Medical Manufacturing Technologies, Inc. (MMT), a leading global provider of medical device manufacturing solutions, acquired Ireland-based Somex Automation and Ward Automation Galway. Recognized for developing best-in-class custom automation and integration solutions encompassing the entire product lifecycle, from design and development through production, testing, and packaging, these brands have become the flagship offerings of MMT Automation. To find out more about selecting and implementing automation solutions, MDB recently spoke with Dave McMorrow, Technical Director, MMT Automation and Michael Wall, Technical Director, Somex Automation, an MMT company.
MDB: What do you see as the most important consideration when selecting a custom equipment vendor for minimally invasive medical devices?
McMorrow: It is critically important to engage with machine developers who have in-depth product knowledge. Many machine builders work across multiple industries, and lack the experience required to develop robust equipment for the minimally invasive medical device industry. Working with these products requires in depth knowledge and experience. MMT Automation (formerly Ward Automation Galway) and Somex Automation have decades-strong experience in developing equipment for this type of product, for some of the world’s leading medical device manufacturers. Aside from product knowledge — expertise in design, build, programming, and debug of automated equipment to the highest quality standards is also essential.
MDB: How can you ensure that an automated process will perform as intended?
McMorrow: It is essential the process to be automated is well controlled, robust, and repeatable. Automated equipment executes the production process automatically. If the production process being executed by the machine is not robust — then the automated solution will not perform robustly either. At MMT Automation, we regularly conduct proof of concept works before commencing the full machine design project, to reduce risk relating to the process.
MDB: What steps are key in developing automated equipment for the medical device industry?
McMorrow: The machine designer and the customer must have a clear alignment at the start of the project as to what outcome the automated solution will deliver. We recognize that not all customers are experienced in writing specifications and URS documents, and for this reason we thoroughly review the customer’s URS upon receipt and provide feedback and detailed discussion around any areas of ambiguity before developing a proposal. It is also very important to have an experienced project lead who acts as the primary point of contact in the automation provider. Involving the customer in regular design review meetings before progressing to machine build is crucial, as is professional project management to ensure the equipment is delivered on schedule.
MDB: What aspect of automation is often overlooked by a customer when choosing a partner to provide a solution?
Wall: Short and long-term engineering support and technical training is critical to ensuring continuous quality and precision, specifically with the continued threat of employee turnover, which leads to the loss of critical technical knowledge. As an MMT company, our TotalCare service ensures that customers have expert support and ongoing training to ensure that operators understand why critical parameters are set, variables are controlled, and specific preventative maintenance needs to be done.
MDB: Any advice regarding equipment selection when developing a new product?
Wall: Experience within the industry is key, but also with the types of devices to be manufactured is critical. Just because an equipment provider has “medical” as an industry they serve, it does not make them an expert in catheter, guidewire, or other minimally invasive surgical devices. It is also important to choose development equipment from a provider who has capability to scale the equipment and process for more efficient production at a later stage.