March 26, 2021

Migrating Your Medical Manufacturing: Finding the Right Partner

Transferring your production from one medical device manufacturing partner to another isn’t easy. The regulations, costs and technical difficulty associated with finding a new partner can make it tempting to stick with your existing production method, even if there are significant issues.

While it's worthwhile to attempt to fix any issues, sometimes a manufacturing plant transfer from one state — or even continent — to another is the optimal solution. The trick is to know when you should migrate, and how to make migration as painless as possible.

Why Should I Migrate?

When there’s a glaring, major problem with your current medical device manufacturing partner, migration is often the clear solution. However, it's important to consider the full spectrum of manufacturing issues you're experiencing.

Any individual issue might seem minute in comparison to the overall challenge of migration, but that math might change when you consider all of your manufacturing issues at once.

Whether it’s a massive challenge or death by a thousand papercuts, it's time to consider a new medical device manufacturing partner when you encounter any of the following challenges:

  • Market Triggers: External events may simply force your hand. A prime example of this is how the COVID-19 pandemic forced many manufacturers to consider moving some of their operations out of foreign manufacturing locations.
  • Quality Concerns: Your current manufacturer is consistently producing low-quality products. In medical manufacturing — where the end users’ health is at stake — this is often a very compelling reason to migrate.
  • Delivery Issues: Perhaps the quality is fine, but the delivery of your product is significantly and frequently late.
  • Cost Savings: You may realize that although there is a cost associated with migrating your production, your business can improve its bottom line by switching to a more specialized manufacturer, a manufacturer with a superior supply chain and so on.
  • Proximity to Market: You may identify a manufacturer closer to your primary market, simplifying and accelerating the logistics of your business.
  • Regulation Challenges: Your manufacturer may fail an FDA audit, or their local regulations could change.
  • Resource Limitations: The manufacturer you've been using could lack the resources to scale with you, or scaling your internal production to match demand could place too much strain on your business.

This list is by no means exhaustive, nor does any individual item on this list signal that you must migrate. Every business will be different; you might sell a product where occasional defects are acceptable, or you may have determined that higher labor costs outweigh the savings earned by migrating closer to your target market. What’s important is that you regularly conduct assessments of your current manufacturing capability and evaluate whether migration makes sense for your business.

How Can I Find the Right Partner?

Finding the right medical device manufacturing partner when you decide to migrate can be a difficult decision. Your new partner should first solve for whatever pain first triggered the need to migrate, but you’ll always want to identify a manufacturer with two key capabilities:

  1. A global sourcing capability
  2. A global manufacturing footprint

Combined, these features significantly reduce the difficulty of migration.

Global Sourcing

When you decide it's time to make a change, global sourcing can make a literal world of difference — in cost, supplier dependency and timeline efficiency.

Let’s say that in response to delivery delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve decided to move your production from China to the U.S. Unless your new partner is capable of sourcing globally, you may still be dependent on the exact same suppliers in China for the basic materials needed to produce your medical device.

Take the same scenario, but your new partner already has a global network in place. There will still be variations in lead time and cost depending on where your manufacturing takes place, but your new partner will already have the relationships and supplier network needed to start production quickly. What’s more, if your timeline is less of a concern than your cost, global sourcing will enable your new partner to gather supplies from the lowest-cost regions.

Global Manufacturing Footprint

A medical device manufacturing partner with a global footprint is essential to your company's smooth migration.

There’s going to be a lot of back and forth between your old manufacturing facility and your new one. If your new partner only has a presence in the U.S., then it’s going to be much more difficult to retrieve the tooling, documentation and other resources essential to your production. They also likely won't have the necessary experience with customs, international shipping and so on.

A partner with a global footprint, however, will have facilities located across the world. In this scenario, your new partner’s local Chinese facility would be able to liaise with your old manufacturing plant, retrieve tooling more easily and handle any unique challenges associated with your migration. Rather than handle all transition activities yourself, your new partner can support and facilitate the migration process to the U.S. or elsewhere.

A Delicate Process

Finding a medical device manufacturing partner with both global sourcing and manufacturing capabilities is an excellent first step in a frictionless migration. But medical manufacturing is a nuanced industry with a lot of requirements, and any migration project will have many moving parts.

If you’re considering a manufacturing plant transfer, we recommend reading our guide on the subject. Migrations aren’t necessarily easy, but when they’re done well, they can transform your business for the better.

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