1 June 2017

Why visibility needs to improve in the medical device industry

There have been calls for years for better supply chain visibility in the Medical Equipment and Medical Device industry and recent updates to EU regulations have again shone a spotlight on the importance of visibility in logistics, particularly when it comes to compliance.

Despite its continued importance however, supply chain visibility is considered to be the most notable ‘bottleneck’ for supply chain optimisation followed by technology (IT) integration issues. As mentioned, new regulations are again increasing the focus on quality assurance while operational excellence in the supply chain becomes more important as the demand for value-added services also grows. But the reasons why visibility is so important doesn’t just end there. Here are just a few more reasons why visibility is so critical for the future of your supply chain operations and it’s onward success…

Regulatory pressures

Last month the EU ruled on new regulations to ensure the safety of medical devices. These regulations (on medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices) were first proposed in 2012 but the final legal processes to complete and confirm them were only made on 5 April 2017.

If you haven’t read up on these yet, you can read the full EU Commission press release here, but essentially they outline the need to facilitate new requirements such as the need for better traceability of devices through your supply chain.

It’s not surprising then that 66% of senior managers at medical device companies consider the changing regulatory environment to be the biggest challenge they face in 2017 (Source EmergoGroup.com, 2017). Achieving complete visibility in order to meet these regulations, particularly when the technology infrastructure isn’t implemented, can be very difficult, but one that is incredibly important – now more than ever.

Being more fleet of foot

The ability to scale quickly and effectively is a critical part of being an agile business that can respond and flex, according to the needs of the market. The ability to do this, could be make or break for a business, particularly when the industry is saturated or one that has seen an influx of new disruptive start-ups.

In order to achieve this agility, visibility and control needs to be at the heart of your logistics strategy, allowing you the knowledge to forecast accurately, meet customer expectations and grow at the quickest pace. A survey by Deloitte for instance found that 40% of company executives interviewed said “sudden demand changes” from their customers cause the greatest expense and disruption to their supply chains. If businesses have the ability to keep abreast of what’s up ahead however, many will be able to manage these demand challenges much more effectively.

The rise of the outsourced model

If you, like one of the majority manufacturing companies, outsource much of your supply chain activity it’s easy to see why total visibility may be a struggle to achieve, but also conversely, why it’s more important than ever.

In days gone by, it may have been the case that your customer service teams just popped down to the warehouse to check on the status of an order following a customer query. Yet, with higher volumes and more services being outsourced, that scenario is no longer possible. Manufacturers that do outsource, need to ensure their logistics providers not only offer supply chain wide visibility, but also that it’s delivered in real time too. Only then can you achieve and maintain ultimate control and really harness all of the benefits an outsourced model has to offer.

Visibility and value-add

In any industry, it’s fair to say that customers are now very much in the driving seat, firmly increasing demand from suppliers for faster services and better customer service, and this is no different in the MedTech world. Plus, with the MedTech market being as saturated as it is the competitive pressure is greater than ever.

Yet, in a crowded market, there is only so much cost cutting you can do to win against your competitors before you realise that you might have to start doing a bit more to keep your customers happy. Plus, if your customers want better and not cheaper, then that’s a pretty big indication about what you need to do next…

But, where does visibility come in?

It’s all to do with delivering this ‘better service’. In order to satisfy your customers, you need complete control across your supply chain and free access to information. A fully integrated technology system that allows this to happen will not only offer customers the ability to self-service – i.e. check on the status of their goods as much and as often as they like – but this also gives staff access to all of the information they need to deliver better customer service over the phone or face to face.

Without a 360 degree view, there’s a risk that departments will work in silos and communication internally and between your customers can break down. Visibility across all of the service areas will ensure consistency of service and also that supply chains operate at peak efficiency, meeting these new demands, no matter the volume. If customers are frustrated by a below par service, it’s fair to say they could look elsewhere pretty quickly.

Keeping up

Even as a B2B business, demands from the B2C world are driving up expectations. This means that whether you’re delivering boxes or handbags, service excellence should be at the very heart of your supply chain.

Service offerings like ‘in-room’ deliveries for instance will enhance customer experience and optimise service engineers productivity, while on-site barcode printing helps speed-up returns while allowing for greater flexibility in the returns process. This can only happen if all of these elements are seamlessly joined up with a completely end to end logistics solution. A potentially big undertaking, yet the significant gains in competitive advantage over competitors could be immeasurable.

If you’d like to find out more about how our solutions and services can offer you and your customers complete visibility and control, then get in touch today. Or, if you’re like to get more hints and tips about how to innovate your supply chain, why not read our other blogs?