time to market for manufacturers of medical devices, and new technology and innovations in the life sciences sectors. Although PP C&A promoted an impressive supplier and key partner network before the pandemic, it is learning just how important that decision to develop relationships with experts close to home has really become over the past year.

For outsourcing to deliver the maximum benefit, then the activities associated with purchasing and supply chain management should be included. This is a discipline that PP C&A has concentrated its efforts and investments in long before the pandemic surfaced.

Having invested heavily in supply chain processes and capabilities before the crisis, PP C&A ensured its strong position as a supplier of choice during and post-crisis. This investment allows PP C&A to inherit, manage and develop the associated supply chain at speed.

Contract manufacturing requirements rising

Contract manufacturing requirements are growing. A significant number of OEMs in the medical & life science sectors are seeking strategic partners that can help them accelerate production requirements driven by a strong demand, likely to last for many years to come.

An outsourcing partnership provides an extension to an organisation’s own engineering, supply chain and production support capabilities. Historically, many manufacturers have had a large degree of vertical integration and enjoyed the perceived benefits of in-house capability, deeming it more flexible. However, in recent years there has been a shift in that attitude with businesses realising that they can’t be masters of all disciplines.

This attitude shift has accelerated to a fundamental need over the past year with developments around reshoring and having to react to demand at speed being serious pain points for manufacturers of medical and life science machinery, components, and devices.

A strategic outsourcing partner allows for a reduction in financial risk and exposure, especially in markets where demand can change quickly.

Partners in innovation

Manufacturers in this space will always have one eye on continuously innovating their solutions and systems. In an industry that needs to design systems capable of meeting demanding biological and physical hardware requirements, it is important that they’re afforded the proper R&D and design time.

PP C&A is able to assist during that all-important design phase, offering design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA) support, design approval processes and ways in which to add significant value when optimising for manufacture. A complete end-to-end contract manufacturing solution is the key to collaborating on innovative ideas and ensuring that those ideas are matched by innovative manufacturing processes.

By outsourcing the manufacturing of electrical and electronic assemblies, electro-mechanical builds or pneumatics, hydraulics, and cabling, it allows for a greater investment of time in core competencies such as R&D and product innovation.

The medical and life sciences market typically requires more complex builds, particularly when it comes to electronics assembly. PP C&A has invested heavily in its own facility and specifically, in a dedicated ESD manufacturing environment for the assembly of delicate and static sensitive parts often found in such equipment.

With PP C&A offering DFMA support, the ability to transfer over full supply chain management and access to a fully outsourced manufacturing solution, this fast-paced and forward-thinking industry can find that the constraints they’re facing now (whether it be as a result of the pandemic, or because they’re looking to unlock growth potential) can actually be lifted by a strategic outsourcing partnership.

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