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.

Short-Term Response

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?

  • Hiring
  • 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.

Watch the full Survive, Sustain, Succeed: How Service Keeps the World Running webinar with Chris Westlake from Medtronic here. 

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.

ABOUT Shawn LaRocco

Avatar photoShawn LaRocco is the VP of Strategy & Business Development for the Medical Device Industry at ServiceMax. With his vast experience in the medical device field, Shawn acts as a trusted advisor to our customers and prospects; sharing the best practices he has gained to help transform their service organization. Prior to ServiceMax, Shawn led Alcon’s Global Technical Service organization within the Surgical Franchise, where he was responsible for global service strategies, operations, functions, and growth objectives. He previously served as the Sr. Director of US & Canada Service Technologies within the GE’s expansive service organization supporting 5000 employees and a $2.5B business. Starting out as an R&D engineer developing prosthetics and orthopedics for children, Shawn has held many positions across engineering, marketing, and service operations. He holds a B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering and an MBA in Global Management.

ABOUT Sumair Dutta

sumair duttaSumair Dutta is the VP of product marketing at ServiceMax. In this role, he helps shape ServiceMax messaging and positioning to support customers and prospects. Previously, Sumair worked closely with leaders of service businesses to define and shape their service vision while working hand in hand with implementation teams to execute on established service plans. Sumair is a thought leader in the field service and service management spaces and has conducted numerous research projects in the areas of field service, customer support and business strategy. He brings more than 15 years of experience in studying, analyzing and guiding field service organizations, first at the Aberdeen Group and most recently as the chief customer officer at The Service Council.