Throughout the high-pressure and complex process of manufacturing a medical device, ensuring that each and every component required is supplied on time, in sufficient supply, and in line with the highest quality standards is of critical importance.
From a sudden spike in demand, to an alteration of the final design, manufacturers must be able to rely on their suppliers to treat the challenges they face as if they are their own. This means that not only must the direct supplier meet their clients demands, but so too must those in the supply chain.
Custom Wire Technologies, which has been producing medical wire for use in a variety of medical devices for over two decades, has established a strong and robust supply chain that is built on having a close relationship with its suppliers.
This is most apparent in the relationship it has built with one of the world’s leading suppliers of Stainless Steel and Nitinol fine wire since it first started operating and continues to strengthen today. Due to the depth of shared experiences over those two decades, each side understands just what is required to ensure that every delivery received is on time and high-quality.
Establishing strong relationships
This relationship is made all the stronger by the fact that CWT also stands as a strategic supplier to them by providing its market leading grinding services.
“We are also a supplier to them, and that helps strengthen our relationship,” explains John Corsten, technical sales manager at Custom Wire Technologies. “They tend to lean on us for both production and strategic R&D projects that require grinding.”
This intrinsic relationship between the two is of particular importance in the current operating environment that has seen the lead times for securing supplies of nitinol lengthened to an unprecedented degree due to the levels of demand.
In order to mitigate this issue, CWT works closely with the clients that it is supplying to educate them on the timescales involved in securing the required supplies.
Together they will then build a detailed forecast of both current and future demand for the supplies so that a delivery plan that meets the timescales required can be developed.
By taking this long-term approach, CWT is then able to implement a Kanban program that will include additional capacity to cover any shortages.
Long term planning to avoid short term shortages
“We work very hard with our larger customers to forecast not only current and future production but also to try to understand the development paths they are on to avail material to those efforts,” explains Corsten.
“When our customers can provide accurate forecasting, we are able to set up Kanban programs with our raw material supplier allowing us to pull material off the shelf when needed.”
By developing an in-depth understanding of each of its clients long-term supply requirements, Custom Wire Technologies is able to work with its supplier to schedule its supplies to meet their needs.
However, in case of any unexpected shortages or delays, the company also takes a proactive approach itself to ensure that certain alloys and sizes of medical wire are in stock at its own production facility.
This is part of a wider approach at the company to identify ways in which it can take steps to assist its clients’ requirements.
This same motivation led the company to recently launch the QwikCoil programme that enables it to offer rapid turnaround and provide coiled wire components within a week, provided the material is in stock.
The success of QuikCoil and more broadly CWT’s ability to ensure its supply chain can cater to the demands of its clients are in large part down to its customer and supplier relationships, but as Corsten makes clear, are also heavily reliant on each party being proactive.
“Now, more than ever, proactive planning is paramount,” adds Corsten.