April 20, 2021

Meeting the Demand Surge in Manufacturing Caused by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to extraordinary challenges for pharmaceutical companies with an unexpected, unmatched surge in demand for vaccines creating a difficult environment for pharmaceutical companies to keep up with production. Although this request might have seemed rational at the time, in reality, it took much longer to meet the requirements it would take to produce the vaccine. Companies soon discovered that unprecedented challenges called for unprecedented solutions. Pharmaceutical, biotechnology/biopharmaceutical, and CDMO organizations are already operating at maximum capacity. Along with surging demands comes the concern that overworked machinery could be uncalibrated with time and use or the equipment might break down entirely. This issue could drastically slow down the production process. In addition, the ingredients for vaccines, especially RNA-based vaccines, are delicate and could be inactivated quickly. The fragility of RNA means quality control is as essential as meeting the quantitative demands of vaccine doses. Vaccines need to undergo quality control tests before being transported and administered. Companies like Pfizer are trying to sustain a stable supply of raw materials for ingredients and trained personnel to maintain production. The two early emergent vaccines rely on RNA or mRNA for protection against COVID-19. For the first time in history, these molecules are being used in massive quantities. The global pandemic has served as a learning opportunity for several organizations. A sudden spike in demand and limited supply forced companies to innovate. While the catalyst may not have been ideal, the outcomes and lessons learned are a worthwhile reminder to continue to revolutionize the industry.

  • There is no one size fits all approach. Each product and supply chain must have flexibility and adaptability built into its development so that in the event of a disruption, organizations can quickly pivot.
  • Digital capabilities are critically important to managing the various moving parts of a supply chain. Enterprise Resource Planning systems are a key component to ensure a full view of the supply chain, and having these systems communicate with each other can help keep track of changes and allow more agile responses should the need arise.
  • Diversifying suppliers is a worthwhile consideration when developing products. Should disruptions occur, organizations can turn to other suppliers to meet unexpected demand.
  • With the right collaboration and cooperation between organizations and governments, the life sciences industry can become more flexible and adaptive than previously expected. Maintaining these relationships post-pandemic can prove beneficial to all parties involved.

One of the most instrumental pieces to the success of MedTech companies during the pandemic was collaboration and cooperation between themselves and other organizations. Whether automotive manufacturers were stepping up to help produce ventilators or organizations were providing additional expert support, professionals worked together to produce results. The best way to carry this practice into the future is to continue to develop partnerships wherein one party can provide expert professionals with the ability to assist with things like production bottlenecks, loss in staffing, ad-hoc requests, or full project teams. Ensuring that a chosen partner can provide both remote and onsite support and that they can supply individuals in multiple countries, should the need arise. The current crisis has also required companies to accelerate the supply of MedTech products in an effort to meet the sudden hike in demand. Although there is no magic solution, the supply gap’s magnitude can be filled to some extent through quick and simple solutions. The task of building Pharma production capacity, which normally takes years, was achieved in months. The collaborative work carried out by big names like Pfizer, University of Oxford, AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Moderna during this pandemic shows that collective efforts bring positive results. Whatever the future holds, COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated innovations in various fields for managing crises. The health and health support industries are at the front lines, and innovations can reach the pinnacle for overcoming the world’s challenge as a whole. The COVID-19 experience will almost certainly change the future of vaccine manufacturing. Organizations have demonstrated that the process can be accelerated safely when there is a true global emergency and sufficient resources. The world was able to quickly develop COVID-19 vaccines because of years of previous research on related viruses and faster ways to manufacture vaccines, enormous funding that allowed multiple trials to run in parallel, and regulators moving more quickly than normal. Some of those factors might translate to other vaccine efforts, particularly speedier manufacturing platforms. If you need resources to help accelerate your processes, streamline your supply chains, or otherwise assist you, connect with a member of our team today.

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