4 Tactics to Overcome Operational Hurdles
Medical device makers face an array of challenges, from supply chain gaps and personnel shortages to cybersecurity issues and regulatory pressures, including FDA plans to reduce the use of ethylene oxide sterilization.
To meet these challenges, attendees at the recent Top to Top networking summit, sponsored by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, advocated for a holistic strategy to improve operations. The tactics that industry leaders—across medical device makers and other processing industries—discussed include greater collaboration among stakeholders, workforce development, productivity improvements and the establishment of sustainability goals. How can these four tactics make a difference for medical device and pharmaceutical producers?
Collaboration is Key
Collaboration with stakeholders needs to be proactive and ever-present. When fostering a collaborative environment, summit participants said communication is the most important element and emphasized the importance of quality, reliability and profitability touchpoints. Successful collaboration also means involving all stakeholders. This helps suppliers gain the insights that enable them to provide input and ideas that achieve optimized results. Such knowledge and interaction are especially valuable when new products, packaging or production lines are being developed.
Attendees had three other recommendations to maximize collaboration:
• Formulate milestones before, during, and after projects
• Ensure alignment of time, budget, and scope
• Track project performance
Recruiting and Retaining Workers
Everyone is short-staffed, turnover is high and it’s a buyer’s market for job seekers. Improving manufacturing’s reputation and the day-to-day work environment is essential to improving hiring and retention, according to PMMI’s recent report, Shaping the Future of Packaging Operations. Automation is part of the solution, along with eliminating less-desirable tasks, improved training and emphasizing the upskilling of workers. “Positions must be thought of as purpose-driven, where employees are engaged and part of solving problems,” the report notes.
Along with automation, equipment needs to be easier to use and furnished with remote diagnostics so operators can fix issues on their own. Even more helpful are machines that can tell operators how to run them. Automated equipment, including robots and cobots, can also reduce human error and related waste and downtime.
Automation can not only improve the work environment but also boost productivity by offering a higher level of flexibility so more product and package variations can be handled with less changeover effort and downtime.
To further minimize downtime, better support services are needed. This includes availability of parts and the use of remote diagnostics and augmented reality devices to help guide troubleshooting and repair. Other productivity boosters include data collection to provide the information needed for long-term improvement, integrated cameras to proactively detect problems with the equipment, and incorporation of YouTube videos in the human/machine interface to help personnel efficiently run, maintain, troubleshoot and repair machinery.
The goal of improved sustainability touches all aspects of a business, from sourcing to utilities consumption to waste disposal. On the packaging side, PMMI’s report notes five guidelines that support greater sustainability:
• Reduce: minimize packaging
• Recycle: chose materials that can be remade into new products
• Reuse: return for multiple trips
• Reformat: replace non-recyclable materials with sustainable materials
• Renew: choose materials from renewable resources
Sometimes even tiny changes can have a big impact. A winner of a 2022 AmeriStar award in the medical device category, CapSure from Becton Dickenson-Surgery, is used for minimally invasive hernia repair procedures. A miniature, 1-gram retainer called SEEkeyMD supports the base tray so sheet thickness can be reduced from 40 to 30 mils. This 25% reduction in plastic saves the equivalent of 295,417 16-oz. water bottles per year and represents a substantial cost reduction.
Many companies are also specifying recycled-content packaging, and this market for recycled material is essential if the industry is to close the loop and establish a circular economy. To take advantage of this market and make a difference for business growth as well as the environment, producers must start by articulating and understanding their sustainability goals and ensuring these goals are actionable. To reiterate the importance of collaboration, medical device makers should involve recyclers, producer-responsibility organizations, and a third-party auditor to optimize operations. Producers can even participate in legislative efforts and work toward standardization of recycling processes and requirements. These long-term efforts can ensure companies make sustainability a cornerstone of their ongoing operations.
Finding Solutions at PACK EXPO International
It is more important than ever that the packaging and processing industries come together to share insights and innovations, and the best place to do that is PACK EXPO International (Oct. 23-26, 2022; McCormick Place, Chicago)—the most comprehensive packaging and processing show in the world in 2022.
From connecting with colleagues and hearing from experts to seeing new technologies, materials, and machinery-in-action, PACK EXPO International is the most efficient and effective way to discover packaging and processing solutions for over 40 vertical markets. No other event this year will showcase entire production line solutions and offer attendees everything needed to compete in a changing marketplace.
Article source: MPO