COVID-19 affects the strategies of Mexican medical device manufacturers
Because of the effects of the COVID-19 virus, Mexican medical device manufacturers have had to rethink their strategies. They have also had to adapt to rapid and high demand changes, alteration of production volumes, and changes in internal work processes and product mix.
Companies in this industry are part of production chains that transcend international borders. Because of the level of specialization and technology required in the manufacture of medical devices, they have had to change their work strategies in order to increase their productive capacity. This had to be done without compromising the health of their staff members.
Demand for products grows exponentially
Fernando Oliveros, president of the Mexican Association of Innovative Medical Device Industries (AMID), explains that in the face of the current pandemic, Mexican medical device manufacturers did not have an ample opportunity to plan for a change in the market landscape for their products. In some cases, requests for certain classes of medical equipment exceeded up to six times the normal demand. Now the challenge for medical device manufacturers in Mexico is to maintain the levels of supply necessary to service the needs of their customers.
“We need to continue to operate and to increase to our capabilities. This situation is a considerable challenge because it is a circumstance that no one could have foreseen. We must keep the supply chains open and expand capacity by taking more complex measures,” says the president of AMID, an organization in which companies such as 3M and the Roche Group are members.
To cope with COVID-19 within their organizations, Mexican medical device manufacturers have changed the dynamics of their approach to working in factories. The strategy that they have employed includes allowing private transport to be used to reach workplaces, constantly monitoring employee temperature levels, implementing new schedules, and following the social distancing protocols that have been recommended by public health officials.
The medical devices that are most in demand in Mexico, and its export markets, are divided into three main categories. The first is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, head coverings, surgical gowns, and antibacterial gel. In the second are reactive disease confirmation tests. The third category for which there is most demand is comprised of life support equipment, such as oximeters and ventilators, according to the AMID.
The demand for ventilators, which are essential items that are required for patient treatment in intensive care units, has increased from 700 to 2,500 in a short period of time.
Ramón Mariscal, director at Latinoamércia Safety & Construction at DuPont, comments that, “In addition to the new strategies that have been formulated and implemented that are aimed at increasing production and protecting employees, some medical device manufacturers in Mexico have switched their production lines in order to supply fabric that employs special technology. This fabric is utilized for the manufacture of disposable medical gowns, which is one of the products that has the highest demand worldwide.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Dupont’s manufacturing plant in Mexico had the capacity to produce 9 million disposable medical gowns per month. In order to maintain the high level of production of this much needed item throughout the country, the company decided to sell some of the supply of its special fabric to certified maquiladoras. These medical device manufacturers in Mexico produce and distribute disposable surgical gowns locally.
“Because of COVID-19, we changed our business model. We use a fabric that is different from the one we previously had. Taking this action has allowed us to raise the production of disposable surgical gowns to 15 million per month. What we are striving to do is to continue to play an important role in fighting this pandemic,” says Mariscal.
Strength of production chains of medical device manufacturers in Mexico
Keeping value chains strong for the continued, ramped-up production of needed medical products is another challenge that the health emergency has created for Mexican medical device manufacturers. Raw materials and technological inputs that are needed in the production of medical devices and personal protection products are manufactured in different parts of the world.
For example, for the manufacture of a ventilator, medical device companies in Mexico must interact with at least 17 different plants to access the various components that are needed in the production of the item.
Also, Oliveros and Mariscal agree that it is important to foster a cooperative dialogue with federal authorities. This allows medical device manufacturers in Mexico to take advantage of trade agreements, as well as prevents border closures from affecting production and logistics chains. It is important that the Mexican government works in conjunction with the industry to achieve the common goal of abating this public health emergency.
Additionally, medical device manufacturers in Mexico must work more closely with individual state governments so that their secondary and tertiary suppliers will also be considered essential businesses. This will prevent links in the production supply chain from being severed.