Med-tech supply chain management has recently gained traction across the news. The industry should look to continue to re-build their supply chains, so that they can be more agile and flexible to respond to potential future issues
In January 2020, the World Health Organisation declared covid-19 a global health emergency.1 Healthcare systems around the world faced enormous pressures as hospital admissions increased. Amongst others, med-tech companies experienced a vast increase in demand for covid-19 related products, alongside declining demand for non-essential products, and so had to adapt their supply chains to ensure the sustained, timely delivery of medical devices. In addition, teams had to navigate disruptions to global supply chains due to various border lockdowns and tighter trade and export restrictions worldwide.
Prior to the unprecedented demands of the pandemic, med-tech supply chain management was not a hot topic in the news, or generally known amongst the public. However, it has recently gained traction across the news worldwide as supply chain managers have worked relentlessly to re-establish the equilibrium within this ever-changing landscape. The med-tech industry should look to continue to re-build their supply chains, so that they can be more agile and flexible, and respond to potential future issues efficiently and effectively.
Covid-19 highlighted the need for a robust and resilient supply chain to allow the continual supply of products, while not compromising their quality. Access to raw materials became increasingly jeopardised due to production being predominantly based in Asia,2 therefore requiring increased exports from Asia. However, due to various staff shortages and border restrictions,3 a backlog of shipping containers built up within the European ports,4 thus decreasing availability of shipping containers within Asia to export materials. This demonstrates the potential benefit of working with a UK-based supplier going forward. Implementing efficient forecasting to pinpoint vulnerabilities within supply chains allows the timely introduction of a strategy plan to mitigate such issues.
The med-tech industry and health systems, such as NHS, need to build strong partnerships to improve resilience across supply chains. Sustained communication is vital to ensure supply chain continuity, minimising disruption to the delivery of care on the front line.
The proliferation of digital transformation programmes has the potential to re-shape the management of complex supply chains. Artificial intelligence, for example, can process, analyse and predict data, allowing for real-time visibility of end-to-end operational processes, and provide reliable forecasting demand.5 The automatic analysis of supply chain data increases transparency between key stakeholders, thus supporting on-going decision-making within supply chain management. This integrated approach is a gamechanger within med-tech supply chains as we continue to work improve their efficiency, to re-establish the pre-pandemic landscape.
The pandemic has placed greater public scrutiny on, and emphasised the importance of, supply chains. Med-tech companies should reflect upon all the learnings they have been exposed to over the past two years and revamp the way they tackle potential supply chain issues to ensure resilience and flexibility.
1Magableh, G. Supply Chains and the COVID‐19 Pandemic: A Comprehensive Framework. European Management Review. 2021. 18(3): 363-382.
2Kumar, A, Luthra, S, Mangla, S and Kazançoğlu, Y. COVID-19 impact on sustainable production and operations management. Sustainable Operations and Computers. 2020. 1:1-7.
3Youd, F. Global shipping container shortage: The Christmas follow up. [online] Ship Technology. 2021. Available at: https://www.ship-technology.com/analysis/global-shipping-container-shortage-the-christmas-follow-up/#:~:text=The%20shortage%20of%20containers%20primarily,goods%20to%20the%20desired%20location. Last accessed: March 2022.
4Panwar, R, Pinkse, J and De Marchi, V.The Future of Global Supply Chains in a Post-COVID-19 World. California Management Review. 2022, 64(2):5-23.
5Dash, R. Application of Artificial Intelligence in Automation of Supply Chain Management. Journal of Strategic Innovation and Sustainability. 2019. 14(3).