Transforming manufacturing with the right kind of automation

How medical device manufacturers are adopting automation and robotic process automation to relieve productivity pain points.


PHOTO © IURILMOTOV | ADOBE STOCK
PHOTO © IURILMOTOV | ADOBE STOCK

Medical device manufacturers are facing the same challenges as most businesses – increased costs, supply chain issues, and a tight labor market. SS&C Blue Prism surveyed more than 1,000 enterprise business decision-makers across North America and Europe about their priorities and challenges. The report found that 73% of enterprise organizations have seen significant cost increases in the last year, with manufacturing hit the hardest.

It’s no surprise to find that 69% of business leaders surveyed plan to adopt intelligent automation (IA) to relieve productivity pain points in this uncertain market. But there are growing pains and a need for proper guidance. Only 11% surveyed are certain about their organization’s strategy, showing concerns about poor implementation (59%), coordination strategy (40%), and legacy technologies (27%).

As the industry continues to adopt advanced technology to improve patient outcomes, it’ll be critical for organizations to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). Marrying these two technologies (often referred to as intelligent automation (IA) will enable healthcare organizations to have an ongoing diagnostic of processes, which can reduce risk and improve efficiency.

Investing in IA is the key to unlocking transformational business value which accelerates growth, improves profitability, minimizes risk, ensures compliance, and elevates experience for the customer and employees.

Leveling-up the back office

With the increase in commodity prices, the cost of raw materials is going up as well as a backlog in demand for items such as semiconductors. Manufacturers need to explore how IA can help address this resourcing problem across the supply chain by developing digital workers to find, engage, select, and onboard domestic, regional, and global suppliers.

On top of increased costs, significant blockages are linked to the labor shortage. The use of digital tools could help give companies an edge. Research shows companies successfully dealing with supply-chain challenges were 2.5x more likely to have used preexisting advanced analytic tools.

The goal is reducing the cost of doing business, and the healthcare industry is ripe for adopting more automation. RPA optimizes shared services for multi-national organizations because it allows businesses to standardize and automate simple, repetitive tasks.

For companies that put a successful strategy in place, the rewards of IA implementation can be significant. Santander Group is one example of an organization that reduced its employee onboarding process – from six weeks to two days. This saved the company countless hours and improved employee satisfaction, which boosted talent retention and attraction.

Reducing risk

AI and RPA reduce risk and improve efficiency. Employees are supported by a centrally deployed digital workforce that enables full quality control, robust governance, and support for all work performed by digital counterparts. Digital workers can reduce risk proactively in areas like fraud detection as well as following and monitoring the many requirements of regulatory oversight of the U.S. FDA, the European Union, and other markets.

Medical device manufacturing is highly regulated, and automation reduces the potential for errors from big data silos. Digital workers can help with resiliency and get ahead of logistics and transport to anticipate problems and notify a human worker of impending risk or error.

Transforming customer, employee experience

Collaboration between humans and the digital workforce for the advancement toward a company’s goals is paramount to relieving productivity pain points. It’s about delivering the best to its employees, customers, and stakeholders, while creating one unified workforce – people, systems, and digital workers. For instance, a digital worker could reach out to a quality manager with an alert about a medical device.

Automation can also play a role in retaining workers, which is mission critical these days. In our research, 68% of business leaders reported that barriers around talent were impacting their ability to meet productivity targets, with a lack of skilled workers and difficulties filling job vacancies being the top challenges.

One solution to the talent shortage is upskilling from within. Our research found that 77% of business leaders are looking into it – internal upskilling initiatives, career progression incentives, and training. A degree in computer science is no longer needed to create, manage, and work with digital workers. No-code systems allow non-IT staff to focus on the business needs for automation, while IT or a center of automation excellence manages, modifies, and maintains the automation controls.

Medical device company Stryker IT developed self-service initiatives using RPA and is looking into no-code solutions. The company’s CIO says it’s a way of empowering and unchaining its employees from mundane manual processes.

Tech strategy 2.0

Automation is vital to any digital transformation strategy. It’s a journey and the most successful companies started early, as many did in the healthcare industry. If you’re starting your technological transformation now, it should be with a succinct plan of how to drive value for your organization.

The biggest challenge isn’t figuring out how or where to implement the technology, it’s navigating the organizational barriers. Buy-in across the organization, especially within the C-suite, is imperative for IA programs to deliver optimum results. The more IA is driven with key overall business objectives in mind, the more likely the program will impact them. Where organizations go wrong is by focusing on tactical automations which are often in isolated business units, distanced from the overarching business goals. These individual automations may lack traction and often fail to deliver on the promise of digital transformation. As the IA industry has matured, so has integration with business process management (BPM) platforms that now provide flexibility in how a company may choose to orchestrate their hybrid workforces. BPM is creating greater alignment for tasks, processes, and end-to-end workflows, where humans and digital labor is combined seamlessly.

Just as it helped businesses remain productive during unprecedented change, technology can help improve productivity as the cost base increases. IA and digital workers will fundamentally change the way the world operates.

About the author: Patrick Lovelace is senior director of healthcare strategy at SS&C Blue Prism. He can be reached at patrick.lovelace@blueprism.com.

SS&C Blue Prism
https://www.blueprism.com

December 2022
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