Tackling the second wave of Covid-19

Tackling the second wave of Covid-19

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

A month ago, distributor Anglia set up a task force to make sure components for ventilators and other medical equipment were getting through in the UK and Ireland. With most of Europe past the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak the emphasis has changed but the supply chain demands are still high, says John Bowman, marketing director at Anglia and the task force lead.

Now manufacturers are developing medical equipment for very different scenarios driven by the pandemic. 

“There’s been an awful lot of development,” said Bowman. “It’s very much at sustained levels with medical designs coming to the fore with engagement with customers so we have added more people to the task force. With a lot of customers getting through the initial frantic activity we have found it goes beyond traditional ventilator developments for the covid-9 fight to the associated health concerns moving forward.”

The new entrants have come with a new design methodology and learning about the market here in the UK, he says. Then there is the NHS demand and what the demand looks like in future years.

“Each week a different challenge comes along that is without precedent. Looking at the industry , then supply chain will continue to be a significant risk factor and it has to have very careful attention to logistics,” he said.

“Going beyond the ventilator and looking at the importance of electronics in the healthcare system that demand is going to rise and rise for both existing products and for the new products that are part of the Covid- 19 pandemic, not just for treatment but for care equipment. A couple of areas we have seen are for new products for social distancing with body-worn electronics, electronics in PPE, where the activities with PPE are monitored. So its about the monitoring of exposure, capturing the data on the users of the PPE.”

“We are also seeing the re-thinking of the user interface,” he said. “5G and LTE-M with zero latency are allowing a more remote interface that can be 10m away, in another ward or even in another town, and that brings in wireless, voice and gesture recognition design with security.”  

Scaling production is still a challenge, he says.

“The established companies that are scaling up for production from low hundreds of units to many, many thousands the design methodologies can show the challenges of scaling up to consumer volumes, to build in volume and to license out to other companies.”

“The added factor we have seen is the design for longevity with extended duty cycles and the need for governments not to buy equipment again in two years so they are looking for 10 years of 24/7 operation,” he said. “Another element is the maintenance and serviceability, incorporating predictive maintenance and conditional  monitoring so the hospital can service and maintain the equipment on site with modular PCBs.”

There is also a push to developing test system in volume.

“We do find a consortium approach combining medtech with pharma along with research labs, and they have the need for assays to take advantage of the latest technologies and aid the logging and communications of the equipment,” he said.  

The supply chain remains part of the challenge as the ability of manufacturers to specify multiple source on the approved vendor list is still to come along. The timing was fortunate, as the closure of the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore came after the peak of the ventilator build, so material had been sourced before that happened.

Anglia’s task force has been working closely with the component suppliers. “We could not operate without people in the vendors – it’s about the organisations being able to work together,” he said. “This cut down a lot of the early problems of communication in making the right decisions about which devices to prioritise. The supply chain has stood up to the rigors of the situation. The collaboration in the industry has really helped.”

“Supply chain issues will be with us as long as there is the second and third waves and the worst thing we can do is think that the job has been done and its back to operational methods,” he said.

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