The future of automation platforms for a digital world

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by Mike Lewis

Mpac Lambert innovations director, Mike Lewis, writes about the new world of opportunity and uncertainty faced by medical device manufacturers as new standards and regulations emerge and healthcare dynamics evolve.Mike Lewis Mpac Lambert.jpg

STEVE SHARP

Mike Lewis, innovations director, Mpac Lambert. 

The medical device manufacturing industry produces equipment designed to diagnose and treat patients within global healthcare systems. An ageing population, driven by a decline in fertility rates and increasing life expectancy represents a major driver for the industry. Historically, growth for the industry has been predicated on continual product innovations that make devices easier to use and improve health outcomes. It’s an industry that is ever-evolving and continuously growing as interest rises for the development of new generation devices. In 2018 the global market was valued at $425 billion, and is estimated to reach $612.7 billion by 2025. Medical device manufacturing is poised for 5.6% growth year on year between 2017 and 2024, with wearables forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 25.7% between 2020-2027.

However, medical device manufacturers are facing a new world full of both opportunity and uncertainty as new standards and regulations emerge and healthcare dynamics evolve. This new normal sees manufacturers focus on remote capabilities in operations, product innovation and customer management in order to drive investment in centralised monitoring and diagnostics in addition to the use of cloud-based collaboration tools.

At Mpac Lambert, our primary goal is to deliver agility, flexibility, speed and efficiency for our customers. In an industry constantly under pressure to deliver against a recent increase in demand for diagnostic tests, PPE, ventilators and testing kits alongside other supplies, the pandemic has been an accelerating factor in driving industry forward, forcing businesses to not only deliver faster, but innovate faster as well.

We have been working in partnership with our customers to ensure business continuity through challenging economic circumstances, servicing their critical needs. Our platforms are adaptable for every need, with each machine designed with a flexible foundation so you can add the components you need, quickly. Having been in development for two years, these pieces of machinery support our customers business growth by offering scalable development.

With the ability to integrate into product relevant lifecycles from product & process development through to high volume production, pre-defined sections can be combined in multiple ways to deliver whatever process you require, at a fraction of the lead time for first of a kind systems, whilst standardised building elements, module mounting, and pneumatic layouts make our machines faster to build, easier to maintain and more cost effective. Each platform is a base that includes control panels, transportation, cable runs, guarding, HMI and structural supports. And in as little as 12 weeks (for a standard Proto cell), we can configure machinery to match what you need, when you need it.

But, as customer expectation evolves towards a trend and desire to become more efficient, agile and dynamic, a digital-first agenda is driving an accelerated transition to a new normal. A world where digital and physical are interconnected is quickly becoming the norm, bringing with it new forms of AI that are not only improving and streamlining processes, but driving industrial connectivity, optimised productivity and savings. The proliferation of virtual prototypes is becoming more achievable and cost effective, bringing with it new possibilities for innovation and collaboration on a scale beyond what we already know. We’ve invested in remote assistance tools from AR to digital twinning and the use of Microsoft’s HoloLens.

As such, gone are the days when the only way to gain status information of operating equipment was to be within the physical proximity of it. The use of digital twinning is making it possible to virtualise tasks by creating and maintaining a digital representation. It’s a virtual replica of a physical asset, made up of digital renderings which can then be viewed through headsets, computers, tablets or other devices. Applications allow for real time data to be sent to the virtual representation, which can then be used to determine the history and condition of the asset, making necessary amends to optimise its performance. Digital twins can also be used to train engineers, ensuring optimal service delivery.

This increased digitisation and adoption of remote technology has reduced costs, provided us with more time and has allowed us to respond dynamically, being quicker in our decision-making. We are currently witnessing what will be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services. Recent data shows we have accelerated five years forward in consumer and digital adoption in a matter of eight weeks. Innovation has never been more important, particularly in relation to the rapid migration and adoption of digital technologies. As we shift away from a transaction-based approach the importance of  developing partnerships has never been more prevalent in driving flexibility. It offers the opportunity to become more agile, more dynamic and deliver a faster paced solution with faster decision making, resulting in operational savings. Customer behaviours and preferred interactions have changed significantly, and whilst they will continue to shift, what is clear is the increased use of digital is here to stay.

The new world of manufacturing is focused on developing strong partnerships that will provide a strong foundation for the future, focused on forward-thinking, technological developments and a digital-first strategy.

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