This week, Benchmark joins medical device leaders from around the globe at Medica and Compamed in Düsseldorf, Germany, for one of the most important conferences and trade shows in the sector. After two years of pandemic-related disruption, the industry is eager to deliver new innovations. But things aren't going back to how they were two years ago. What do we expect to see as the “new normal" at this year's Compamed?
While pandemic disruptions caused spikes in demand for ventilators, diagnostic devices, and other medical products, demand paused for devices used in elective surgeries. Now, demand on both fronts is returning to normal, and Research and Development (R&D) activities have largely returned to face-to-face and lab settings. As inflation and worries over a potential recession loom, consulting firm EY reported that investment in new start-ups was down 30% in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, this is likely transitory.
New Ways to Think About Manufacturing Geography
Perhaps the biggest—and possibly even permanent—change we’re seeing is the move to geographically de-risk medical supply chains. Developing medical devices in the region where those devices will receive regulatory approval and be marketed is still the preferred practice. In addition to engineering services, this model offers access to research institutions, government agencies, and other key stakeholders in the medical device ecosystem. For example, Benchmark has a Medical Device Center of Excellence in Almelo, The Netherlands which typically serves customers with EU-regulated devices, and another in Rochester, Minnesota which serves customers developing U.S. FDA-regulated devices. Many of these customers also choose to have their devices manufactured at the same location for a seamless transition to volume production, enjoying the benefits of ongoing support from the on-site design engineering team.
While the in-region, for-region manufacturing model remains popular, other geographic strategies are on the rise as manufacturing disruptions lead companies to rethink their geographic risk exposure. For example, once a design is stable, a company may transfer production to a lower-cost location in-region, such as Benchmark's site in Brasov, Romania. In other cases, a good option might be to move production to an ISO 13485:2016-certified site in Asia—such as Benchmark Ayutthaya, Thailand—to capitalize on low costs and automation process development.
When product lines have differing levels of design maturity or production volumes, multi-site solutions with one manufacturing partner can be an excellent choice. In some cases, companies leverage U.S. and European manufacturing simultaneously to achieve proximity to customers. This offers many advantages, such as customer service responsiveness and configuring products to order. Still, rising transportation costs have shifted the total cost calculation even further toward localized production. Besides the benefits of paying less in transportation and reducing carbon footprint, regionalized production saves the inventory holding costs of having products on ships for extended periods.
Bringing Technology Closer to Point-of-Care
Another major trend we expect to see featured at Compamed is point-of-care diagnostics, monitoring, and treatment. COVID-19 drove the rapid development of IVD testing devices capable of diagnosing the disease, including smaller, rapid, and easy-to-use devices that could be used in a de-centralized testing strategy. That burst of innovation will continue to benefit point-of-care diagnostic devices that remove centralized labs from the analysis process, reducing the time to diagnosis. Many of these devices are enabled by advancements in microfluidics. Benchmark's European Medical Center of Excellence supports several microfluidics customers—in some cases, even conducting our own R&D on optimal design attributes for achieving easy-to-use form factors with optimal fluid, gas, and electrical connections for many microfluidics applications.
Compamed 2022 is sure to feature examples of connectivity and onboard intelligence improving the usability of point-of-case devices, even by end-users. The dream of devices delivering data directly to medical records is becoming a reality, overcoming long-standing challenges around patient privacy and information security. APIs that utilize healthcare record standards allow sharing of data directly to records, removing transcription errors in record keeping and saving provider time. Benchmark's European Medical Device Center of Excellence has worked with customers to implement various secure connectivity options in several monitoring diagnostic and treatment devices.
Continued Progress on Medical Robotics
Medical device pioneers have long understood the potential of robotics in medicine, from precision surgical robotics to the automated preparation of custom treatments. Compamed attendees will undoubtedly be on the lookout for progress on the many technical challenges of medical robotics. Benchmark is currently working with several medical robotics applications, leveraging our expertise in mechatronics from industrial and semiconductor capital equipment applications into the finer movements required for many medical applications. We are developing partnerships with robotics companies and academia in addition to leveraging the expertise acquired by our global engineering networks.
What’s Next at Compamed?
Perhaps the best part of attending a large event like Compamed in-person is the surprises—seeing technology that used to be science fiction and forming new connections with technology leaders making that possible. If you plan on attending Medica/Compamed, we hope you will visit us at Hall 8B, booth J26, and talk to us about your product development efforts driving the latest medical trends. We would value the opportunity to see how Benchmark's European Medical Device Center of Excellence and our entire global network can help bring your ideas to life.
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