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4 Quality Lessons Medical Device Manufacturers Can Learn from Tech Giants

Rachel Beavins Tracy
by Rachel Beavins Tracy on Thu, Sep 06, 2018

quality_teamwork4Patient-centricity is a buzzword in life sciences, part of a push for innovation made difficult by complex regulations and long-standing corporate cultures that favor the status quo.


Compare this to the tech industry, which is constantly developing new, high-quality products that surprise and delight customers. Companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, all of whom have pushed the limit and redefined what it means to be a thought leader.


What can medical device manufacturers learn from these tech giants? Let’s look at 4 of the most important lessons companies can use to improve quality and move confidently into the next era of innovation.


  1. Make Room for Creativity

Well-established companies can have a rigid organizational structure that makes it difficult for people to push quality improvements forward. Conversely, the small size and often more open attitudes of startups is what allows them to quickly pivot to new ideas and technologies.


How are improvement ideas received in your company? Do your people get the resources they need to pursue them, or are they likely to run into barriers in the chain of command?


One important lesson medical device manufacturers can learn from tech giants like Google is giving people the freedom to develop their ideas. Just look at Google, which famously allowed its employees to devote a full 20% of their time to pet projects.


It’s an idea that’s reportedly spread to many companies in Silicon Valley such as LinkedIn and Facebook, based on the idea that creative space is what unlocks innovation. In fact, we have “20% time” (as it’s called) to thank for tools like Gmail, Google Maps and Google News.


  1. Hold Leadership Accountable

A major change in the ISO 9001:2015 update involves management accountability around quality. While in theory it makes sense that holding leaders accountable is critical to quality, it’s not always standard practice in medical device organizations.


Tech giant Apple takes accountability for quality very seriously, designating a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) for every single project. And it’s not something they’re just paying lip service to. Years ago, an apple executive was fired for refusing to sign the company’s official apology letter after a botched release of a new Google Maps version.


  1. Monitor Supply Chain Risk

In an industry that relies so heavily on contract manufacturers, supply chain practices have an outsized influence on quality. Even if a quality issue is your supplier’s fault, it’s your name that takes a hit as far as consumers are concerned. People are quick to remember mistakes and long to forget them, particularly where products can impact their health.


For a prime example, look at the recent case of exploding smartphone batteries, which led to several injuries and even caused a person’s car to catch on fire. Experts attributed the problem, at least in part, to the fact that the company sourced the majority of its batteries from a single supplier.


This creates an enormous amount of risk, highlighting the importance of diversifying your supply chain and integrating risk management into supplier quality management.


  1. Take Care of Your People

Our final takeaway that medical device manufacturers can learn from tech giants is to invest in the happiness of your people. Happy people are more productive and engaged in their work, creating higher quality products that translate into satisfied customers.


It’s one reason why companies Google, Facebook and Amazon are so sought-after by employees. Perks at these companies range from nap pods to waffle makers, onsite farmer’s markets and even a 65,000-square-foot indoor garden.


While it may sound a bit out there, it’s important to think about given the talent shortage in medical device companies. Even small perks like can make a big difference to morale, making staff wellbeing and happiness critical to quality.


Making change happen can be difficult, especially in well-established industries. But with focused investments in creativity, accountability, happiness and risk awareness, your company can earn a reputation for quality and innovation.

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