Mobilising local medical manufacturing in a pandemic
An Aussie-made medical manufacturer is using technology to get gold-standard infection control equipment in the hands of health workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
As coronavirus shockwaves reverberated through the Australian health sector in March this year, healthcare providers quickly enacted management plans that would allow care of infected patients in isolation.
This meant that demand for medical equipment such as blanket warmers and washer disinfectors effectively doubled as new wards and clinics were set up to care for affected patients, with equipment that could remain quarantined with patients to prevent cross-infection. Attention quickly turned toward securing medical supplies and local medical manufacturers, such as Malmet, faced unprecedented demands.
“At the same time, Malmet’s traditional methods of supporting clients to access infection-control equipment and servicing were cut off overnight,” said Paul Haddad, Malmet NSW/ACT Business Development Manager.
“So much of what we do to connect with clients is built around face-to-face contact to ensure a high level of support. But social distancing forced us to cancel site visits, tradeshows and conferences. And suddenly we had to achieve more than ever, without our usual ways of connecting with clients and supporting them.”
The solution was found in leveraging multiple existing technology streams as part of a coordinated strategy from the factory floor to the hospital floor, and everywhere in between. Moving quickly enabled Malmet to connect with clients in new and diverse ways.
Firstly, Malmet harnessed digital traffic via targeted online advertising, which resulted in increased visibility to health providers looking to source and secure much-needed washer disinfectors, warming cabinets and medical supplies. Traffic through Malmet’s website increased by over 260% within two months, which meant Malmet was able to effectively connect with facilities needing to upgrade or add to their dirty utility equipment inventory.
“This led to an unprecedented demand, all whilst having to dramatically change factory operations due to social distancing requirements. Our customer relationship management (CRM) software allowed us to manage the inefficiencies to a point where we could have a turnaround time of days rather than weeks, when and where required,” Malmet CEO Peter Kirkup said.
“Then there were those facilities undertaking planned upgrades and capital works projects,” Haddad said, “which is where the importance of videoconferencing came in. Hospitals and aged-care providers were relying on us to keep projects on time, and we managed to get some major projects across the line with minimal disruptions to schedule — engineering infection control from the living room!”
Being an Australian-made medical manufacturer meant that Malmet was uniquely positioned to draw together and expand on its network of other Australian manufacturers and medical equipment suppliers in the face of new demands. Online networking via social media platforms quickly expanded influence in this area.
“Health providers were sourcing additional supplies such as hand sanitiser — so if certain products weren’t on our production scope, we could use our network and assist hospitals more efficiently,” Kirkup said.
It’s difficult for Malmet to quantify the gains from its digital strategy in the midst of the pandemic, but the team is in agreement about the results in terms of communication and efficiency on the ground.
“Overall, our efficiency is greater, our network is expanding, we are connecting with clients through a range of digital platforms, and our long-term projects are to schedule,” Kirkup said.
“Adapting our approach and leveraging existing technology in new ways has meant we can remain on course. Although we’re looking forward to connecting in person again, we’ll do whatever’s needed to continue playing our part in keeping frontline workers and patients safe.”
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