Automation is an important part of the medical device industry, but is 100% automation right for your medical device manufacturing needs? The reality is full automation may not be the answer for every manufacturing need. In fact, involving individuals in the manufacturing process can be beneficial for many reasons.
We will look at the semi-automation assembly process and why it might provide benefits for your medical device manufacturing. If you would like to discuss your options for this process with one of our experts, contact us today.
Decision-Making and Strategic Planning for Semi-Automated Medical Device Assembly
Several of our partners mention the issue of automation with the impression that full automation is always best. Automation may get a lot of press, and certainly it has its benefits. And yes, for certain types of manufacturing applications, 100% machine automation may be all that you need.
The fully automated experience, as you may know, takes the human equation as much out of the process as possible. Fully automated systems mean automation every step of the way, including the transfer of products into feed systems and guided through each step of the assembly process. Testing and inspection can also be automated, as well as loading.
Alternatively, we have manual automation, which is all people. This might seem to be old school and perhaps slow and expensive. But manual fabrication and assembly is not necessarily more expensive than automated assembly. This can be especially true for specialized parts or small product batches.
In fact, for certain types of products, such as highly delicate or intricate medical devices and instruments, having human involvement can be critical in creating a solid product that meets patient needs and regulatory requirements. This is where semi-automation comes in.
How Semi-Automation Can Provide Value in Medical Device Manufacturing
Semi-automation takes the best aspects of automation while adding the needed human touch for products that cannot be fully automated reliably or ergonomically.
You might lose some speed, however semi-automatic systems can actually be faster than automated systems, because it may be more efficient for teams of humans to move materials from assembly line to assembly line for products requiring complex assemblies.
With semi-automation, the benefits of automation are still there, including the increased safety that comes from machine production, as blades and sharp objects are housed inside components that aren’t opened or used by workers.
So, what to do: semi-automation or full automation? A decision needs to be made and here are factors to consider:
First, the decision and determination process need to start at the very beginning. Determining which type of automation to use must be decided early in a project. This needs to be part of the design phase, because assembly can determine the overall manufacturing processes required.
You should explore with your team how the decision will affect cost, timing (speed to market), and how many items it can reliably produce.
Packaging also needs to be determined early, as this can impact the assembly process.
Three Important Considerations When Planning Semi-Automated Medical Device Assembly
Here are three critical factors to discuss when determining semi-automated assembly:
Timing and Speed-to-Market
How fast does the device need to get to market? What is the intended timing of the device being introduced to the market?
There can be potential delays and other concerns with semi-automated assembly given the nature of the work involved. As mentioned above, semi-automated systems can sometimes be faster, but the human element may slow things down due to various unforeseen issues. Getting a grasp on the processes needed will determine the timing.
It is a given that any automation should improve profits because of the increased efficiencies and speed of production. But this does not necessarily mean that full automation is always cheaper, because setting up assembly lines and feeding mechanisms for complex products has costs.
Thus, semi-automated systems might be less costly than fully automated systems, even with the additional personnel needed. Speed matched with costs involved should be compared to determine the bottom line. Do not forget the impact of quality on potential profit margins as well.
Will the quality be more consistent with humans involved in the process? Is your device complicated enough to require humans involved for some parts, but not others? Will a consistent quality output be created using this method? Full automation may often lead to more consistency in output; however, this level of machine production might not be possible for specialized devices made in unique shapes and materials.
How Flexan’s Flexacution Method Can Help
Flexan’s phased gate process known as our Flexacution method, can help gauge the right decision for your assembly needs through three elements: design, develop, deliver.
We can determine from the start if automated or semi-automated is the correct method, based on years of experience assembling devices for clients. Our process looks at the entire concept and creation, start to finish, from the very beginning.
Remember: Assembly should be part of the concept phase. If you begin with the end in mind, you will have a much easier time getting your product to market. And semi-automation has the potential to help with the right mix of machine automation and human support.
Choose Flexan for to Determine Your Medical Device Manufacturing Process
Need help with medical device manufacturing? Want to know more about semi-automated medical device assembly? Founded in 1946, Flexan delivers high quality custom contract manufacturing solutions for medical device companies. We leverage our unique Flexacution model to powerfully combine quality and engineering to foster innovative product development and manufacturing. Contact us to see what we can do for your device.
If your medical device company could benefit from Flexan’s experience with semi-automated medical device assembly, contact our sales team today.