Med Device Market Shifting Business Models to Automation and Technology

Four out of five medical device companies interviewed for a new PMMI white paper believe automation and other technological advances are one of the biggest changes to manufacturing in recent years.

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According to “Pharmaceutical & Medical Devices | Trends & Opportunities in Packaging Operations,” medical device companies are streamlining processes and adding more flexible solutions to their operations - with a continued focus on ROI, cutting costs, reducing waste, and investing in machinery that can meet several needs at the same time.

Connecting with customers and patients through a variety of different services and technologies has reinvented how the medical device market operates, while also giving some companies a competitive advantage in the market. 

New technologies are creating efficiencies throughout the supply chain, and technologies such as wearables, smart devices, IoT, and cloud-based analytics are all becoming more widely used in the industry, requiring medical device companies to adapt.  Said one Director of Packaging Engineering, “We continue to invest in capital, plus we see growth in our business. We hit thresholds where automation has good ROI and challenges the industry.”


Read: Counting Down the Top 10 Articles of 2020 - #6: Nurses Reveal Their Packaging Pain Points


According to the report, competitive technology advantages in the US include:

·     Microelectronics (very small electronic designs and components, typically made from semiconductor materials)

·      Telecommunications

·      Instrumentation

·      Biotechnology (genetic manipulation of microorganisms for the production of vaccines, antibiotics, hormones, etc.)

·      IoT (network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet)

·      Software Development

There are also specific trends and opportunities that the report identifies for development in the medical device market:

·      Increased need for diagnostic testing kits

·      Increased use of plastic packaging (polycarbonate)

·      Need for longer shelf-life packaging

·      Increased need for sterile medical packaging

·      Supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19


Watch: Trends In Healthcare (7 minutes)


COVID has, of course, impacted the market in the last year.* Research and development has seen delays to clinical trials and new product development, while some future R&D has been left in limbo due to budget-driven constraints or reduced productivity due to work-from-home orders.

Manufacturing and the supply chain have also been impacted by lockdowns, social distancing, and work-from-home orders, as well as delays due to diversion of resources or limited movement of freight, and travel restrictions. These issues - supply chain challenges, shorter lead times, and staffing issues related to COVID-19 - highlight the need for more automation and connectivity in the market. Said one Associate Director of Equipment Engineering, “There’s a greater demand for certain commodities, but some are not manufactured at the rate you need, or you can’t scale up.  For example, we need more syringe barrels, more glass, more aluminum for caps, and more corrugate.”

There is also a declining demand for devices in non-COVID segments of healthcare, as well as a decrease in healthcare spending on non-COVD treatments, and a decrease by more than 50% for elective surgeries.

Key Changes Due to COVID-19

Almost two-thirds of medical device companies who responded to the report say that new equipment will be the largest investment in packaging and processing due to COVID-19. “We’ve seen huge upticks in demand in areas such as PPE, syringes, swabs, and diagnostics. In some cases, all of a sudden, we need more capacity and can justify more automation with those. Everything pushes us in that direction in driving higher output at lower cost,” said one Director of Packaging Engineering.

Although some operations have been delayed, most manufacturing facilities have been granted exemptions for their critical systems. Dealing with challenges related to restrictions for on-site staffing have affected plant operations, however, particularly those that require on-site evaluations. Said one Packaging Engineer, “Some of our new product development projects have slowed down because of restrictions. When we try to get a new product line up at the plant, if we are not there in person to evaluate the plant situation, it makes it harder. We have a virtual meeting, which is not always ideal, or we can’t go there unless it gets approved by higher management levels.”

Download a free copy of this white paper below.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, “Pharmaceutical & Medical Devices | Trends & Opportunities in Packaging Operations

*Source: Adapted from https://www.tcs.com/content/dam/tcs/pdf/Industries/life-sciences-and-healthcare/insights/ pandemic-disruption-accelerates-digital-adoption-for-medical-device-companies.pdf


To see Pharmaceutical automation, packaging, and materials solutions, check out PACK EXPO Connects online, available through March 31, 2021.




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