When thinking of the start of revolutionary advancements in an industry, its imagery tends to hold a common theme: a small group of creative minds tinkering in a garage, on the cusp of a breakthrough with their big idea.
While it can come across as a storybook, romantic notion, it’s a theme that holds some truth in the medical industry. There are roughly 7,000 firms in the medical device sector. The vast majority are small or medium-sized companies with intense focus on a single product or medical condition.
The creative minds in this circumstance are highly specialized in their focus on medicine and have facilities much better than the garage. They also have neighbors – lots of them. They form an expansive ecosystem of manufacturing, design, packaging, and regulatory experts with the skills to get a product over the finish line – if they work together.
To meet and exceed patient needs while maintaining a healthy bottom line, medical device manufacturers must reduce time to market. To do that, they must lean on their suppliers as resources to navigate an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Small companies, big networks
Medical Device Design Medical devices can have surprisingly short product lifecycles, just 18 to 24 months in some cases. Competition with other firms, feedback from physicians, and a complex regulatory environment have forced an ever-quickening tempo in the industry that manufacturers must be able to constantly adjust to in order to keep up.
Those shortened timelines compound the competitiveness of an industry faced with rising healthcare costs, intense competition from new market entrants, and evolving global regulatory challenges.
Highly specialized small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) benefit tremendously from a more agile business structure with fewer layers of decision-making and red tape. Quite often, however, they don’t possess the depth of knowledge or the resources to solve some of their most difficult challenges.
To survive, smaller companies need to tap experts into a product ecosystem for help with advancement of R&D, optimization of manufacturing chains, enhancement of product design, and solutions for packaging dilemmas. By engaging in collaborative practices, these companies stand to benefit from reduced time to market while enhancing — not sacrificing — performance and quality.
To understand how vendors and a network of experts can help small and medium-sized medical device manufacturers, we can look at an example. Imagine a medical device engineer wants to improve an instrument by integrating an LED module into it. Instances like these create opportunities to re-examine the device components and find materials and parts that elevate the device’s performance while offering longevity, durability, and possibly even cost improvements – all appealing qualities for an end user.
In this instance, the medical device engineer looks into traditional LEDs, which typically use organic-based packaging materials such as silicon and epoxy to encapsulate the bulbs. However, after consultation with surgeons and hospital technicians with experience in the field, it is determined these organic materials are on the path to obsolescence.