In today’s market, goods are made to order, not to stock. Turning expertise and materials into successful products depends on a constant flow of processes and information.

The medical device market is still expanding, but more voices are raised towards ever-increasing healthcare costs. The industry needs to become more efficient to meet the future requirements in terms of competition. Issues on every executive’s agenda include:

  • Increasing R&D costs – shorter product life cycles
  • Driving cost down while maintaining in compliance
  • Outsourcing/contract manufacturing
  • Increased regulatory requirements
  • Need for shorter lead times and time to market

The trend is a sharp increase in focus and efficiency expectations from the supply chain. It is expected that there will be an adjustment towards what has already taken place within other industries such as automotives and electronics.

Production and information flow optimisation

Compliant Logistics believes that production efficiency is reached by optimising the flow of material, products and information throughout a manufacturing plant, dock to dock.

By using methodologies and experiences gained from implementing lean manufacturing projects in other industries, such as automotives, the medical device industry can take the short cut to success. However, the expertise used in the analysis and delivery needs to be complemented with individuals who possess the knowledge and experience of the specific industry requirements, mainly due to regulatory standards and requirements.

Value stream analysis

To secure a successful project the path starts with detailed understanding of the current and future state, for example:

  • What is the current state of the manufacturing process?
  • What waste can be eliminated to make the process more lean and efficient?
  • How can the production logistics process be improved?
  • Where is the best place to start this improvement work to achieve highest efficacy?
  • How will this impact the current validation of the plant and what will the cost and effort become to revalidate?

A Value Stream Analysis is the vehicle recommended to supply answers to the above. It is a structured method for mapping the material and the information flow in the complete value chain, covering indoor logistics dock to dock, at times including customers and suppliers. The Value Stream Analysis produces a Current State Map showing the present status of production for the monitored products. Productivity, overall equipment efficiency, bottlenecks, availability, throughput time and first-time yield will be measured and quantified. The wastes (non value-adding activities) in the value chain are discovered and will be the base for improvement decisions.

Eliminating waste

Once the areas for improvements have been identified by the Value Stream Analysis, the next step is to eliminate waste. The outlined path towards higher efficiency usually involves automation. The initial activities in reducing waste are often very easily achieved, without significant costs or hassle. They are typically targeted towards achieving stability and repeatability in the manufacturing operation, more often involving staff and procedures than machinery.

Improvement activities

Once the more significant improvement activities are initiated it should be understood that this is only the start of the continuous improvement journey. With the areas for improvements identified by the Value Stream Analysis, one or two of the most promising activities should be selected and executed. When implemented and in effect, a new current state mapping needs to be performed and this process repeated.