If you teleported back one year ago, what predictions would you have made for 2020? Undoubtedly, they would have looked nothing like what happened. So, is it a fool’s errand to predict 2021? Maybe. But here are a few observations that hopefully will ring true.
Let’s start with the obvious. As I write this, the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments are being delivered, and with them, the hope that things will return to “normal”. Unfortunately, one lesson from 2020 is that the definition of “normal” is unclear. However, one certainty is that to be successful, companies need to adopt a “change-first” mentality and strengthen their agility skills. This begins with leadership and communication. We know from our experience that when leaders at all levels demonstrate agility and model that behavior, the team rises to the occasion and starts to see the opportunity in change and not just the struggle.
Our corner of the medical device world is contract packaging and assembly, and we have seen firsthand the volatility that the pandemic has created. It started with phone calls from customers worried about supply. Next, the elective surgery market came to a near full-stop. And currently, cases are spiking in Los Angeles, where we are headquartered.
At our best, we have evaluated each situation, gathered our team (virtually), decided on a response, and acted. As an example, we had a unique opportunity to expand our manufacturing space by 25%.
Most companies would have said “Not Now”, but we saw the need to spread out employees, enhance operations, and show our team that we weren’t going to just pause and hold on - we were going to adapt and grow.
Cost & Capability Optimization
Another ramification that will play out in 2021 will be cost pressures. Excluding the few, large companies that are receiving headlines, most MedTech companies will struggle with lost revenue and cost concerns. As a result, there will be a downstream push for cost savings from suppliers. At PRO-TECH, we constantly look to improve our efficiency, while also adding value. One pain point in medical device packaging is the lead times and costs of laboratory tests. So, we challenged ourselves to bring these tests in-house. It is a daunting undertaking, but we attacked the issue with the right people and mindset. To cut to the punchline, we recently received accreditation to conduct bioburden and endotoxin testing in-house, which will improve customers’ speed to market and reduce their costs.
With continued uncertainty in 2021, customers will look for reassurance and transparency from suppliers; just like patients and hospitals will look to them for the same. As a result, there will be greater demand to provide transparency throughout the value chain. This will come in the form of things like remote project tracking, video communications tools, and virtual meetings. To share one example, we have a web portal where customers can track their project’s progress 24/7. This provides them transparency to monitor where their device is throughout the process.
Speed of Innovation
Finally, an outgrowth of the “Warp Speed” initiative to develop a vaccine will translate into a push to speed the pace of innovation. “If they can do it, why can’t we” mentality will impact anyone working in healthcare, and while MedTech has always been driven by innovation, the pace of change will increase. To prepare goes back to my first point - agility needs to be strengthened and honed.
Let’s hope for a better 2021, but start stretching, because you’ll need to be flexible!