For organizations in medical devices and life sciences, these are interesting times. On one hand, the focus on service and support has never been so critical given the potential impact of uptime (or downtime) on critical analytical, diagnostic, or life support equipment. On the other hand, elective surgeries and non-essential operations, programs, and projects have been mostly put on hold. Due to a shift in priorities both within the business and with customers, there has been a pivotal shift in where field organizations have been placing their focus as well as a reallocation of resources to ensure the new focus areas are supported with appropriate capacity levels.
To further understand the approach taken by industry leaders to navigate the new normal, Sumair Dutta and I sat down with Chris Westlake from Medtronic on a recent webinar. The discussion focused on three major themes that build on the key talking points from the first blog in this series:
- The state of service investment in the medical device industry (Pre COVID-19)
- The short-term action areas to ensure business survival
- The longer-term strategies needed to refocus in whatever new normal we find ourselves in
State of Service
On the webinar, we found ourselves dialing back the clock to outline the key focus areas for service businesses in the industry prior to the disruption caused by COVID-19. As per the 2019 Studying Compliance Management and Service Efficiency report, the 5 primary focus themes centered around:
- Development and enhancement of service teams
- Review of regulatory changes
- Investment in digital tools
- Focus on customer-centricity
- Review and disruption of competitive threats
While it’s easy to spend a great deal of time on the topic of digital tools and technology, it was interesting that we found ourselves most focused on the concept of customer-centricity and the steps that organizations are taking to ensure a better experience and value proposition for their customers.
At the turn of the new year, fiscal or calendar, service businesses were ready to march down their path of executing on their priorities and imperatives, only to be met with COVID-19. Annual priorities and strategy for some were placed on hold only to pivot from strategic and proactive to tactical and reactive.
What Stopped or Slowed Down?
- Non-essential projects
- Non-essential travel
- Preventative Maintenance
- Low-Level Repair
- CAPA or Field Modifications
What Got Accelerated?
- Monthly to Annual Tactical Operational Rigor
- Reallocation of the workforce to areas of need
- Increase in hard down repairs and installs
- Maintain and sustain business operations as much as possible
- Focus on customer and patient
During the webinar, it was at this stage when Chris introduced the idea of human creativity and resilience, particularly from his cadre of field service technicians. While not by design, it was interesting that this became a consistent thread throughout the rest of the webinar.
The Path to Success
As we looked to close out the discussion on COVID-19, there was agreement that we aren’t through with the disruption yet and that any plans to move ahead must remain flexible and adaptable. These plans include the acceleration of digital tools and processes that maximize uptime and productivity while enabling frontline engineers and technicians to be successful while minimizing risk. Of particular focus and discussion was the use of remote monitoring, predictive analytics, and diagnostics tools that have been used to some success in the industry. In Chris’s mind, the disruption of COVID-19 will accelerate customer acceptance of the value delivered by these tools given their impact on asset availability and uptime.
In providing perspective to the entire situation, we all believe to successfully emerge from this disruption, companies need to recognize and tap into the groundswell of ideas and innovation emerging across the ecosystem. Constraint is often seen as a restriction, but properly harnessed, can be one of the most powerful forces behind ingenuity. If we can all take a moment to recognize that ingenuity, we will survive, sustain, and succeed in whichever environment is presented to us.
Continue the Conversation
As this pandemic has unfolded, we have been finding new ways to further support service leaders in the medical device industry. My colleagues and I on the Global Customer Transformation team would like to offer service leaders a personal expert advisory hour to help them navigate today’s challenges and prepare to meet tomorrow’s business demands. Register here.