Last year, the global pandemic impacted procurement heavily, highlighting just how susceptible the medical device supply chain is to disruption. When the virus first hit in March, factory shutdowns meant that many lead times for components and raw materials doubled or tripled from weeks into months almost overnight.
“Pre-Covid, any delays or disruptions were related to maybe machine issues or personnel issues and probably extenuating to the matter of days, not weeks,” says John Corsten, Custom Wire Technologies (CWT) sales manager. “It’s not necessarily what we’re seeing in the current landscape.”
CWT is a respected supplier of microfine wire used in medical devices, and a recognised specialist in reinforcement coils for catheters. While other manufacturers may have reduced capacity or shut down completely, CWT has worked throughout the pandemic and had no option but to adapt within the changing environment.
Before 2020, CWT was typically quoting a four-week lead time for components, with estimates for complex assemblies at eight weeks or more. Now, the pandemic has pushed everything back, with simple components taking six to eight weeks and complex assemblies anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks.
Increasing lead times have also led to rising costs and delays in the time-to-market. Expedite fees are two to three times greater than they were before, often becoming higher than the cost of the product to build.
Having full transparency with customers is of growing importance in the post-pandemic world. Customers’ expectations on lead times need to be correctly managed through what is realistic. That way, customers have time to plan around potential delays to their supplies in advance.
“It all boils down to communication and understanding,” says Bob Boldig, CWT president. “Issues will arise, it’s a matter of how you react to it that really sets you apart. Being transparent with the customers and letting them know where you’re at, and how you plan on either fixing it or completing it, speaks volumes for the credibility of the company.”
As workplaces start to fill up again, designers and manufacturers are now finding themselves in a vastly different world than the one they left pre-pandemic. Navigating the new landscape is tricky considering trusted suppliers may be no longer be an option due to huge backlogs.
Manufacturers that have continued to work throughout the pandemic find themselves with a competitive advantage. And while many companies are looking to reduce balance sheets and lay off workers, CWT is expanding to cope with surging demand.
This year alone, the Wisconsin-based company has hired 11 new workers and is currently investing in further equipment and expanding its facility to double its size.
To ensure production continues, CWT advises forward-planning, something which the company takes very seriously itself. According to Boldig, if a company isn’t looking at least six months to a year ahead, then they face the realistic prospect of falling behind. Corsten suggests companies that plan their procurement for the long-term with forecasts and blanket orders are almost always best placed to make it through any disruption of lead times relatively unscathed.
Smaller manufactures may seek to avoid this commitment due to tight balance sheets or the uncertainty of their own operations. In this scenario, Corsten advises taking a risk, especially as CWT can offer discounts to customers that set up regular orders in advance.
Forward-planning isn’t always possible, however. Demand for wire can fluctuate, and sometimes fast delivery is simply a necessity. In response, CWT has introduced its QuikCoil programme, which aims to provide custom-made coils within a week provided the material is in stock.
Stocked materials comprise 304V SS and nitinol #1 in both flat wire and round wire. Pricing starts at $1,250 for 20 coils of 304V SS, and $2,000 for 20 coils of nitinol #1. Round wire is available in both material types, in sizes from .001″ to .010″. While 304V SS flat wire can be provided from .001″ x .005″ up to .006″ x .015″, with nitinol flat wire available from .001″ x .002″ up to .003″ x .010″. Other sizes are available on request and certification is included.
To find out more on navigating long lead times in a pandemic environment, download the whitepaper below.