It takes a village
When slowing the spread of the virus jeopardizes
the global flow of life-saving medical devices and supplies,
we work together to find solutions.
As nations worked to slow the spread of COVID-19, worldwide restrictions threatened to halt manufacturing and distribution. Raw materials and parts couldn’t move. Assembly lines couldn’t open. Products couldn’t be delivered. Within the global healthcare industry, a breakdown in that system could jeopardize everything. From ensuring shipments of insulin to producing remote monitoring systems for hospitals and meeting the exploding demand for life-saving ventilators, the supply chain had to stay strong. If not, lives could be lost.
Essentials in short supply
Families braced for impact as the unknown was met with “For how long?” Grocery stores and corner markets couldn’t keep essentials like eggs and toilet paper in stock for more than a day. Hand sanitizer and bleach went on backorder for weeks. Trusted brands apologized to customers, while stores published daily updates on status of what was on their shelves.
When more than 48,000 suppliers across 135 countries help a company improve the health of 2-plus people per second, their work is more than a transaction. It’s a partnership with purpose — and thousands of individuals contribute to the effort, from suppliers to manufacturing, transportation to assembly, distribution to delivery. When these intricate, sophisticated, and complex pieces come together to create a medical device, they’re more than just parts, they’re life-saving technologies.
All of our [supplier] partners understand what’s at stake and all of them are stepping up to help.– Marie O’Malley, senior director of supplier outreach, Medtronic
With thousands of supply chain partners at the ready, we all braced for the challenging road ahead. Demand for ventilators rose practically overnight. So we set out to increase production. In a matter of days, we doubled capacity and introduced 24/7 operations. But as countries began closing borders, restricting imports and exports, suppliers sounded the alarms. The ramp-up was at risk.
The most complex Medtronic ventilator contains more than 1,500 components, including microprocessors and software to analyze dozens of patient variables. More than 100 suppliers in 14 different countries build the parts. From liquid injection molding components made by one supplier to printed circuit board assemblies built by another, each part plays a specific role in helping patients rest and breathe while their body fights the infection.
Our Medtronic partners worked closely and expeditiously with us to provide documentation of how the products we produce together are helping to enhance and save local lives, therefore allowing us to continue operations and provide life-saving products to patients.- Jen Bolt, senior vice president of global operations for Medtronic supplier partner, Integer
Facing uncharted roadblocks, supplier companies across the globe pulled together alongside Medtronic to navigate ventilator demand. Some invested millions in new equipment and infrastructure. Many hired more employees and went to 24/7 production to make parts. The teams worked quickly to secure government permission to operate as essential businesses, unclogging transportation and trade lanes. They obtained the paperwork needed to let employees travel to work. They acquired additional new raw materials and added workers to increase production. Carriers prioritized medical product shipments and some even dedicated personnel to work exclusively with Medtronic freight. As suppliers and distributors stepped up to the challenge, barriers began to crumble as collaborations grew stronger.
The end of the line
Most people who contribute to making a medical device have never met a patient, but they know they’re the reason we do what we do. Dr. Kevin Clarkson of Galway University Hospitals in Ireland, where Medtronic builds ventilators, wrote a letter to Medtronic employees saying, “Having your personnel on site was critical to successfully treating our first COVID patients. We are grateful for all of your support and look forward to continuing our partnership to serve patients.”
Ultimately, the supply chain ends where medical supplies and devices meet the patients who need them. And the battle against COVID-19 is just beginning. As nations methodically move to re-open, researchers work frantically to develop treatments and vaccines. But until a vaccine arrives or societies reach herd immunity, the virus is expected to spread. The unrelenting need for therapies and medical devices to treat COVID-19 victims will continue into the foreseeable future. So too will the intricate, worldwide supply chain collaboration that’s necessary to provide life-saving medical products. Working together we can achieve what none can achieve alone.