Operational Excellence for Medical Manufacturing – Rapid Product Launches & Vertical Integration for Global Supply Chain Support

Tracy MacNeal

Tracy MacNeal
Chief Strategy Officer

The medical industry’s laser focus on cost-saving innovations involve complex, market-based supply chain challenges: long development timelines, long distances from “Voice of Customer” to the designer, and even longer distances to the manufacturer.  ATW Companies, a world-class supplier of superior precision tubing and fabricated metal components, focuses on strategies to address these challenges, allowing its major medical customers to continue to play globally in an increasingly disruptive market.

Operational Excellence is a cornerstone of ATW’s ability to support its medical manufacturing customers for both rapid product launches and vertical integration to support global market consolidation. In particular, ATW’s Parmatech subsidiary has greatly expanded its metal injection molding (MIM) capabilities using Operational Excellence to vertically integrate outside services to collapse timelines, and to develop prototyping programs that deliver multiple complex functional components in half the time it normally takes to get parts to market.

Cost saving technology is not enough in today’s medical market – a deeper approach to supply chain is needed. The lean approach is much more than organization alignment around a vision; it teaches ATW’s team the value of having a ‘destination’ and a roadmap to get there.

Parmatech’s MIM technology provides low cost, high volume manufacturing of metal components that enable medical customers to stay competitive, even in emerging markets and in disposable metal applications. Parmatech uses MIM technology to fabricate a wide range of internal metal components in many medical applications, from minimally-invasive surgery applications, such as surgical jaws, to forceps and gears for medical equipment. However, a cost-saving technology is not enough in today’s medical market — a deeper approach to supply chain is needed.

While most companies learn that lean is about eliminating waste, recently, more progressive companies have learned to go beyond continuous improvement to a true design to leverage business growth. The lean approach is  much  more  than  organization  alignment  around  a  vision;  it  teaches ATW’s team the value of having a ‘destination’ and a roadmap to get there.  

To deliver the global supply chain results ATW and Parmatech’s medical customers require, the team learns the ‘Design Principles’ of Operational Excellence.  This approach includes the very detailed and sequenced use of lean tools to achieve the destination (not just kaizen or brainstorming), as well as a new concept called ‘self- healing’ flow, one of the founding principles of Operational Excellence.  The ability of the Parmatech team to use the technique of standard work for abnormal flow enables the people who build the product correct the flow to the customer without the need for management. Once achieved, the operation begins to run autonomously, with little intervention by management

This level of Operational Excellence shortens the distance in both time and space from the Voice of Customer to the source of manufacturing, enabling the US-based medical device companies to remain competitive, even in emerging and disposable markets.  

An example of this strategy was ATW’s ability to support a $5 billion endoscopic customer in the launch of a surgical cutting instrument that was both metal (for strength required by the clinical application) and disposable (required for lack of ability to sterilize).  The vertical integration of MIM and machining reduced the bulk cost by approximately 25% of the completely machined part, which enabled the customer to compete in emerging markets, with over 30,000 units produced every year.  ATW embraces this Operational Excellence approach to bring its strategic partnerships into the very brightest future for clinical outcomes.

About the Author 

Tracy MacNeal is the chief strategy officer, where she leads sales and marketing and stewards corporate strategic planning for ATW Companies, a manufacturer of precision metal components for medical devices. In this capacity, she aligns all areas of the corporation, from finance and operations to sales and marketing, to drive profitable organic growth and facilitate successful acquisition and divestiture. With an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Cooper Union and an MBA from Duke, Tracy has specialized in successful commercialization and partnerships in the healthcare space.

About ATW Companies

Headquarters: Warwick, RI

Headquartered in Warwick, RI, ATW Companies is a provider of highly engineered metal solutions to the metal component marketplace, servicing customers worldwide. The company runs state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities located in California, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island and offers global sales and support. ATW provides a wide range of fabrication technologies to meet the exacting requirements of industries and diverse technologies for the most critical applications. The company’s motto is “Be the Best…Do it Right,” and they strive to live by this commitment to quality, reliability, innovation, and integrity by continuously adding value to their products and services.

Twitter: @ATWCompanies

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