In a compelling article published in January of this year by McKinsey & Company entitled “COVID-19: An Inflection Point for Industry 4.0,” the renowned consulting firm offered analysis of a recent survey and insight into the transformative impact of COVID-19 on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The article noted that three broad outcomes can be gleaned from the survey results: “a win for companies that had already scaled digital technologies, a reality check for those that were still scaling, and a wake-up call for those that hadn’t started on their Industry 4.0 journeys.” The article notes that “the pandemic has reinforced the message that digital solutions have the most impact when they extend beyond the walls of an organization and encompass more of its end-to-end value chain” and that argues that “Industry 4.0 leaders are already reaping the benefits of their pre-pandemic investments, creating the prospect of a widening gap between winners and losers.”
How 2020 Changed the Way We Embrace Emerging Technologies
In the transformative wake of 2020, it’s apparent that corporate leaders who aggressively embraced Industry 4.0 and disruptive technologies before the pandemic, have emerged with substantial advantages in this “widening gap between winners and losers.” In the surgical device industry, Xenco Medical founder and CEO Jason Haider’s decision to launch the first surgical vending machine to remotely track and dispense Xenco Medical’s spinal implants and instruments in 2019 offers a model for how early adoption and disruptive innovation allowed certain companies to grow market share and profitability during the pandemic.
I spoke with Jason Haider this month, one year after the start of the global pandemic, to see how Xenco Medical’s early embrace of Industry 4.0 and IoT to transform its “end-to-end value chain” positioned the company competitively during 2020.
Offering Value-Driven Solutions to MedTech
When asked about the thought process behind Xenco Medical’s surgical vending machine, Haider noted, “it’s always been important to me that our contribution to the surgical device space extends beyond developing new implant systems and takes on the challenge of constructing a new framework for delivery as well.
The task of providing a value-oriented surgical solution is inextricably linked to the supply chain. It was an iterative process, but it was largely conceived by recognizing the novel applications of automation such as vending kiosks in airports.” Haider continued by noting “it became clear that with the heightened stakes in a hospital environment, every minute saved by employing digital technologies for tracing and dispensing our implants and instruments could be instrumental in improving patient care.”
Connecting the Digital Supply Chain
Asked about the kind of consideration that was given to IoT during that process, Haider commented, “It was a critical consideration. Because our surgical vending machines are designed to house up to 260 of our implant and instrument packages, all of which require scanning for inventory and billing purposes, it was important to me that they were capable of real-time communication through a cloud-based system.” He continued by noting “that capacity for automated alerts and analytics on dispensing patterns of various individuals had always been an important consideration.”
Asked to speak to Xenco Medical’s surgical vending machine in the context of Industry 4.0, Haider said, “A hallmark of Industry 4.0 has been the transition to a seamlessly connected supply chain. Xenco’s surgical vending machines allow us to create deep, digital traceability from manufacturing to surgical implantation.” He continued with “I should mention that this kind of product life cycle management, which includes usage analytics, is made possible by the nature of our implant systems as sterile-packaged, scannable units.”
When asked about 2020 and how the early launch of the surgical vending machine and Xenco’s single-use model played out within the COVID-19 paradigm, he noted, “it was clear that the pandemic was a catalyst that created a pressing need for more efficient supply solutions that would have otherwise taken much longer to materialize. Because of our early investment in large-scale traceability, single-use technology, and automation, we were in a very strong position to meet the demands of the moment. As a result, we had a record year and significantly outperformed 2019,” said Haider.
COVID-19 fundamentally transformed the business landscape and upended every sector of the economy. The advantage of being an early mover in embracing Industry 4.0 has never been so starkly apparent as during this global pandemic. Accelerating the forces of automation and IoT, the supply challenges brought forth by the novel coronavirus have shortened the timeline to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If the challenges that resulted from this pandemic are harbingers of the future, it’s clear that digital solutions that address the “end-to-end value chain” with efficiency and supply chain transparency will continue to grow in demand, especially in the medical sector.